A lot of thoughts have bounced around the heads of Spartan fans since last night.
The missed opportunities. Not closing the game out when we had our foot on their throats.
The blown calls. Some questionable play calls.
Dominating a game in every facet, but coming out on the losing end. Yet, when everything has settled, I found one thought was there all along: I am so proud to be a Spartan.
Watching the inspired play of this group of Spartans brought an overwhelming sense of that Spartan pride.
No loss is going to squash that feeling.
I heard it said last night how unfortunate it was that the Big Ten Championship Game was not a matchup of hugely prestigious programs with nationwide fan bases. Hey, sounds good to me. Having a fan base of only those who have an affiliation with the school? Isn’t that how it should be? Spartan Nation is real and true and faithful, not watered down by bandwagon fans clothing purchases at Walmart. That is what brings such a sense of pride and family — a uniting, cross-generational bond forged through shared life experiences and a passion for green and white.
Like the conversation I had while umpiring a little league tournament with a coach who graduated from MSU. He asked about The Peanut Barrel and Crunchy’s and all the places he used to go.
Or, on the trip to Indianapolis yesterday, stopping at a Subway in rural Indiana and were greeted by “Go green!” from a place filled with Spartans on the same journey.
I wouldn’t want to be a part of any other university.
We may have the lumps of the John L. Smith era and the departure of Nick Saban, but those down moments have served only to make the present sweeter, and Michigan State fans stronger.
Then the progress under the regime of Dantonio has restored a strong, constant beat to the hearts of Spartans. A resounding beat that will not be stopped nor altered by the worst loss.
We are Spartans and we are defined by things like the Izzone campout in 2007, when Dantonio lost his first game at MSU — ironically, at Camp Randall against Wisconsin — when Izzo asked everyone at the campout to go and welcome the team home. The scene of more than a couple thousand chanting and fight song-singing students parading through the streets of campus to show them, win or lose, Spartan Nation was proud to call them our team.
That feeling is so real today. Man, what a bunch of warriors we have wearing the green and white. These guys would make the real Spartans proud — they bear the name like Leonidas himself.
In a way, Dantonio has taken on the persona of Leonidas, leading a band of the best men he has up against any opponent at any odds. That day in the fall of 2007, I think it’s safe to say none in that crowd of fans had the Rose Bowl on their minds. But the players and their stoic leader knew what they were doing and why they were there. Somewhere in the back of his mind, Dantonio always is thinking of what’s next and how to take this program to another level.
What he has done along the way is even more magical than the Rose Bowl, he has built a fanbase on pride and confidence — and belief.
The book is far from over.