Road Trip Saturday Number 3 Michigan State in Grand Rapids
Exactly a week after traveling to Milwaukee Wisconsin I found myself on the road again in the month of October, but this time I was on the eastern side of lake Michigan as I went to Grand Rapids Michigan to see the number two ranked Michigan State Spartans take on the Georgia Bulldogs. This was a game of many firsts for me. It was the first time I saw an SEC team play live, and it was the first time I have seen a top two team play (the previous highest ranked team I saw number three ranked Maryland when they took on Rider on November 20th 2015 at the Xfinity Center in College Park).
Driving up to Grand Rapids I was treated with a nice view of the multicolored fall leaves of the trees lining the highway for most of the 140 miles. When I arrived in the city I had a little time before the game, so I checked out the blue bridge along the river, and the skywalk through downtown. Then I headed over to Van Andel Arena for the game. When I got inside I was surprised to see the court and baskets from Michigan State’s Breslin Center. I took my seat, and the gentleman next to me was very chatty, which I didn’t mind because I like interacting with other fans. He was a PHD student at Michigan State originally from Grand Rapids. When legendary Michigan State coach Tom Izzo came out pregame with Georgia coach Mark Fox to talk about their gratitude to those that helped put on the event we started talking about Izzo. He told me a story how the team was playing a road game a few years ago, and got back very late about three A.M. He worked at a TV station at the time, and they were supposed to tape an interview with Tom Izzo to air on their show at 7 A.M. They assumed that they would have to reschedule because of the time they got in. However, at 6 AM he was told someone was at the door and to go get it. He opened up the door and it was Izzo who told him “Are you going to help me carry these bagels inside”. Izzo had shown up for the taping despite only a few hours of sleep, and had brought bagels for the entire station crew. The fan told me that is the kind of person Izzo is.
For the majority of the game it had the same feel as the one last week between Marquette and Milwaukee in that the underdog (Georgia) kept it close for the first half, but in the second half the more physical and talented team pulled away and won by a comfortable margin. After the game ended I made my way down to the lower bowl and over to the scorer’s table to see if I could snag a box score. I noticed however a large group of people over by the Michigan State tunnel on the far end of the arena, and wondered what was going on. I made my way over there in one of the rows most of the way up the tunnel. I peered down and saw none other than Tom Izzo with a headset on doing a radio interview. After he finished he came out and signed autographs and took pictures with people until he was told he had to go back in. As he was walking back up the tunnel I called out to him and extended my hand down. He returned my handshake, and I thanked him for putting together the event.
Next I made my way over to the Georgia tunnel. There were a bunch of players out there interacting with their fans and taking pictures. I spotted Yante Maten the Georgia forward who put up 33 points in his homecoming to Michigan. He was grinning ear to ear, and seemed genuinely happy to just have a chance to play in front of family and friends. He wanted to make sure he had the opportunity to take a picture with everyone who wanted. Then I made my way over to a group of the Michigan State players who had come back out, and were talking with the fans. They were joking with each other about not wanting to go to class, and also commenting on how good Maten is, and how they would be surprised if he is not SEC player of the year this year. In the end I was able to get what I originally came down there for, a box score, and so much more in terms of interactions with players and coaches. 0ver $339,000 was raised for the Red Cross’ Hurricane Relief Fund because of this game.