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TOC Round Table: Getting-to-Know-You Edition

It's now been close to two months since this website sprang into existence.  By now, regular readers should have some sense of the varying personalities and blogging approaches of the different contributors to the site.  But to allow ourselves to further introduce . . . ourselves, we thought we'd do a few round table posts.

Going forward, we hope to do this on a fairly regularly basis.  It takes advantage of the multi-author nature of this site (four semi-informed blogger opinions for the price of one!) and will hopefully help spur additional conversation among you, our faithful readers.

Without further ado . . .

Are you fundamentally a football person or a basketball person?  Which would you sell your soul for during the upcoming year: a Rose Bowl championship or a basketball national championship?

Pete: Fundamentally?  Hmm . . . if you're making me choose, I'm going to say football.  Basketball is a nice game, but when a football game is on campus, I think the total experience (tailgating etc.) pushes it past basketball.  Tell me another time when you can start drinking at 7 AM and not be called an alcoholic.  Church doesn't count.  As for my soul, I sold it to get the Tigers in the 2006 World Series (note to readers - when making deals with the devil, don't be humble.  You've only got one shot, and you've got to make it count), but if i had another soul, I'd trade it for a Rose Bowl title.  Basketball already has great momentum attached to it, a Rose Bowl would greatly legitimize the football program and hopefully set a recruiting base in stone.

Steve: Basketball, though it’s closer than you’d think, considering that I’ve played basketball my whole life, the Spartans and Pistons won basketball championships while I was growing up, and I never played football. (I could blame my high school for that, because the Lansing Christian Fighting Pilgrims didn’t have a football team, but there might have been other factors, seeing as I weighed 130 pounds for most of high school.) So basketball gets the nod, but somehow I managed to become a football geek anyway.

As for soul-selling, this is a big year for both programs. The football program can take a big step forward toward establishing itself as, um, a program -- in the Tom Izzo sense of the word. Meanwhile, the basketball team has a shot at a national championship, and we’ve seen over the last several seasons that even for an elite program, that those opportunities don’t come along often.

So, ideally, the football team reaches and wins another New Years Day bowl . . . and the cagers hoist a banner. Better yet, I think both of those goals are within reach without needing to make any deals at the crossroads.

LVS: Love ya, MSU basketball, but I'm a football guy.  I'd trade my firstborn to be in Pasadena for a Rose Bowl win; trading a basketball NC would be easy.

KJ: Anyone who followed me over from the old site won't be surprised to hear I'm a basketball guy.  For whatever reason, I just can get as hyped up about college football.  Don't get me wrong: I'm more than happy to sit in Spartan Stadium on a sunny autumn afternoon and root the men in green on to victory, but the sport in general just doesn't have a hold on me.  That's at least partially a function of my loathing of the BCS system.  Plus, football statistics just aren't as elegant as basketball statistics are.

Anyway, if I had to choose, I'd take the basketball national championship.  A third NC banner would put us in pretty select company.

Who's your all-time favorite Spartan?  All-time favorite MSU memory?

Pete: I based my all-time fave Spartan based on an experience I had in the Spring of 2007.  I was in the front row of the Izzone, and MSU had just come back in the second half to beat Indiana and solidify a NCAA tournament bid.  The players are coming around to thank the fans, and the first one out still had this crazy, intense look in his eye that said "I would beat you six ways from Sunday if you were against me."

As you might have guessed, the player in mentioned is Travis Walton.  Since then, I've been rooting for him ever since, and was giddy when he put the team on his back and carried them to the Sweet Sixteen by killing USC for leaving him open.

As for memory: There’s no doubt about my best day as a Spartan; it was the day of the Elite Eight MSU-Kentucky game. I remember yelling at the refs, telling them that Pat Sparks’ foot was on the line as he shot the three at the end of the regulation. I remember cheering as Abezuike (spelling?) was late on his shot at the end of OT. I remember holding my breath as Alan Anderson shot his free throws towards the end of the second OT to seal the Final Four.

Most of all, my favorite moment is running down Oakhill into downtown EL. I was in a mass of people screaming "FINAL FOUR! FINAL FOUR!" at the top of my lungs at the corner of Charles and Albert. There must of been at least hundreds of students on Albert, screaming GO GREEN! GO WHITE! chants at the top of their lungs from one side of the street to the other. I walked down to Cedar Village, there were just as many people there cheering. Exchange students were calling back home, trying to explain what was going on. Most of all though, the crowd as a whole did not misbehave. Tear gas didn’t need to be shot into the masses. Sure, the loss against North Carolina six days after hurt, but nothing could take away from the sheer exuberance in East Lansing that day. That, more so than my first day on campus, and even more so than my graduation, was my favorite day as a Spartan, because for one day, we weren’t 44,000 students with over 100 majors. We were all Spartans, one, high-fiving and patting each other on the back as we celebrated a victory few thought we could achieve.

Steve: This is close between Steve Smith and Shawn Respert. Both of those guys were absolutely dominant, and it was fun to watch them take over at Breslin -- Smith by backing down hopelessly undersized 2-guards on isolation plays, Respert by shooting from farther and farther back. (Though, ironically, Respert wasn’t the Big Ten’s best ultra-long-range sniper back then. Yes, former Iowa star Chris Kinsgbury, this is your moment to shine at The Only Colors.)

My favorite MSU memory is the Purdue game at Breslin to decide the Big Ten in 1990, when Dwayne Stephens, a freshman, broke free for a dropped-in-but-not-dunked layup in the final minutes to win the conference title. I was in seventh grade. The security guys didn’t even try to hold back the crowd after the game, and I remember wandering around the court afterward, soaking it in.

LVS: Bill Burke.  He's a lefty (like myself), he was relatively unheralded and underappreciated, and then just exploded in '99 (thanks in no small part to Plaxico Burress and Gari Scott).  Favorite MSU memory, no question, is demolishing then-undefeated Wisconsin on the last home game of my senior year in 2004. 

I'll always remember sticking around the stadium until well after the game was over, and singing the Shadows at the top of my lungs with five of my best friends.  Good times.

KJ: As much time as I've spent praising the play of Goran Suton, Drew Neitzel remains my all-time favorite Spartan.  He and I share the same high school alma mater, and I continue to believe, that despite the dearth of banners during his career, he'll go down in the history books as a key figure in MSU basketball history for putting the team on his back during the 2006-07 season and keeping the NCAA Tournament appearance streak alive.

When we talked about our favorite Spartan memories at the old site, I went with the storming of the floor after the throttling of the Wolverines to close out the 2000 regular season.  While that memory still makes we feel warm all over, I think I'd say that being at the win against Louisville in Indianapolis this past March trumps it.  Two reasons:

  • The win, and resulting Final Four trip, was so unexpected.  After writing the preview of the game, I had completely talked myself out of thinking we had any chance to beat the Cardinals.
  • I got to experience the game with my two sons (plus my wife and Dad).  I'll never forget seeing my older son high-fiving the other MSU fans in our section and my younger son clinging to the souvenir Final Four basketball he insisted on purchasing.

In short, that memory has all the ingredients for a MasterCard commercial.

* * *

To sum up: We're tied on the basketball-vs.-football question and have a pretty wide-ranging list of favorite Spartan players/moments.  You can (1) help break the tie and (2) add to the diversity of Spartan pride by providing your reponses to these questions in the comments section below.