Getting to Michigan State


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August 31st 2019
Published: September 1st 2019
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I'm back! This year, I’m doing something different for college football season. Those who have read my facebook posts for the past couple of months, you will already know this. But for my faithful blog readers, you may not know. Since I didn’t get to do any big trips this summer, which I usually enjoy, my 2019 “big trip” will be an intermittent, extended sojourn through the world of college football. Another impetus for this decision is my dissatisfaction with the prices of tickets for my beloved alma mater, the Georgia Bulldogs. They are AVERAGING over $100 per ticket, which is certainly not helped by a $500 price tag for that Notre Dame game. So, each weekend, I’ll be at a different school; sometimes, it’ll even be TWO schools per weekend. This first weekend of college football is one of those two-school weekends.

My hope is to go to games that are good, not blowouts. For week one, however, most of the big schools play cupcake teams. And that’s a problem for ticket prices, too. I live within five hours of several major football schools, but whenever they play a decent team, prices go up. This is to be expected in a free-market system (demand, supply, etc.). So some of these games will be blowouts, just so I can afford a ticket. But for the sake of comparison, UGA’s cheapest game is against Murray State, basically a glorified high school team, and it’s $40 just to get in the door. This weekend, the tickets for both games (Michigan State and Michigan) combined for $55 against teams that actually play in the same football division as the big boys. They are lower caliber, of course, since it’s the first week and that’s what these teams usually do early in the season. But UGA plays a team of the same caliber as these two teams in week 3, and those tickets are $50 each. I love my team, but it’s getting to be where only the rich can afford to attend.

I chose the Michigan trip to start the football season for several reasons. First, it’s Labor Day weekend, so there’s an extra day to make the trip without any job issues. Second, it’s at least ten degrees cooler in Michigan than it is in Georgia, and in August, that’s a good thing (not so much in December or January, though). Lastly, my brother and his friend, Dusty, are big Michigan fans. Dusty was born in Michigan, and his fanhood has apparently rubbed off on my brother. This meant that, if they were available to go, I would certainly have companions for the road trip. I don’t mind travelling alone, but with football games in places I’ve never attended a game or have any connection to, it’s better to have a shared experience.

But I’m not going on a trip of this distance just for the games. Since this is a segmented “big trip,” I want to make some fun stops along the way. And when the drive is nearly twelve hours from home, it makes sense to break the trip up. One of my life goals is to visit all the FBS college stadiums, and the only new stadium on our route this time was Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Then we found Annie Oakley’s grave, the Eldora Speedway, and a museum devoted to Duesenberg (along with Auburn and Cord) cars in Indiana. We did all that on the same day we made our way to East Lansing to attend the Michigan State game.

I really liked Miami University. The town was pretty compact, though the roads were subpar. We walked a little around campus, and the temperature was perfect. We also made it to the quaint little downtown area, where I found a mini pennant for my pennant wall. And for any new FBS school, I have to get to the stadium. Yager Stadium isn’t very big, but it was easy to find. Plus, we could get inside it and even walk on the field. That’s not a common set of occurrences with college football. They have a plaza full of statues of head coaches—of other schools. That may sound odd, but Miami styles themselves a “cradle of coaches.” So these statues are former football players for this school who have gone on to become head coaches of other major programs. While at the stadium, we also got a glimpse of what we assume was the cheerleading squad getting their exercise in for the morning.

Going to Miami University meant that we had to get away from the interstates. And the quickest way to get to Michigan State was to continue along these backroads up to Fort Wayne, Indiana. We took a three-minute detour to pay our respects to Annie Oakley, born Phoebe Mosey in Ohio. Her grave is next to that of her husband, and rumor has it that the two of them are both buried in his grave. People had left coins, mostly pennies, on the top of her gravestone. There were also bullets. With her reputation, that should come as no surprise. It’s a small cemetery, and her grave is clearly marked with an Ohio historical marker. We looked around at the other graves, finding a few from the 1850s; lots of child graves. And the most recent grave was from 2009.

When we left there, Dusty made a special request to visit the Eldora Speedway, an all-dirt racetrack associated with Tony Stewart. It was only ten minutes away from the cemetery, and it was at least sorta on the way back to where we were heading. There were only a few of the employees there, and Dusty asked if we could go in and look around. They told us to knock ourselves out. So we got to see the track, which is indeed all dirt. And the benches are all wooden. It was smaller than Dusty had made it out to be, and even he said that it had a smaller seating capacity than he was anticipating. Still, it was an interesting diversion that I wouldn’t have considered making on my own.

Our next destination was the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum in Auburn, Indiana. I love most stuff related to that time period. Art Deco, especially. And these cars were made in this town during that time period, and in a building of the Art Deco style. I had told them that the only fast food I insisted upon for this trip was a stop at Culver’s, since it’s a staple of Midwest fast foodery. Luckily for us, there was a Culver’s immediately off the exit ramp when we got off to see the museum. I got to introduce these guys to the cheese curds, and they both approved. The other food was tasty, too.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get much time at the car museum. You could easily spend two hours there, but we had about 45 minutes, but we probably stayed about an hour. The first floor is primarily devoted to the cars made at the factory, which is now the museum. Lots of cars from the 1920s and 1930s. That was the focus of the bottom floor. And the space was perfect: open, tall, lots of natural light. All of the cars on display were in virtually mint condition. And there was one car that had no exterior, only engine and chassis, so you could see what it was made of. In the back, there were other cars from the period, most notably a few Packards. And one of the major donors to the museum had several other car types in this back room. The second floor had more cars, including a few oddballs. But they also included rooms devoted to engines, the business, and racing. There were also more cars from the 1900s and 1910s, including electric cars and those that looked like you had to do a lot of work to get them to go. The tires of most of these cars also stuck out; I can’t imagine the ride was very smooth.

Our final stop of the day, indeed our destination and the raison d’etre of this trip, was Spartan Stadium at Michigan State University. For most football games, I like to be ready to go no later than two hours prior to game time. No such luck today. Several delays and then unreliable parking information made it so that we didn’t get parked until less than an hour before kickoff. So we did finally get parked and walked to the stadium, mainly following the herds that were headed that way.

Spartan Stadium’s entrances and gates were a model of inefficiency. I had made the comment after we got out of the car that, since we weren’t too early, we wouldn’t have to wait to get into the stadium. Wrong. The lines out the door were ridiculous. Even the seasoned fans were taken aback. We were in line probably 20 minutes before we got to the ticket-takers. I thought we were going to miss the opening kickoff, they were taking so long to get people inside. When we got to the entrance, we found out why. They were patting down EVERY SINGLE person. Take off your jacket and let me shake it out. Hats off. The guy next to me in line said that this was new. And then the people scanning the tickets looked like they had never really done that job before. Not a good first impression.

Then we got to our section entrance. Another unnecessarily long line. And most people were not getting their tickets even looked at by the attendant at the top of the gate. But hey, we did make it into the section before the game started. As with most college games, the actual kickoff time is a few minutes after the official start time. So that worked in our favor.

Michigan State’s colors are green and white. If you didn’t know this before the game, you would know by the end. Except for the student section, which was all in dark green shirts (presumable given out at the game), the other sections were striped. Each section had a theme color, alternating green and white. I think our section was white, but I was wearing the only green shirt I own (light green, like key lime definitely not the shade of green for this school), and Dusty and Nick were wearing gray. Oh, well. No one said anything to us about it. And no one said anything to me about the Ohio hat I was wearing (it was, coincidentally, the correct shades of green and white).

The stairs between sections (and even in the middle of sections, like ours) were narrow. And then once you get about halfway up the section, the steps add a center raised piece, which makes two-way traffic on these stairs virtually impossible. As Nick said, if you’re old or drunk, forget about it.

The stadium was pretty full during the first three quarters. The announcer said the official attendance was 72,005. I think that’s about 3,000 less than capacity. I was not impressed with the crowd noise or the “electricity” of the fans. Of course, this could be due to the lackluster opponent. But it was also the first game of the season, and it was Friday night. I would have expected a more energetic mob. After all, the tailgating outside the game had led me to believe that it was going to be an exciting atmosphere. They had some good-smelling foods and some happy people in green and white. It didn’t quite translate into the game experience, though.

There were lots of big groups together; we were just outside the student section, and it looked like a lot of younger people, maybe recent alumni, were gathering in these areas around us. Our view was from a corner in the end zone, on the lower level. They were pretty good seats—not far from the action, and high enough to be able to have some depth perception for the action on the field. And no one got too rowdy around us. I didn’t notice much of a police presence, but my companions did; they also went off and did their own thing for the second half, so they saw some parts of the stadium that I didn’t see. But I did see the men’s bathroom, and I was rather surprised to see ye olde trough style of urinals. Nothing like pissing into the same tub as four or five other guys at the same time.

I got a drink in a souvenir cup, and I have to say they did a good job all around. It was $5, so that was less than expected (though still more than a drink of that size should be). It also had a lid with an opening that reminded me of a sippy cup. Well done. No need for a straw, and no worries about spilling the drink on yourself or anyone else.

As far as the game itself goes, it was pretty mediocre. Michigan State was ranked 18thin the preseason (which is based on nothing, but for some reason, if you’re not ranked in the preseason, you can pretty much forget about making the playoff), so I was expecting a really good team out there. Especially when you consider the quality of the opponent: Tulsa, which has never really done anything good, as far as I know. So it was no surprise that the Tulsa Golden Hurricanes (what a name!) shot themselves in the foot multiple times: botched snaps, giving up a safety, a couple of dumb turnovers. And to be fair, Michigan State’s defense took advantage of the awful Tulsa offense, holding them to a record NEGATIVE 73 rushing yards. But the Michigan State offense struggled to get first downs on several of their drives. I don’t imagine that Tulsa has a world-class defense, either. The last time I looked, Michigan State was projected to win by 21 points. And this was indeed the outcome: they won 28-7.

After the game, ugh. I expect post-game traffic to be awful, but this took the cake. Several unnecessary road closures led us right into a train track, which, coincidentally, was being occupied by a very slow-moving train. Our hotel was only 8 miles away, but it took about forty minutes to get there. This was mostly thanks to the train, which, once we were in the line of traffic, we couldn’t get out. But we got to the hotel and don’t have to be anywhere until the Michigan game until 7:30. I expect to sleep in for a change.


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1st September 2019
Dusk at Spartan Stadium

Nice view
The joys of college football.

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