Bestowed upon me from a young age was a passion.
One that would provide me with moments of insurmountable joy, and also agonizing and teary tantrums; the kind that warrant an "It's just a game" remark from those oblivious to the levels of excitement that sports command of its followers.
But whatever the case happened to be, one thing remained constant—my love for Michigan State.
I believe that I was first introduced to the Spartans by my late grandfather. If memory serves me right (and unfortunately, it serves me wrong more often than not), he was the one who gave me my "Michigan State Spartans" sweatshirt.
The size of which now requires a comparison to current attire, for nothing more than a few chuckles and memories.
It is also my understanding that I was at the ripe and tender age of four when I was handed that piece of clothing, and therefore could not have realized the significance of that big, mean looking guy on the front; the one who had a spear and shield, complete with a helmet and armor.
To me, it seemed like nothing more than a character mirroring that of one on television, and as a result the thought quickly dropped from my mind without any additional consideration or confusion.
After all, what was more important—comprehending an unrecognizable figure cloaked and armed with unfamiliar clothing and objects, or playing with the Power Ranger action figures stored away in the timeless bucket of goodies in Grandma's closet?
For a child of my age, it was a no-brainer.
Years passed and I began becoming more knowledgeable about life, specifically sports.
I learned that a certain "M" stood for Michigan, that another letter "S" stood for state, and that an ensuing letter "U" stood for university. It also became apparent that the mean-looking guy, who bothered but didn't annoy me, was the school's mascot.
The little-of-importance mystery regarding my childhood sweatshirt was solved, and there born was the first college that I ever knew existed.
Still though was no care, no attention paid to Michigan State University. Perhaps the unfamiliarity with the word University repelled me from having any interest with the school.
I'm not entirely sure.
Not long later I was slapped in the face with some information pertaining to my family's education: My Aunt had graduated from College at this "MSU".
I began putting two and two together, realizing that Michigan State was a part of my family, and in turn I gained a little bit of curiosity as to what this recurring "place" was all about.
Whenever they were either playing on TV or just brought up in discussion, she always made known that she was proud of her school, be it by cheering or praising.
I firmly believe that some of those positive "Sparty Vibes" that she had in her possession rubbed off on me, and I'm sure glad they did.
The continued atmosphere regarding and revolving around Michigan State propelled me to do a little research. I found out that the college was centered in East Lansing (where my Aunt lived and still lives to this day), and also that it was founded in 1855, a year a many before mine.
I also became aware of the school's football and basketball programs, both of which I had not followed up on until that point.
It became apparent that not only Auntie M followed the Sparties, but also my grandmother as well.
Posted on her garage door was a sign that read:
"Spartan parking ONLY, Wolverines will be crushed"
All my years of consuming knowledge regarding MSU finally allowed for me to be able to understand this script, and a special feeling overwhelmed me when I realized that my Grandma (in her 80s going strong), had a passion for this team that rivaled my own.
Since that point in time, I have enjoyed a Spartan life—a short one, but a good one nonetheless.
Multiple games have been attended, man-crushes have been developed (Kalin Lucas, Drew Neitzel), and emotions have stemmed from both desirable and undesirable outcomes.
One game in particular stands out.
Michigan State vs. the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
I was excited to see two coaching legends: Tom Izzo (a God in my mind) and Tubby Smith battle head to head. My dad had promised me good seats to the game. Not so much because I requested them, but rather because it was a mutual feeling that we both deserved to be treated with them.
So we went early, equipped with our MSU ball caps and Michigan State t-shirts, ready to cheer on our beloved Sparties.
We arrived about a half hour before game-time, and started scanning the surrounding scenery for scalpers. We found one and, after negotiating for a few long minutes, came to an agreement that left us with two upper-bowl seats; a disappointment by both our standards, but a necessary acquisition since we were now "inside the arena" as my pops had put it.
But then we found another scalper, one who was working for stubhub. He, like all ticket-sellers, was certain that he had not only the best seats available, but also the best prices. He proceeded to show us the tickets (actually only my dad, as I was fixated on the beautiful Breslin Center). No sooner had I shifted my glance, my dad was calling for me.
"Hey T, look at what I got," he yelled.
I did as told, and was in disbelief at what I saw: Two seats, two rows up, center court.
Somebody pinch me.
The Spartans ended up winning, but it was what happened after the game that was so earth-shattering for me as a fan.
Every single player on the roster went around the court, slapping fives to everyone within reach.
I was included in that group.
Being able to even share contact with some of my idols—athletes who I watched at every given opportunity—was a dream come true for me. I echoed the words "Great game K" to Kalin Lucas, my favorite player.
And, although the words were drowned out by the fight song being played by the Pep Band, the amazing experience and surreal setting remained.
I have a long life to live yet, one that is sure to include many more "Spartan Memories". Hopefully I can maintain my grades and go to college there, keeping the tradition alive within my family.
Hopefully I can remain as loyal and as in tune with the team as my Grandmother is at her age.
Hopefully I will be able to watch my kids and grandkids enjoy the same passion that I have been privileged to.
Because while all roots are born green, only a select (proud) few are white as well, and I understand those to be Michigan State Spartans.