Spartans fans glad
to be back home
Hawaii’s visit reminds MSU
supporters of rough treatment
EAST LANSING, Mich. » Michigan State fan and Lansing resident Jim Greer will always remember his first encounter with someone from Hawaii. It was in 1966.
"It was just up the street from here. We had a big snowstorm and the snow was up to my waist, and I had a Corvair," Greer said. "I was trying to push it, and a car came up behind me. Bob Apisa got out of the car. It was right after he hurt his knee, he was on crutches. But he picked that car up and moved it out of that snowbank."
Greer got just as lasting an impression last December at Aloha Stadium, while he was watching Hawaii beat Michigan State 41-38.
"There was a guy in the stadium who got really drunk and was annoying people real bad," Greer said. "It's not so much that we lost the game. But I left there feeling I was glad to get out of there, not like I was just in Hawaii and I had a great time."
Greer, an MSU graduate and 27-year Spartans season-ticket holder, spoke last night at "The Nuthouse," after Michigan State coach John L. Smith's weekly radio show, which is hosted by the sports bar.
Greer is like many other MSU fans who feel the Spartans got jobbed last year in their loss to the Warriors. They're hoping for revenge tomorrow at Spartan Stadium. The oddsmakers think they'll get it, installing UH as 32-point underdogs.
He said Michigan State fans are among the most fervent in the nation.
"You've got traditional, loyal fans at Michigan State. It's been a long time since Bob Apisa was here and we won two national championships, but people want them to win and compete so badly that they keep going to the games, win or lose," Greer said.
Fred Hasselback also made the trip to Hawaii last year. He said he had a good time, but questioned the disparity in penalties issued to the Warriors and Spartans.
"There was definitely a big contingent of people who wanted Hawaii to get in the bowl game," he said.
Including the officials?
"They were WAC officials, weren't they? Yeah, yeah," Hasselback answered.
"I was sitting at the top of the stadium and could feel the stadium moving. I didn't like that. But we had a great trip. We spent two weeks in Hawaii and we had a blast," he added.
It will take a lot more for the Warriors to reach the love-to-hate status that Michigan and Notre Dame hold in the hearts of Michigan State fans. Jim Gray wore a shirt last night with the slogan, "Viagra makes Michigan fans taller."
Gray laughed when asked his thoughts about what seems like ill will between UH and MSU, two programs with hardly anything in common these days other than the U in their initials.
"The funny thing is Michigan State had strong ties with Hawaii," Gray said. "A lot of our players have come from Hawaii, so I always felt a kinship. Bob Apisa, Charlie Wedemeyer, some really great players. We'd like to get some more."
That's sure to draw the ire of Hawaii fans, who can't stand having the homegrown talent plucked away.
After his show, Smith said the war of words between him and Jones over not exchanging scouting videotape was overblown.
"I have the most admiration and respect for June and what he's done. He cares about his kids and he coaches the snot out of them," Smith said. "Everybody says, you don't get along because you didn't trade film. I'm not gonna give him film if I think it's gonna help him. And he knows that. If the shoe were on the other foot he'd do the same thing, no big deal.
"Everybody has everybody else's film anyway, the way the Internet is. June's doing it as much as anything to get his guys fired up. And I respect that."
Smith said his Michigan State offensive schemes borrow many concepts from the run-and-shoot that Jones and Mouse Davis, now UH's running backs coach, have been using for decades.
"They changed a lot about how football is played," said Smith, who coached against Davis as an assistant when Smith was at Montana and Davis at Portland State in the mid-1970s.
Smith was in his element at "The Nuthouse," answering questions from fans, and "interviewing" his own guests, MSU cornerback Ashton Watson and wide receiver Matt Trannon.
"I guess I'm a people person, I enjoy kidding with them and the fans," Smith said. "They've learned to accept me for what I'm all about. We joke with them, we tell them, no stupid questions. Once in a while you get one and you say, I'm not answering it, it's stupid, that's part of it."
Fan Karl Sjolander said he likes Smith's style.
"His sense of humor masks an iron fist. This guy's definitely got control of the team. But he's also instilled a sense of fun," he said. "John L.'s kind of a western reincarnation of Duffy Daugherty. Kind of fun, enjoys it. But underneath, he's boss."
Daugherty was the Michigan State coach who started the pipeline of Hawaii players to Michigan State. There hasn't been one since Carter Kamana in the 1980s.
And -- assuming Michigan State doesn't buy out of it -- the 2007 Spartans game at Hawaii might have fewer fans making the trek from here to the islands.
"I probably won't go back to Hawaii," Greer said. "(Last year) was the first time I experienced smack-talk in Hawaii. We were tailgating and only a very few people were friendly. We tried to talk to them and they wouldn't converse back. I'm just disappointed. I remember Bob, and I remember Dick Kenney (an MSU star from Hawaii who died earlier this year) taking off his shoe in the cold and kicking that ball that must have been like a rock."