Somewhere around 5.5 to 8 years old, research says kids should be able to later recall some events, though not as many events as you'd maybe expect. This is includes sports, and it's around that time period that my first real vivid memories of Spartan football and basketball come from. Fitting for first memories, my brain did not choose to file away 30 point wins over Eastern Michigan, but instead selected two games with performances or single plays that had enough hooks in them to really latch into my brain.
First Spartan Football Memory:
"Researchers say negative emotions like... sadness trigger increased activity in a part of the brain linked to memories. These emotionally charged memories are preserved in greater detail than happy or more neutral memories..." so states a 2007 article citing a report on memory from a psychological sciences journal. Well, that explains this freakin' memory then:
The year was 1997 and though no one could be certain of this at the time, Michigan was well on their way to their 1/2 a national championship. Michigan State who was 6-1 but had just royally barfed up a game at Northwestern the week before, has the ball, and is within a touchdown. And then Charles Woodson just makes a literally (and I mean literally as in literally) impossible interception that gives the Wolverines the ball deep in Spartan territory. Carr and the Michigan offense some how screw this up, then miss the attempted FG, but this Woodson interception was just one of five(!) Schultz threw on the day, and eventually the Wolverines regrouped to score the necessary 10 points to salt the game away, 23-7.
Did my Dad almost certainly swear to any one in the room that Woodson didn't get his foot in-bounds (no replay review existed at the time)? Yup. Did my Dad almost certainly swear this was a late, dirty, hit on Schultz? Yup (It would have been flagged as such today, I think). Did my Dad, a truly kind, mild-mannered, and gentle man, almost certainly swear, uncorking the type of No-No Word he would almost never use? I would bet that he did.
For shame, Charles Woodson. Look at what you did.
First Spartan Basketball Memory:
Michigan State 72, Northwestern 66 (OT)
Northwestern huh? That seems like a weird game to specifically remember. Must've been pretty crazy.
Oh, let me tell you about this game.
First off, Northwestern's hulking Nerd Beast, Evan Eschmeyer, who was almost certainly announced in the pre-game introductions as a 7 footer (though Wikipedia says he is 'only' 6'11), and who wore (likely just to enhance his memorability to young children) the famed 00 jersey, was an unstoppable juggernaut in the paint, putting up 30 points on just 18 shots and grabbing 14 rebounds.
Wait a minute, did I say unstoppable force? Because MSU had a man you might know by the name of Mateen MF'ing Ahmad Cleaves who saw what Eschmeyer did, said, "I see you, Evan Eschmeyer." and then went bonkers himself to the tune of 34 points (6 of 10 from three point range), 9 assists, 6 steals, and 5 rebounds.
If two guys posting big ol 3X point totals by their jersey numbers up on the Scoreboard wasn't enough to grab one's attention, the end of regulation really sealed the deal. Score is 55-53 Northwestern. Clock's ticking down, just like it always did in your backyard basketball games. Cleaves has the ball cause who else is gonna say, "Give me the ball." at that point? Clock's dialing down through the double digits now, and Cleaves decides to drive. Heads toward the hoop, but all 7 foot of Mr. 00 is towering near the rim. No problem. Cleaves lofts the ball up over Eschmeyer, and the ball banks in, with 9.5 seconds left for the tie game. Needless to say, this is very exciting to me.
The Spartan defense holds. Fellow sophomore A.J. Granger hits his only basket of the game to start the overtime period and MSU never trails again on its way to a fairly easy win in the extra period.
First Spartan Hockey Memory
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A young child learns what Sports Pain is, but also importantly that there is Love in this Sports World of ours. Is it somehow fitting that the Spratan football entry is the horrible painful loss while the basketball entry is a sweet, sweet, victory? Some would say yes. Some would say yes.
How about you?
Feel free to share your own first memories of Spartan sports (or your team of choice, if you're visiting us) in the comment section.