I go hard for SPARTY…

Yes, today is a HUGE day for Sparty fans. In about five hours, the Michigan State men’s basketball team will take on the Butler Bulldogs in the Final Four in Lucas Oil Stadium, in Indianapolis, Indiana. This is familiar territory for Sparty and its fans, as this is their sixth appearance in the Final Four in the last twelve years. Despite the Final Four appearances, Sparty only has one championship (2000) to show for it. MSU might not be an elite basketball program, but everyone knows their a consistent threat, come tournament time.

I was a second-year student at Michigan State in 2005, when the Spartans made their fourth Final Four appearance over a 8-year span. No one on campus or in the Izzone really expected much from Sparty, mainly because they were the fifth seed in their regional. I predicted they wouldn’t get past the Sweet Sixteen, where I figured they’d get eliminated by Duke, who they actually beat by double digits. Didn’t think they’d beat Kentucky in the Elite Eight, and that game turned out to be an instant classic, with Sparty eventually winning in overtime. Unfortunately, their run ended in the Final Four, where they were beaten by eventual champion North Carolina. UNC just simply blew them out of the water in the second half, but the phrase going around on campus was “In Izzo We Trust”.

Yes, we, Sparty Nation, have the utmost faith in Tom Izzo, the head coach of the Spartans. When it looks like Sparty will barely get by, he finds a way to get them to the next level. Last year was was a prime example, with the added pressure of the state of Michigan in economic turmoil, and the Final Four in Detroit. It was a spirited run, but Sparty was again overmatched by UNC in the title game.

This year is different, in my opinion. This has been one of the most inconsistent, nerve-racking Spartan teams in recent memory. Injuries, insubordination, and idiocy are three words I’d use to describe Sparty’s regular season and conference tournament. After starting the season ranked as the #2 team in the nation, they more resembled a mediocre team than an elite team many picked to be a legitimate title contender.

Still, Izzo and the crew found a way. Again, the five seed, and again, a trip to the Final Four. A controversial win over New Mexico State in the opening round. A buzzer-beater to beat Maryland in the second round, that only happened because Delvin Roe ducked just in the nick of time. Shutting down a “favored” Northern Iowa team in the Sweet 16. In the Elite Eight, they beat a Tennessee team that a good number of “analysts” predicted would end their tournament run.

Now, it’s time to dispose of Butler. I don’t care about Cinderella, honestly. I couldn’t care less that they’re a mid-major, and playing in their home state. I don’t recall many people jumping on Sparty’s bandwagon last year, and frankly, I’m glad. I want Sparty to embarrass Butler. I want to see Butler fans in tears of pain after this game. I want this game over by halftime. I want Brad Stevens to look like he’s 33 going on 64 in the post-game press conference.


P.S. I miss Karen!!!

P.P.S. On the banks of the Red Cedar/There’s a school that’s known to all…

Nineteen hundred and nineties, son.

Blase. Super blase, is probably how I would best describe myself. Just in my own world, marching “in my own parade”, ya know…live. Such was the attitude of the 90s, in my opinion. Remember the youthful exuberance and colors that we represented daily? Karl Kani, Cross Colors, Girbaud, Levis, Calvin Klein, GUCCI, COACH, CHANEL, NIKE, Jordan, Reebok, FILA, ADIDAS, PUMA, LUGZ, Nautica, Polo, GAP, GUESS, Tommy, FUBU, Timbs, et cetera, et cetera. We were similar to the youth(teens) today, in cliques and squads. I not too fondly remember the oversized white tees, and the Parker denim joints that the chicks rocked in the 90s. But I just miss how people switched it up. Nowadays, guys aim for say, the “hipster” look. It’s not a bad look…if it’s natural. Go out enough, and you’ll most likely see a guy out in a social setting that looks as if he spent an hour getting dressed. The same goes for the “rock star” look, too. Not too long ago, many of my friends said it was lame, and was “some white boy shit”. But because of a video and Dwayne backing the steelo…yikes. It just seems that now, too many young people (ages 14 through even 27) are susceptible to fads. What’s trendy. What’s hot. Dope. Fresh. Expensive. The styles aren’t different, and the brands are expensive for no reason. For some reason, I always thought it was weird that people my age (24) were infatuated with the 80s. After all, we were born in either 1984 or 1985. How could we be so into a decade that ended with some of us in kindergarten? We remember MC Hammer, Salt N Pepa, A Tribe Called Quest, Snoop, Jay, Big, Nas, Pac, Mary J.(hungry Mary J.), Groove Theory, TLC, Aaliyah, Naughty By Nature, Bone Thugs and Harmony, Do or Die, Ice Cube, Wu-Tang, Outkast, Dr. Dre, Main Source, Camp Lo, NWA, Soul 2 Soul, Tribe, Monica, Brandy, En Vogue, Tevin Campbell, et cetera, et cetera. 90s. The platter seemed to have a greater variety. And not just quantity; but high-quality, too. People were cool because they liked what they liked, for the most part. While there was PLENTY of pressure to be “popular”, I’m glad I’m not a teenager anymore. Social lives of today’s teenagers are hectic. My cousin, 16 years old (and a resident of the A) has an iPhone, and complained to me about her “Echofon actin’ crazy” this morning. Facebook beefs? For a 16 year-old girl, yes. Tumblr, and wordpress.com stats, YouTube videos, spring break trips…I’m her outlet. To be honest, I don’t know how she does it. When I was 16, there was really no “in” website to be a part of. None of us (to my knowledge) blogged, frequented chatrooms, or used instant messaging services. Some of us had phones, and some of us had cars. Yeah, in my high school, people that lacked were sometimes on the butt end of jokes, but there wasn’t as much external pressure to…belong. Gangs of pretty chicks that went to my high school, there were. However, I don’t remember half of them attempting to be models. I knew a number of guys that could spit a bar here or there, but I don’t recall so many that have decided to prematurely call it a career. There was really no “in” brand, or “in” shoe, or style, be it fashion or entertainment. Whether it was Phat Farm, Martin, In Living Color, Ecko, Maurice Malone, Sean John, 106th & Park (AJ & Free), Starter jackets, Jackass, Ren & Stimpy, Saturday morning cartoons and cartoons, period (the glory days), ski goggles, Playstation, Game Boy, the BOX, whatever…we were just more free to simply enjoy what we wanted to enjoy, for the most part. I do see different when I look at teenagers today, bit I mostly see an attempt to be different. The blame shouldn’t be placed squarely on them. This is, after all, a digital age. If you’re on your cell or smart phone, watching cable tv, or browsing high-speed internet, it’s hard to not be influenced in some way. To be 15, 16 years old with all that is available should be an advantage. Yet, I just don’t see the brightness and vibrance of today’s youth (I consider myself “relatively” young) that would indicate what some “experts” say is a more liberal generation. What makes it sadder is to come across old friends, and see that they’ve basically fallen victim to the mainstream. To come from a decade where it was cool to rock a shiny suit, doorknocker earrings, Reebok Pumps, British Knights, leggings, and acid stonewashed jeans to a day where monotony seemingly rules out everywhere. It’s even more important now to be popular, and that even (for some) dictates where they go and what they do. Controlled growth. Self-inflicted limitations. Feeling that because of where you live, or because of the people that you associate with or school you attend, or where you work…that you can’t be free to find your niche. It was once unique to see skater and emo kids. The goth kids and the jocks. The pretty, prissy chicks, and the not so pretty and prissy ones. My feeling is that now, the way fads come in waves, it’s no longer much of a shock to see a guy with black fingernail polish and chains hanging from his jeans. I’ve seen that look in SOUTH SHORE, Chicago. The music. Tv. Movies. Clothes. Even the hair, in some cases. It just doesn’t “pop” the way it used to. The little things just don’t grab my eye the way they did when I was younger. I find that rather heartbreaking, seeing as how I’d get a system overload trying to sort through all that is today’s music, tv, cinema, and fashion. There’s a Crucial Conflict song, aptly titled, “Life Ain’t The Same”. Word. P.S. I miss Karen!!! P.P.S. #shoutout to everybody still caught up in the Native Tongues Movement…

Break fast, fresh man!!!

Talking to my homeboy Vito, we traded stories from our freshman year of college. Ahhh, the good ol’ days at Western Michigan U., Kalamazoo, MI, Ackley/Shilling Hall, 2nd floor. Curt, a junior that pretty much preyed on drunk freshman girls, was our RA. Our floor was pretty much “Animal House”…in a residence hall. We had CHARACTERS. We had a group of guys that attended Bible study every night, the God squad. There was a Korean, Japanese, South African, French, and Russian on the floor. We had guys on the floor that grew up on a farm, and people like myself, that grew up in a large metropolitan city. An Abercrombie & Fitch dude, and a straight-up-and-down hippie. Potheads, boozehounds, and even kids that would snort, smoke, consume or inject anything that you put in front of them. Dean’s List students and guys that were struggling as P.E. majors. Above all of that, our floor was tight. Half of the floor would eat lunch and dinner together. Kegs full of root beer and keg stand contests. We hung out in each other’s rooms as if they were our own. The study lounge on our floor was turned into a smokeout spot, and place to have HALO and Madden tournaments. Several of us were members of the basketball team’s student section. Problem with a class? SOMEBODY on our floor could help. We gave each other rides to class, and on occasion, home on the weekends. Everyone in our residence hall, whether in Ackley or Shilling, referred to our floor as “The Deuce”. The girls loved us, and the guys hated us. We were sort of like a goofy ass gang. We had each other’s back in every situation that you could think of. More importantly, we just had fun. We enjoyed college, and being fresh freshmen in a new environment. Obviously, things became less fun and we couldn’t be as carefree as the years went by…but freshman year stands out in my mind as the best year of my life, to date. P.S. I miss Karen!!! P.P.S. #shoutout to Vito, Coop, Janesh, Milks, Wert, Al, Kev, Lichty, Amir, Curt, Ben, Frankie Donuts, Watchmaker, Mexico, Gabe, Erin, Jerad, Stinks, Pavel, the God Squad, the Marine, and anybody else that resided on the 2nd floor of Ackley Hall during the 2003-04 school year.