Last September, Michigan State traveled to South Bend for a primetime matchup against Notre Dame. At the time, the Spartans were ranked 12th in the nation and the Irish 18th. It was a big game — big enough to require an on-air bet between Notre Dame alum Mike Golic and MSU alum Magic Johnson. Even though the home team was favored by a touchdown, both parties agreed to a straight-up wager with the loser to receive a pie to the face.
Johnson’s Spartans won, thanks to 36 unanswered points and Notre Dame’s reluctance to throw deep against a suspect secondary. Again, at the time, this was a huge moment in the college football season — and, presumably, a huge moment for the Mike & Mike listening family. I mean, how many thousands of the show’s fans have pined for the opportunity to shove a cream-based dessert in Golic’s face? That guy’s put a lot of agitating takes out into the atmosphere.
But something happened in the five months between the bet and the payout. Both Michigan State and Notre Dame crashed and burned in epic fashion. The Irish’s woeful 4-8 campaign was actually better than the Spartans’ 3-9 house of horrors. Notre Dame managed to go 3-6 after this particular loss. Michigan State went 1-9 down the stretch with the only victory coming against Rutgers.
Both programs suffered great turmoil and caused their fanbases great embarrassment. Notre Dame always has national-title aspirations. MSU was coming off a College Football Playoff appearance and, seemingly, enjoying a steady climb toward dominance. There is no desire to look backward. The only thing keeping Irish and Spartans going is the hope that the future will be brighter. As a member of the latter group, I can say with confidence that there is not a single bit of joy to be culled from this viewing experience.
Re-living MSU’s win over Notre Dame from half-a-year ago does nothing for me. In fact, it elicits a profound sense of sadness knowing that this was literally the one decent moment from a forgettable season. I have to imagine it’s an even sadder sight for Irish eyes that witnessed too many one-score losses to lackluster teams.
Just very depressing stuff. The kind of television imagery that leaves one feeling hollow inside, like when Uncle Jack shot Hank in Breaking Bad or the last six minutes of any This is Us episode. Johnson may have won the bet, but everyone else involved — from Golic to the patient listeners who waited five months to the fans of these underachieving squads — lost.
Notre Dame visits East Lansing in seven-a-half months. Perhaps we’ll all have moved on from this crushing reminder of what was by then, but no promises.