9:04am, The Riv
Empty dark college bars are probably the best places for conversating in this world, as The Riv envelopes you in a dank cocoon of alcohol and nostalgia and college sports memorabilia. It’s like your basement, only sadder. Naturally my friend and I love The Riv.
Bloody Mary’s make for a morning start. Served warmly by Emma and Kate^^^ - they make a mean Bloody. Football discussion centers around recruiting (this is a familiar theme throughout the day) and the need for Dantonio to get out there...like Harbaugh or Meyer. A bored ID-checker sits idly in the back. Does the terrible Spartan team hurt the East Lansing economy in 2016? Probably.
10:10am 100 Yards Outside of Gate J
Tailgate energy is relaxed, realistic, very little football discussion outside of better get that damn first win, dammit. 47 degrees feels like 80 degrees; we’ve all been at this November ‘gates in windy sub-20 when you question your existence as a die-hard.
We meet the head of Midwest Living magazine, Trevor, who has the consummate Midwestern talkative warmth down to a T. This is a good guy. I would also be friendly if my job description was "go around the Midwest and report on the amazing food and destinations and natural beauty." He also does the PureMichigan! travel brochures and while I don’t actually know if Pure Michigan includes an exclamation point, everything looks better receiving the Jeb! treatment.
We have a special tailgate visitor IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIITS ZEKE THE WONDER DOG who refuses to pose for pictures because he is going to town on ice chunks. That dog would not look at the camera.
12:30pm Inside Spartan Stadium
Tickets are dialed. Fans are energized. What a beautiful day. Really. Take a look.
MSU runs to set up the pass, always has, which of course has led to numerous issues this year as the conservative first down plays and ineffective passing attack combine to neuter the attack...you get the point. Today would not be a day to worry. It’s 21-0 before you can blink, and we’ve been invited to visit a suite. Cool, whatever, until we get up there and...
TACO BAR! Today, is a good day. They have to drag me away from this. Thank you Huntington Suites and your generosity. Thank you so much.
2:00pm Back Behind the Rutgers Bench
After sitting behind the visitors bench for about five years or so, you see some very interesting things. When I played at Ovid-Elsie High School, I remember football being an incredibly intense emotional experience, but most of the visiting teams, in the midst of losing to MSU, have been relatively calm. Football, the higher you go up, is probably more cerebral, as you make a play on the field and retreat to the bench for further analysis and review.
We discuss the existential despair of being a Rutgers wide receiver. Like, yeah, you’re out there to catch the ball, but we both know today you’re probably not going to get the ball. So you run your route, watch the pass slam down in front of you harmlessly, run back to the huddle, rinse, repeat. I even penned a poem: It’s titled "Once". /clears throat
ONCE: A RUTGERS STORY
Once I believed in victory
Once I was bigger faster smarter
Now I am part of the suck
Now I become horror and despair
Now I am Fortunato
You know, the guy from Cask of Amontillado
I embrace my doom
I embrace my destiny
We see that MSU is employing the Tony Lippett Experience, aka, playing wide receivers at CB...because apparently the Spartan wide receivers are actually far more talented than the young cornerbacks. As if to prove this point, Corley Jr. plants one of the Rutgers players to get the biggest roar of the afternoon.
Behind us, a nice couple discusses post-game plans. She pats his leg and smiles: "Well honey, you’ll finally be in a nice mood after the game and I can have my celebratory Martini." Rutgers football: Bringing good moods to your city this Fall.
It’s a stunning fall day in East Lansing and we can all celebrate that. God bless winning and may it continue. MSU gave y’all that First Win Feeling and it does make a Saturday go by a bit easier. Can we stop with the co-coordinators? Was the Rutgers game a small sea-change that will lead to better performances in these last two matchups? What will Dantonio do with all these talented Frosh wide receivers next year? Will Harbaugh make a run back at the Detroit pipeline or continue to eschew in-state recruits in favor of a national strategy? Will Dantonio finally modify his famous/infamous loyalty and fire a coach this offseason?
...But back to our dive-bar tour of East Lansing at Harpers, as the food we ordered was actually pretty good, the brewed beer not terrible either. The TV program? Not so much. Most of the employees are unsure how to change the channels. But you wanted a recap, so here it is, warts and all. There is no door on the men’s bathroom stall at Harpers. I don’t have anything existential to say about that, just seems like something that should be fixed?