A history lesson from 1965: Last time Michigan State won the title The Enlightened Spartan: A history lesson from 1965: Last time Michigan State won the title

Sunday, November 29, 2015

A history lesson from 1965: Last time Michigan State won the title

This was what Bubba drove in EL, last time MSU won the title!
Driving down Grand River Avenue in a long, white 1964 Buick Riviera with "Bubba" in black metallic letters on the drivers door side, Michigan State's star player cruised in his pretty sedan in the city of the nation's best football team.  This was Bubba Smith.  He, with Charlie "Mad Dog" Thornhill, and George Webster -- each of whom were imported from Texas and Louisiana to MSU as black football players who were not allowed to play in the segregated south - would "work" as bouncers at Coral Gables.  This was the team, 50 years ago, that won the last national championship for the Michigan State University football program.

It was a dry city.  You had to get your beer at Paul Revere's, Monty's bar, Mac's Bar, Coral Gables, Dagwood's, or The Brewery.  But no beer in EL.  Local citizen, Joe Bell, was working at Sears & Roebuck in Frandor.  Whatever happened to Roebuck, I'll never know.

The Lions were actually good.  The NFL used to have a "Runners Up" bowl, where the second place team in each division played - the Lions won two out of three appearances.  They had last won the title in 1957.

"The Sound of Music," "Cat Ballou," and "Doctor Zhivago" were playing at the State Theater, which is now nothing more than a cluster-f*uck of a dilapidated bank building and two-block area across from Beggars Banquet.

Michigan "Bump Elliot" football sucked, but Ohio "Woody Hayes" State, and Illinois were good.  

In 1963, MSU were to play Illinois, but there was a delay because of the assassination of JFK.  State had a chance to win against Illinois to win the national title, and Dick Butkus plowed through the line three times in a row in Spartan Stadium and pushed Sherm Lewis and Don Japinga (who ended up selling insurance) back to secure the MSU loss.  That loss still stung to the Spartan faithful, years later... until 1965...

Aaahhh... the history...

Fast forward, 50 years, to today.

Michigan State is now in the hunt for the Promised Land - 50 years in the wait.  This is IT.  It is our time.  The Peanut Barrel, now owned by Joe Bell, the former Sears & Roebuck employee, is the center of the universe. It is not dry land in E. Lansing, not since 1973.  The newest iteration of "Star Wars" is about to play with Harrison Ford, the 7th in the series dating back to the original in 1978-ish, at the NCG in Eastwood Township.  The Buick Riviera doesn't exist, neither does Oldsmobile, the Beatles, the Berlin Wall, Julia Child, Yugoslavia, Duffy Daugherty, apartheid, or the wishbone option.

On the gridiron, MSU is reliving its ancient history of hard-nosed defense and grinding offense, with a shot at winning IT ALL.   Connor Cook is throwing laser-beam passes for the Spartans, the #5 team in the nation which just destroyed Pennsylvania State University, 55-16, to advance to a 11-1 record on the season.  Hell, the Spartan offense just scored last week on a 9-yd TD run off right tackle by its center, Jack Allen. Michigan State are 3-point favorites over the University of Iowa to advance to the national title playoff.  My, how times change... but yet remain the same...

One thing has not changed in 50+ years. It's the chip on the shoulder.  Michigan State must continue  to prove to the masses we belong - more than Bump Elliott, Woody, or Jesus Harbaugh.  The ES will be in Indy, and would enjoy your company.  50 years in waiting.  Victory is at hand.


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