No “Enthusiasm Gap” At Chicago’s Sparty Party

I missed another Michigan State men’s basketball game Saturday evening — a 62-34 whupping of Nebraska, it turned out — but for a reason anyone living in Spartan Nation should find acceptable. Last night was SpartyBall in the Windy City, the annual scholarship fundraising event staged by the MSU Alumni Club of Metro Chicago.

This SpartyBall, held at the beautiful River East Arts Center near Navy Pier in downtown Chicago, was the seventh annual. It also was my first, though I just missed being in town for last year’s because I was unable to extend a visit from Washington, D.C., where I lived at the time.

The attendance of more than 300 people set a new SpartyBall record. Most were from Chicago and its environs, natch, but we had Spartans come in from away, not only the great contingent that came down from East Lansing, but from places at far-flung as Denver, DC, Connecticut and Houston.

I had a great time and it looked to me like everyone else did too, thank largely to the great game plan devised by SpartyBall co-chairs Eric Bolf and Courtney Cawley, under the leadership of local board president Vic Maurer. And even more importantly, those ticket sales and proceeds from the silent auction of dozens of donated items will benefit the good cause of helping send a Chicago-area student to Michigan State University, a place we’re proud to call alma mater.

As those of you who know me well already know, I made a point of getting involved with the Chicago Spartans club immediately after we moved here last July. I was pleased to receive an invitation to fill a vacancy on the board not long after, and volunteered to be a member of the SpartyBall planning committee.

I was a mere role player in the effort. My main contributions were storing the silent auction items in our apartment and doing nearly daily Facebook posts demanding, “HAVE YOU BOUGHT YOUR SPARTYBALL TICKET YET?”

Nonetheless, whenever you participate in a team project that meets all your hopes and expectations, I think you’re entitled to take a little pride. It was great to just step back last night, take in the whole scene, and think how awesome it is that the whole thing came together as well as it did.

So, a hat tip to the people who, in the past or present, have worked so hard to make SpartyBall such a popular and valuable feature of MSU life in Chicago.

To the folks from around town who bought tickets and attended the event, let me say on behalf of the board that we love you. And a special virtual hug to those of you who came long distance to share a night of Chicago winter with us.

To my friends and colleagues with the Chicago Spartans club who have welcomed me so warmly and permitted me to be so involved so soon, thank you.

To Michigan State alums and friends of MSU who were not able to make it this year, there will be a SpartyBall next year, and we hope you can make it.

And to my social media friends who do not happen to share my deep devotion to Michigan State University and cringed every time I did one of my SpartyBall ticket pleas, it’s safe to read my Facebook feed again for a while.

It’s over. For now.


The Lake Shore View: Spartan Basketball, To .500… And Beyond

As we’ve discussed, Tom Izzo, Michigan State’s highly regarded men’s basketball coach, likes to harden his team for the rigors of the Big 10 championship season by scheduling early-season games against some of the nation’s toughest teams.

This year, that strategy resulted in something that most coaches with NCAA championship dreams would dread: An 0-2 start, as Izzo’s unusually young squad lost to #1-ranked North Carolina in a showcase game on board an aircraft carrier in San Diego and to almost top-ranked Duke in another marquee game at New York City’s Madison Square Garden.

But it took only two games in three days this weekend — albeit against the type of second-tier teams that most national powers spend the early season feasting upon — to get MSU back to the .500 level. Tonight, the Spartans easily defeated University of Arkansas at Little Rock by the score of 69-47, on the heels of Friday’s 76-41 romp over Texas Southern in the Breslin Center home opener.

This week’s national basketball rankings come out on Monday. Can a team with a 2-2 record make the top 25? A little doubtful, given how many teams — most of which have only played what amount to glorified scrimmages so far — are still undefeated.

But if any team might get that kind of consideration, it is the Spartans, based on Izzo’s extraordinary record — a national championship and five other Final Four appearances since 1999 — and his history of producing teams that are much better when the NCAA tournament rolls around in March than they are when the season starts in November.

Now, I ask your indulgence for a public service announcement for my fellow Chicago Spartans (and friends nearby who would like to join us for some of our big upcoming events).

* MSU’s football team, newly crowned as champion of the Big 10′s Legends Division, visits Evanston Saturday to finish up its regular season schedule against Northwestern… and tickets are still available. With many of the home team’s students away for the Thanksgiving weekend, we have an opportunity to change the color scheme at Ryan Field from Northwestern purple to MSU green. Join us by ordering discount tickets at this site.

There also will be a post-game happy hour, co-sponsored by the national MSU alumni association, at Buffalo Wild Wings, located at 1741 Maple Avenue in Evanston. Details about this event will be posted at the Chicago Spartans site.

* We are planning to pack every Spartan bar in Chicago for the game watches on Saturday, December 3, when MSU travels to Indianapolis to play either Wisconsin or Penn State in the first-ever Big 10 championship football game. Details on the anchor game watch will be forthcoming shortly.

* Back to basketball. Just a few tickets remain for the Chicago Spartans’ December 17 road trip to East Lansing to watch the MSU men take on Bowling Green. If you are interested in going — or will already be in The Mitten for the holidays and want to pop up to campus to join us — please contact me asap.

* SpartyBall, the Chicago Spartans’ big annual scholarship endowment fundraiser, will be held on Saturday, February 25 at the beautiful River East Arts Center in downtown Chicago… and tickets are on sale!

Also, planning already is well under way, and we need as many enthusiastic volunteers as we can muster. If you would like to spend some time helping make this the best SpartyBall ever — and have fun with some of the nicest people in Chicago — please come to our next planning meeting on Wednesday, December 7 (6:30 pm) at Mad River Grille, 2909 N. Sheffield in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood.

May as well catch up on the weather rap here. It was chilly today, with a strong wind providing a winter-preview bite. But even a cloudy day on the Lake Shore can provide some interesting skies. (The factory smokestacks on the horizon are, I believe, in Burns Harbor, Indiana, about 35 miles in a straight line from where we live.)

In the Cooler on the Lake Shore Chicago vs. D.C. Weather Smackdown…

According to Weather Underground, Chicago O’Hare on Friday had a high of 51, a low of 30 and no rain. Washington Reagan National had a high of 48, a low of 34 and no rain. A narrow win for Chicago.

On Saturday, Chicago O’Hare on Friday had a high of 57, a low of 45 and no rain. Washington Reagan National had a high of 55, a low of 37 and no rain. Another very narrow win for Chicago. That brings Chicago’s overall lead to 64-44.

The Lake Shore View: Here Comes The Sun(set) Again

A roundup of random thoughts…

Random thought #1: Part of the human condition is that we work so hard to amuse ourselves. Cats are smarter. Any box will do. It doesn’t even matter if it doesn’t really support your weight.

Random thought #2: We had another gorgeous sunset last evening. I know this might be getting a little redundant. But if I ever tell you that I’ve gotten jaded over this, just put me out of my misery.

For the record, here’s how the Lake Shore View looks on this sunny day:

Random thought #3: Last night, after our SpartyBall planning meeting at the Mad River Grille broke up, I stepped outside, and for the first time since we moved was really, really cold. Or perhaps the better way to put it is that it is pretty easy to under-dress for the occasion in Chicago this time of year.

Why do I bring this up? As a lame excuse to lure you into reading a blatant plug for SpartyBall, the biggest annual fundraising event staged by the Michigan State University Alumni Club of Metro Chicago (better known as Chicago Spartans).

SpartyBall is a black-tie-optional dinner-dance, which raises money for a scholarship endowment to send a Chicago student to Michigan State. It will be held Saturday, February 25 at River East Arts Center in downtown Chicago, right near Navy Pier.

And wouldn’t you know it — tickets are already on sale and can be purchased by clicking here. They make great Christmas gifts!

So please sign up, whether your favorite colors already are Spartan green and white or you just want to break the winter doldrums with a fun night on the town with some of the smartest, coolest and most attractive people in Chicago. Oh, and I’ll be there, too.

So how cold was it last night? According to Weather Underground, Chicago O’Hare on Wednesday had a high of 46 and a low of 31 with no rain (the temperature bottomed out at 27 overnight). Washington Reagan National was warmer, with a high of 59 and a low of 54, but had a hefty .54 of an inch of rain. I’ll take cold and dry over cool and wet any day, so that point goes to Chicago in the Cooler on the Lake Shore Chicago vs. D.C. Weather Smackdown, bringing its overall lead to 62-43.