Happy Thursday everyone. Thank you to all who took part in last week’s thread about all-time favorite Spartans. I enjoyed reading your replies. There were no wrong answers. This week I want to ask you what is your all-time favorite MSU game that you have seen. I thought about stipulating that it be a game you attended in person, but I decided against that when considering what my answer would be.
I have had the fortune of being at a number of significant games in my day: the 2000 National Championship, 2014 Rose Bowl, 2001 Cold War hockey game, 2001 TJ Duckett buzzer beater. And while all of those will always be very special memories - I have repeatedly said the 2014 Rose Bowl was one of the best days of my life - I think my favorite game is one I watched in a bar.
It was the fall of 2010 and I had been living in Los Angeles for about a year and a half at that point. When I first moved out there, I heard from a friend about a sports bar in Hollywood called Big Wangs that served as an MSU game-watch spot. So this became the place I went to watch all the games. Now since I mentioned this was 2010, I am willing to bet at least a few of you have already figured out which game I am talking about. Yes, my favorite MSU game is the one that has become known as ‘Little Giants’.
MSU entered the game 2-0, having made easy work of a pair of directional schools. The third game was against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and it was a night game under the lights at Spartan Stadium. The 8 o’clock start meant it was a 5 PM start on the west coast. This is significant to the story because it means that Big Wangs was packed with Spartan alum, as opposed to the games that would start at our 9 AM when we would maybe have 15-20 people there. And when I say packed, I mean probably a couple hundred Green & White folk.
You know how the game went. Close affair. Goes to overtime. ND kicks a field goal on their first possession to go up 3. MSU gets the ball. On first down, we lost 2 running the ball. On second down, QB Kirk Cousins rushed for 7 yards. And on third down and 5, Cousins was sacked for a nine-yard loss. Big Wangs fell quiet. MSU was at the 29-yard line, meaning it would have been a 46-yard field goal. That is not automatic by any means. So, yeah, there were a lot of nervous (and intoxicated) people in the bar. Virtually everyone was standing up, many of us pacing around anxiously as we awaited the fourth down play.
So Coach Dantonio sends out the FG unit. I’m standing in place, saying my prayers, while staring up at one of the many big screens in the place. The snap was delivered. Kicker Dan Conroy took a couple steps toward the hold. And then... the holder, Aaron Bates, stood up with the football. You could hear the collective gasp of everyone in Spartan Stadium all the way in Los Angeles. I literally fell to my knees, placed my hands on my head in a surrender cobra pose, and shouted, “What the hell is he doing?” Several “What the f___?”s could be heard throughout Big Wangs.
Quick tangent: If you Google “surrender cobra”, which fan base do you think shows up the most in images?
And then, suddenly we all caught a glimpse of TE Charlie Gantt who had snuck off a defender on the right side of the play and was running toward the end zone. MSU had great blocking on the line which allowed Bates to take his time and allow Gantt to shed his guy and make his way down field. Bates stepped up and lobbed it over everyone to a wide open # 83 who was able to jog into the end zone and into the corner of the stadium where everyone in attendance was going wild.
In Los Angeles, pandemonium was equal to that of Spartan Stadium. I rose from my kneeling position and began group-hugging some friends who were right there (Hi Steve and Lindsey and Kristen). More hugs and high-fives followed with others in attendance, even with people whose names I didn’t know. And of course, there were celebratory tequila shots as well.
I know it was not the most significant game. But the combination of the wild ending (kudos to Dantonio for having the world’s biggest balls) and the energy at Big Wangs (a place which no longer exists but will always hold a special place in my heart - where I met many of my best friends from my time in L.A.) that night make this my all-time favorite game. It definitely adds to the memory that the game earned itself a nickname.
Okay, your turn. Looking forward to reading your stories.