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Friday, October 06, 2006

Know Your Foe - Michigan State

Saturday afternoon, the battle for the Paul Bunyan Trophy will ensue. Seriously, does anyone care about that trophy? It's all about the bragging rights for the Wolverine state when Michigan hosts Michigan State. The Wolverines have won three in a row in this series, including an overtime win last year. The Sparties will be looking to salvage the season with an upset. The following is the latest edition of the MZone's KNOW YOUR FOE.

History – Founded in 1855 as the Agricultural College of the State of Michigan, though there were no classes until 1857 (and not many since). Contrary to popular belief, it was not the first land grant college in the U.S., though it did serve as the model for which all following land grant universities were modeled. The original curriculum eschewed Latin and Greek studies, but did require three hours of daily manual labor. In 1859, this curriculum was deemed too elitist and the college became a two-year vocational school. A couple years later, the school changed its name to State Agricultural College (yes, SAC) and went back to being a four-year school. The school has had six different names including Michigan Agricultural College, Michigan State College of Agriculture and Applied Science, Michigan State University of Agriculture and Applied Science, and finally Michigan State University since 1964.

Location – East Lansing, Michigan, which will celebrate it's Centennial beginning in January. The town has a bit of a love-hate relationship with the university. The town was a dry town until the 1960s, but since it has been known as a huge party town. From huge block parties in the '70s and '80s, to near annual riots after big basketball games, it's almost surprising the flaming couch isn't on the town seal. The Cedar Village area, which is home to many MSU students, has been declared "blighted" by the city, with plans to demolish and develop the area with condos and shopping centers.

The Michigan State campus is huge, but is considered one of the prettiest in the country. The W. J. Beal Botanical Garden is the oldest of its kind in the U.S. The Red Cedar River on campus is a popular spot for students. Though named for the trees along the river's source, the trees are actually junipers, not cedars.

Nickname – Spartans. The teams were known as Aggies until 1925. At that time, a contest was held for a new nickname and - I'm not kidding about this - Michigan Staters was selected. The name was deemed too unwieldy for headline writers, so Spartans was then taken as the de facto nickname. The mascot, Sparty, lives on campus in statue form, as well as comical mascot during sporting events. The terra cotta version of Sparty, which depicts the mascot as a Spartan warrior stood outside from 1945 until last year when it was moved indoors to be protected from the weather (not much of a warrior if you ask me). A bronze version of the original was erected in the former spot and is guarded during the week before the Michigan game by members of the marching band. Boy, those Sparties sure are hung up on protecting their turf in a literal sense, not figuratively, on the football field.

Cartoonish Sparty has shown up at MSU athletic events since 1989. He's won the Mascot of the Year award twice and was nominated to the Mascot Hall of Fame this summer (yes, there is such a thing).

Colors/Logo/Fight Song – Green and White. I've actually always been partial to these colors. They're sharp and not used all that much in college football. The Spartans made an improvement when they moved to a more metallic green in the mid '90s. But they've gone back and forth on so many of their logos that they can't really establish an identity. Of course not winning the conference since 1987 might have something to do with that, too. They've used the current Spartan head design on four different occasions. They've had the block S for two different stints, including one where they only had it on the right side of the helmet, mimicking the Pittsburgh Steelers. And my goodness, what in the world were they thinking in the mid-'70s?
In addition to the Spartan head, the athletic department has used numerous wordmarks, most of them emphasizing the word "State." Talk to people not from Michigan - when they hear someone talking about State, they're bound to laugh. It truly does sound like something that would be said on Leave It To Beaver. "Yes, Mrs. Cleaver, Wallace and I are planning on applying to State..."

The MSU Fight Song is another among the top fight songs in the country. From the opening line of "On the banks of the Red Cedar" to the concluding "Fight! Fight! Rah, team fight!" it's a classic. But with the performance of the football team, they might want to think about dropping the "Victory for MSU" part.

Academics – MSU is ranked 70th in the U.S. News and World Reports rankings. And, of course, they pale in virtually every category to Michigan academically which has led to numerous family dinners being ruined. But talk to any Sparty alumnus and they'll be sure to point out how they have a real strong Hotel and Restaurant management program, something Michigan doesn't even offer. Plus, as a disappointed product of public schools in Michigan, I'd like to blame Michigan State for producing so many of the teachers in the state.

Athletics – The Spartans became a member of the Big Ten in 1950. They currently excel in basketball (two national titles, four of the last eight Final Fours), and hockey. Oh, and of course dodge ball. But it's football they'd love to be good at, and they've only managed one Rose Bowl appearance in the last 40 years, and have a 28-65-5 record against their one and only rival, Michigan.

Famous alums – Of all the schools that Michigan's faced this year, MSU has to have the lamest collection of famous alumni. Even Central Michigan had a better list than this. Come on, Robert Urich and James Caan? That's as good as they can do from an entertainment standpoint? The stars, respectively, of TV schlockapaloozas Vegas and Las Vegas? Please. Compare that to Michigan which can claim one of the most distinctive voices in the world (James Earl Jones) and a freaking Charlie's Angel in Lucy Liu. As far as politics, all the Sparties can claim are some past governors of Michigan. No Presidents. And they also claim a former Secretary of Energy (Spencer Abraham). But no astronauts. Space, bitches, Space.

The Game – Is Sparty done? Well if the Illinois loss didn't prove it, the Michigan game will. Wolverines 40, Sparty 16.


BaggyPantsDevil said...

The opening trumpet riff was stolen, it's Mess Call. Yes, Mess Call, as in what's played on Army installations when breakfast, lunch, and dinner are served. We even have some cute lyrics for it:

Piggies, piggies, piggies, come and get your chow

In my humble opinion, not a great way to start a fight song, regardless of its catchiness.

GC said...

I too like the MooU color scheme (tho not nearly as much as yellow and blue...). Of course, the receivers tend to blend in on the field and become hard to find - not sure if that helps or hurts their passing stats.

In contrast there is red and white, the most overused (and therefore boring) color scheme in all of sports. Reason enough to root against any such attired team. tOSU was originally red and white, but no one in Ohio knows what bleach is.

matsut said...

"no one in Ohio knows what bleach is"...my word, you've really nailed us there - well played, sir!


Now: Sparty's green and white does look sharp, but only with metallic helmets/pants. I've always been partial to green and gold, as long as it's a metallic gold - Notre Dame's green jerseys make for a fine-looking uniform. Then again, I'm a fan of the 'Cuse's home unis.

My high school's colors were red and green. Predictably, our opponents' marching (in football) and pep (in basketball) bands would play "O Tannenbaum" when we showed up - after which we'd proceed to beat the shit out of them. Any NW Ohioans out there know what I'm talking about.

Anonymous said...

I think it really only becomes pathetic when you start making up names for lame colors, like "maize", or "crimson". It's yellow, and red. Not difficult, dumbfucks.

Anonymous said...

This thread should be locked since it's rapidly drifting into fag-a-rama land with such discussions of fashion and color schemes.

Anonymous said...

The "Space, bitches, space." Has had me rolling twice now. You should get an audio link of someone saying that. When you click on the link it says it. Man, I'd hit that all day.

Cliff Keen said...

MSU actually shared the Big Ten title in 1990 with Michigan, Iowa, and Illinois. Granted, they needed a defensive back to trip Desmond Howard on a two-point conversion to do so but I guess we can't take it away from them.

So their Big Ten title drought is actually only 16 years, not 19.

Go Blue!


Quiet Rioter said...

The trophy isn't that ugly.

Ok, yes it is.

Did they pick it up at a Canadian gift shop while waiting to board a ferry to cross the border?

beast in bama said...

I agree with Anon 7:04 a.m., great idea.

Isn't James Earl Jones a Michigan alum? Talk about cool..."Space bitches, space."

OC Blue said...

You forgot to mention that if you talk to any MSU alum, the second thing they'll mention is that they were accepted at Michigan but instead chose to attend STATE.
That, my friend, is natural selection in action.

anonymosity said...

I worked with a guy who had one of those MSU Hotel and Restaurant Management degrees.

He was a network administrator for a grocery store chain.

Anonymous said...

anonymosity said...
"I worked with a guy who had one of those MSU Hotel and Restaurant Management degrees.

He was a network administrator for a grocery store chain."

What you forgot to mention was that you are the guy responsible for making sure the fresh vegetables get sprayed on time. Congrats on that bloated maize and blue French Studies degree, big guy.