Spartan Pride Still Alive

Eric BentonContributor IApril 7, 2009

DETROIT - APRIL 04:  Raymar Morgan #2 of the Michigan State Spartans looks down while taking on the Connecticut Huskies during the National Semifinal game of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship at Ford Field on April 4, 2009 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

And so it ends. 

The fantastic run to the NCAA National Championship is over for the Michigan State Spartans. The North Carolina Tar Heels dominated Michigan State right from the start and cruised to become national champions.

And this is what it is like to be from Michigan.

It is difficult to find an area with more athletic success than the state of Michigan. 

Since 1988, teams from the state of Michigan have played for a championship in a major sport 18 times (Redwings '95, '97, '98, '02, '08; Michigan Basketball '89, '92, '93; Michigan state Basketball '00, '09; Pistons '88, '89, '90, '04, '05; Tigers '06; Michigan Football '97). 

Of those 18 chances, we have won 10 times.

But when we fail, we fail big. We fail spectacularly. And the rest of the country seems to enjoy it.

Chris Webber's timeout in the national championship. Tiger pitchers throwing routine outs to first base into the outfield in the World Series. The Pistons losing on last second shots in '88 and '05.  

Even in losing seasons, we lose in grandiose ways, evidenced by the Lions having the first 0-16 season in NFL history.

Now this, the Spartans giving up the most points in a half in NCAA championship history.

That, in a nutshell, is what it is like to be from Michigan.

It will long be forgotten that Michigan State beat up on teams that the national media so loudly proclaimed they did not belong on the same floor as.

So long, Louisville. See ya, UConn.

What will be remembered about Michigan State, if anything at all, is that they gave up a record 55 points in the first half. That they had the largest halftime deficit in NCAA championship history when they went to the locker room down 21.

Unless you are from Michigan.

If you are from Michigan, you will remember the run through Kansas, Louisville, and UConn, a who's who of perennial national powerhouses, just to get to the championship game. 

You will remember that despite being down by 21 at the half, the Spartans never gave up, clawing back within 13 despite Carolina's hot shooting.

That, taking pride in what you have accomplished and not what you have failed in, is how you survive in Michigan.

It is cold and it is dreary in Michigan. It has been hit harder than anywhere else in the country by the economic recession. It is the butt end of bad jokes told by anyone lacking a clever bone in their body resorting to sophomoric humor to get a rise.

It is not enough that we designed, built, and supplied the world with the single most complicated piece of equipment most any person on this planet is likely to operate. 

We are thought of only as failures, unable to survive in a global economy where companies who live up to the agreements they stuck during the height of their success in paying retirement health care compete with foreign companies paying their people fractions of our national minimum wage. 

And the nation seems to revel in it

We hear every insult. Every stinging comment. It is impossible not to.

But we have our pride. We know what we have accomplished.

Nearly every writer covering this tournament echoed the same sentiments every time Michigan State played a game. They don't belong on the same floor. They play ugly basketball. Their conference is a joke.

We heard all that too. So did the Spartans. And in the end, those same writes finally got to say they were right after being wrong so many times before.

But sometimes there is more to prove in the fight than the finish.

The Spartans know what they have accomplished. When the pain of tonight's loss washes away, they will look back and be proud of what they have done.

Bravo, Michigan State. We are proud of you too.