beyond basketball/with poll: MSU alumni club members gracious in defeat...but critical of uniforms
Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com
- Related: 'We've infiltrated': Ann Arbor Spartan fans prepare for U-M-MSU basketball game in their backyard
Walking into Aubree’s Pizzeria & Grill on Whittaker Road in Ypsilanti for the UM-MSU basketball game, I didn’t know what to expect.
Certainly not the nostalgia; but I will explain that later.
I asked the manager, Kim Schulz, where the Spartans fans were, and, kidding, if they were causing trouble.
"No, they’re great," she said. "It’s good having them here. That’s what these games are about. They are right over there," pointing to a long table surrounded by several overhead televisions.
Fifteen people from the Washtenaw County chapter of the Michigan State University Alumni Association were there for the tip-off, and about 10 more would arrive during the game. I sat down and introduced myself. My shirt wasn’t quite the color of theirs, but at least it was olive green.
Randy and Beth Marshall and Matt and Donna Bentley were on either side of me. I asked for their prediction for the game.
"Based on the first game (MSU won 75-52), we should dominate," the Marshalls said. "But the way Michigan shoots (3-point baskets), you never know."
I could agree with that. It turned out that we all had it wrong.
Matt Bentley said, "I was nervous going into our first game, but this time I think we will win by four, even though it’s tough to win on the road."
He was close.
Later I talked to Dr. Rob Borer, who was there with his son, Robby. He said, "this game will be close. It could come down to fouls, free throws, and the last couple possessions."
If he is as good of a chiropractor as a prognosticator, I may start going to him.
Nobody in the whole group thought Michigan would win. Not a big surprise. They were confident in their team. There were no pre-game cheers or pep songs. Everyone was relatively quiet.
Until the first three points of the game by Adreian Payne. Spontaneous cheering filled the room. The other patrons looked around, shocked that a bunch of people were making noise for the wrong team.
During most of the first half, State lead, and was ahead 31-28 at the break. The general agreement of the MSU fans was "too many turnovers for us, too many points in the paint for them. But we are good at making half-time adjustments, so we are happy with the score." Not much concern.
During intermission, I learned a little about their group, the MSU Alumni Club of Washtenaw County. They meet on the first Thursday of the month, in March at The Ravens Club, 207 S. Main, from 6-9 p.m. Several of them mentioned their fundrasing activities and that all proceeds raised through their chapter go to benefit a scholarship endowment fund to aid Spartans from the Washtenaw County as they attend MSU.
Of the 25 State fans, there were about 10 women, so there was some passing of pictures of children on cell phones and some talk about meeting their husband while at school. But these ladies weren’t there to socialize. During the game, they were as intent as the men, and I heard just as much from them about turnovers, picks, and screens.
Also, at the half, I asked a couple UM fans at the bar what they thought of the MSU contingent.
"They’re annoying," they said, "clapping every time they score. Being invaded like this is horrible. This is not a Spartan arena." Both thought that UM was the better team and would win, despite trailing.
Now it’s true confession and nostalgia time. After my freshman year at the University of Michigan a half century ago, I transferred to East Lansing. Honestly. I majored in journalism and even covered basketball for the school paper. In my senior year, State finished second in the Big Ten. You would guess who was first if I told you that George Pomey, Larry Tregoning, Oliver Darden, and Bill Buntin -- oh yeah, and a guy named Cazzie Russell -- were on the team.
So that you don’t think too badly of me, I will tell you that I pulled for the Spartans in every game, except one. Having grown up in Ann Arbor, I never could make the complete transition. I also have three brothers who would have beaten me up.
Now back to the game.
When Michigan went up by seven points with ten minutes left, and by ten with five minutes left, things became quiet at the table. There was some moaning about the other team getting too many easy points inside. "They are playing our game."
Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com
Then when State scored seven quick points, things changed. Donna Bentley started playing that familiar chant song with her silverware on a beer glass, and the others responded, "Let’s go State."
A bit later, two points down, Randy, who had been up pacing when the game tightened and the tension rose, started with a "Go, Green!" The others came back with "Go White!"
Well, we all know how it ended.
One of the Spartan fans gave his gut reaction to the loss. "Ball handling, ball handling, ball handling," he said. The stats proved him right. MSU had 18 turnovers to Michigan’s seven.
And Pam Aronow said, "Michigan didn’t win. We lost. Why didn’t they put Travis Trice in there? He hardly played the second half. If we played each other 10 times, we would win most of them."
I asked for quick predictions as to how far State would go in the NCAA tournament as everyone was leaving. Randy said they would make it to the sweet sixteen, Dr. Borer said maybe to the elite eight, and Mark Bentley said to the Final Four.
They thanked me for coming as they filed out, understandably disappointed.
I was impressed by them. Not angry and bitter as I might have been. Not profane at any time during the game when things looked bad and when they finally lost. They would make their school proud.
Bob Horning is a lifelong Ann Arbor resident who writes U-M sports human interest stories for AnnArbor.com. If you have ideas for future columns, please email email@example.com.