Thanks to all of you who took the time to share about your best day as a Spartan. It was a fun way to learn a little bit more about each other.
Now we get down to brass tacks. There’s a data-saturated tome at stake.
Mrs. Spartans Weblog has dutifully made her selections as to the best of the entries. As originally stated, these selections were made according to ill-defined and entirely subjective criteria. Any complaints should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.*
*Not a real e-mail address
Below are the three finalists, followed by a poll for you, the Spartans Weblog faithful, to determine the winner. Voting will close at 5:00 p.m. on Thursday. Choose wisely.
There’s no doubt about my best day as a Spartan; it was the day of the Elite Eight MSU-Kentucky game. I remember yelling at the refs, telling them that Pat Sparks’ foot was on the line as he shot the three at the end of the regulation. I remember cheering as Abezuike (spelling?) was late on his shot at the end of OT. I remember holding my breath as Alan Anderson shot his free throws towards the end of the second OT to seal the Final Four.
Most of all, my favorite moment is running down Oakhill into downtown EL. I was in a mass of people screaming “FINAL FOUR! FINAL FOUR!” at the top of my lungs at the corner of Charles and Albert. There must of been at least hundreds of students on Albert, screaming GO GREEN! GO WHITE! chants at the top of their lungs from one side of the street to the other. I walked down to Cedar Village, there were just as many people there cheering. Exchange students were calling back home, trying to explain what was going on. Most of all though, the crowd as a whole did not misbehave. Tear gas didn’t need to be shot into the masses. Sure, the loss against North Carolina six days after hurt, but nothing could take away from the sheer exuberance in East Lansing that day. That, more so than my first day on campus, and even more so than my graduation, was my favorite day as a Spartan, because for one day, we weren’t 44,000 students with over 100 majors. We were all Spartans, one, high-fiving and patting each other on the back as we celebrated a victory few thought we could achieve.
I think one of my best days as a Spartan would have to be the MSU-PSU football game last year.
To set this up, you have to understand that my four years as an undergrad corresponded to the John L. nosedive that culminated in a rather forgettable 2006 campaign. 2007 held the promise of a fresh start. Close losses to Iowa and NU seemed to indicate that the team was, yet again, one year away from breaking through. But a offensive explosion at Purdue brought the Spartans to six wins and a shot at bowl eligibility against the Nittany Lions. A trip back to East Lansing and tickets to the Penn State game seemed like a chance to see redemption.
It was freezing cold. MSU trailed 24-7 in the third quarter. The Penn State fans in front of us were having a blast, and I was contemplating the long drive home. I had done something wrong, it was never in the cards, will I ever be happy?, at least we have Izzo’s squad to numb the pain, etc. etc. Same old Spartans.
Then Hoyer, Davis, Caulcrick, and Thomas decided enough was enough and the offense awoke. The crowd became electric, and the cheers of GO GREEN GO WHITE had never seemed louder. Penn State tacked on another TD, but the Spartans were determined to have the final say. “Down by 17″ became “up by 4.” The Penn State fans in front of us who had been mumbling that “it’d be just like Sparty to blow this” quietly found their way to the aisle. My arm was sore from violently pumping it in the air and clapping to the fight song. My voice was shot from yelling and cheering. When the clock finally hit zeroes, I couldn’t stop smiling. A comeback victory! Bowl eligibility! Vindication for years of support!
It was glorious. Amidst the celebration in the stands, a lone figure knelt on the block S at midfield under the stadium lights, giving thanks for what had just transpired. The display of determination, teamwork, emotion, joy, and a final act of humility combined to make it my best day as a Spartan.
This moment is a bit unconventional, and perhaps it wasn’t my best day as a Spartan in all respects, but it is the moment that still symbolizes all that is right with the Izzo program in my mind.
After three consecutive final four teams, the 2000-01 Spartan team was inexperienced and undermanned. The team had graduated five seniors the year before and sent Jason Richardson and Zach Randolph to the NBA as well. There was only one senior on that 2000-01 team–Mat Ishbia. The backcourt was Marcus Taylor and the freshmen (and many of us will remember the painful Northwestern game that MSU lost with Taylor out with a concussion). Adam Wolfe suffered that nasty career-ending injury at the beginning of the Big Ten season too. That MSU team was thin and the season was a long struggle. (That season marked the end of the 53-game home win streak too.)
So fast-forward to senior day–which was for that one year called ‘Mat Ishbia Day’. The Spartans were 18-10 going into that game. They were facing Iowa; they had lost to Iowa earlier (the same game that they lost Wolfe, in fact). And to my admittedly untrained eye, MSU was no lock for the NCAA tournament. They might lose to Iowa, lose in the BTT, and finish 18-12 and visit the NIT. (As it turned out, 19-11 earned them a 10 seed in the NCAAs.)
I had wondered for a few days whether Mat Ishbia would get to start on Senior Day. Certainly he deserved his moment in the spotlight–how many practices had he fought the starters for rebounds, played man defense, mimicked some opponent’s offensive moves? He’d helped to make those Final Four teams what they were.
But there was the matter of winning the game and getting back to the NCAAs.
No matter. Ishbia started. About two minutes into the game by my recollection, Izzo scripted a play for Ishbia and the walk-on made a 3-pointer–the only 3-pointer he would ever shoot when the outcome of the game was actually in doubt while he wore the MSU uniform. But hardly the only *meaningful* 3-pointer he’d ever shot in the green and white. He’d been shooting those in practice for four years, making his team a little bit better with every one.
MSU won the game handily. What was so great about that day for me, though, was the recognition that this was the kind of program that Izzo was building in East Lansing. This was a program that didn’t have to trade in classiness when it came time to win. Mat Ishbia had earned the right to be on the court as a winner in his own right, and the team as a whole would elevate its play to make sure that it happened.
I enjoyed Spartan basketball long before that day. I reveled in the victories, the national championship. I have some great memories from the years before that (and the years since). But that was the day I fell in love with this program.