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Why I fell in love with Michigan State

My Spartan fandom started thanks to one special person.

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Michigan State
© Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

I’ve long been a Michigan State fan and there are many reason for that. Why did I choose to invest my fandom in MSU?

For most of my 33 years on this earth, few things have appealed to me in a way that sports do. It’s an escape. It’s a passion. At times, it consumes more of my free time than I may like, but for good reasons.

I grew up with my first love being hockey. I am a diehard Red Wings fan to my core and of course the rest of Detroit sports followed. When it came to college sports, I’ve been a Spartan for as long as I can remember. I’ve often been asked, why Michigan State? It’s been a question that’s kind of resonated with me over the past weekend and I wanted to take a deeper dive into. Hopefully you guys are interested too and I haven’t lost everyone already.

You’ve heard it talked about a ton. Michigan State has one of the biggest living alumni bases in the country. Those of you who know me personally know that I am not one of them. Some people who have read some of my work for Spartan Shadows assumed I was. I didn’t go to MSU.

After high school, I thought I wanted to be a high school teacher. I applied to Michigan State certainly, but chose to attend Central Michigan. Partially because they were offering me some scholarship money and partially cause their teaching program is top notch. Also, my best friend was going to go there as well and I wanted to join him. But still, even while living in Mount Pleasant, my allegiances and heart lied in East Lansing.

Like I said earlier, my love for green and white started at an early age. Neither of my parents attended MSU so that was not where I inherited it. My earliest Spartan related memories came from conversations with my Uncle Dave who lived in Lansing or with my cousins Nikki and Troy who attended MSU when I was little. But I think indirectly, the most influential Spartan figure in my family was my Uncle Fran.

My mom’s side of the family is rather big. In total there were 13 total kids in the LaFave clan. My uncle Fran was the oldest. He passed away last weekend at the age of 84 and I think that’s what started this reminiscing. He was a diehard Spartan fan.

After high school, he joined the Marine Corps but after being discharged, he went to MSU for his undergrad studies where he graduated in 1963. I didn’t get to see him a ton throughout my life because he lived in the Minneapolis area and I’m from Michigan. Whenever he was home, we would discuss our Spartans but that wasn’t more than once a year or so. His influence on his younger brother Dave and then maybe indirectly my cousins were a big reason I became enamored with Green and White.

When I say he was a big a Spartan fan, I mean he was a big Spartan fan. Especially MSU basketball. He wouldn’t miss a game on TV when he could catch it. Even when the Spartans would travel to Minneapolis, he would try to get out and see them.

A few years ago, I got a message from my cousin Aimee (Fran’s daughter) with the picture below.

Michigan State

Uncle Fran

I was so happy for him. A little jealous of course, but happy. Getting to meet Tom Izzo was certainly a thrill for him I know. As Uncle Fran was nearing the end of his life, the love for MSU did not waver. His birthday was just over a month ago. His son and daughter were visiting and they had a Spartan themed party for that. After he passed away, he was laid to rest in his favorite Spartan t-shirt. That shows the level of fandom we’ve shared right there.

He always agreed, East Lansing is a special place. I think the first memory I have of campus was actually a wedding I was in as a young kid when my cousin Nikki got married at the botanical gardens. The place is amazing. From there childhood was filled with memories of her recalling her time in Hubbard Hall, talking with both of my cousins about football results, and of course getting to rub it in our other family members’ faces when we beat that school down the road.

Even after that, traveling to the Breslin Center for basketball games, Spartan Stadium for football games, and then while in college visiting some of my best friends and touring some of East Lansing’s more finer nightlife establishments. Traveling to Final Fours, watching games with friends, all of those are great memories that hold a special place in my mind.

Campus is gorgeous. There is no other way to put it. It’s almost like it was made in a movie. Not many people understand it until they get to spend time there. It really is something else.

My family would agree. Overall I think that’s the key ingredient to what makes MSU special. While not all of my family shares the same love for MSU as I do, there are a few that do.

Over the past week I have been reflecting a lot on them as one does when losing someone. I’m forever thankful for all of them for many reasons, but getting my Spartan pride is definitely near the top. Now that I’m a dad, it’s also something I look forward to sharing with my son, too. He has been on campus but hasn’t quite had any experiences yet. He’s seven years old and hasn’t been super into sports yet but hockey and basketball are coming around. He is constantly asking when the Spartans play next and man, does that make me happy. Keeping Spartan traditions in the family is something I’ve always dreamt of doing.

Treating its athletes like a family is part of the secret sauce that the basketball and football programs have preached over my lifetime. Many of the past players point to that as the reason they committed in the first place. It’s also the reason so many come back later on in life. Family traditions run deep in East Lansing. They also seem to run deep for the LaFave side of my family. I can’t thank Uncle Fran enough for potentially starting something bigger than he’d ever realize.

I appreciate this school so much. Regardless of how the teams are doing, the buzz on campus is so unique on game day. It’s something I can only hope I get to experience a lot more in life. Hopefully this fall, I’ll get to share some of those memories with my son and maybe some of you all. Thanks for letting me explain a little part of myself to you all. I appreciate every one of you. Go Green.

Dad, die hard MSU (and Detroit sports) fan, and writer for Spartan Shadows. Certified knower of Ball (and puck). MSU Content Creator since 2022. Central Michigan Alum!

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