Over 17,000 Gather at 13th Annual ‘Meet the Spartans’

On Tuesday, Aug. 18, Spartan Stadium’s gates were open to the public for fans to meet Michigan State’s football team. Alexa McCarthy and Bradley Allen joined the 17,000 attendees to find out what all the buzz was about.

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Last Tuesday Fans filled the concourse of Spartan Stadium for Meet the Spartans.The scene was not too unfamiliar from football gamedays. Loud music, long lines and spartan fans young and old were anticipating the moment when they could see Michigan State’s football team. Spartan football fever was in the air. There’s food and drink, promotional tents, a booth to get your picture taken in football gear, a press box tour and chance to see the team’s trophies and even meet Mark Dantonio himself. It was almost overwhelming.

Meet the Spartans is a preseason tradition.  In its 13th year, the event reached 17,000 attendees. It’s most ever. Bradley Allen and I faced the crowds and the humid August weather to see everything for ourselves.

I arrived early, and slightly surprised by the large crowds. After careful consideration, I decided there was no other thing to do but dive in. Moving down the lines and talking to attendees I found two separate experiences. One was the young fans and the other, those young fans’ parents. I was surprised by how many kids were patiently waiting in line and the whole thing reminded me a bit of an amusement park. I talked to Matt and Jessica, parents with three young boys who had gotten there at 3:30

So just who were these fans hoping to meet? When I asked people about who they were most excited to see, the answer was never a surprise.

Occasionally somebody would say Dantonio. There were even a few Jack Conklin enthusiasts. One fan even hoped Tony Lippett would make a return for a 5th year. That boy probably went home unfulfilled.

The gates were open and the crowds were there, but where were the players? And where was Bradley? He finally arrived looking as overwhelmed as me. With 17,000 people waiting in line and so much going on, we had to get some help.

Then we finally found some, two people dressed like they knew what they were doing. They were with the Athletic Department and were excited for the event, showing no signs of weariness.

Okay, so now we wait. Just like everyone else. Or, better yet we talked to some people waiting in line.

Many people had traveled into East Lansing from all over Michigan and most had been at the stadium for at least two hours so far. Joanna, Rebecca and Mason were set of siblings from Battle Creek. First in line at one of the tables, they said some running and pushing was involved in getting their coveted spot.

After a while we realized what was missing from the usual game day experience, the students. But we finally found some, waiting in one of the neatly organized lines in the north end zone entrance. Their first reason for coming? The cheap food. Typical college student answer.

With all the talk about fandom, autographs, and food, we almost forgot to ask someone about the actual football season.

Finally, the players emerged. And with the players came the fans. The lines started to move and like floodgates, fans swarmed players and coaches with merch to sign. There was no pushing and shoving reminiscent of the student section entrance during games. Everyone patiently awaited their turn to get their autographs. Players and attendees all with huge smiles just happy to be there.

On our way out of Spartan Stadium, we made one last stop to see if what some of the vendors thought of the Meet the Spartans Event.

Oh well, At least we got a free bag.

In a couple of weeks, 17,000 will turn to 70,000 as the Spartans take on Oregon in Michigan State’s home opener. Millions will then get to Meet the Spartans on national TV. only this time it will be on the football field.

For Impact Student Radio, I’m Alexa McCarthy