Sparty: The Original Green Machine

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Whether he is standing tall as a proud bronze statue, emblazoned on a green T-shirt or strutting around the football field in all of his glory, Sparty embodies MSU school spirit and everything it means to “bleed green.”

Current MSU students know our mascot as an extremely athletic guy running around in green armor. However Sparty did not start out that way; the website for the Association of Future Alumni states that the first Sparty mascot was nothing but a “papier-mâché Spartan head” made by a group of spirited brothers of the Theta Chi fraternity in 1955. In 1956, the MSU student government took ownership of the head, which they then recreated with fiberglass.

Sparty was simply a giant, mean-mugging head until 1989 when graphic designer David Giordan was asked to do an illustration of how Sparty should look. For inspiration, he was shown a drawing of Wisconsin’s Bucky Badger. Giordan’s task was to “design ‘Sparty,’ but make him look even more buff than Bucky Badger.” It’s safe to say Giordan was successful; Sparty’s bulging muscles helped him become the first mascot in the Big Ten Conference to win the Universal Cheer Association’s mascot competition in 2004, a title he defended in 2005 and 2007.

If the history of Sparty is inspiring you to don that giant head and take on the role of MSU’s mascot, note that there are many requirements for becoming Sparty. Applicants must be between 5 feet 10 inches and 6 feet 2 inches, and Sparty makes more appearances than a Kardashian; he can be found at weddings, charity events and athletic functions. He even makes appearances at bar mitzvah celebrations. He is so busy that he has his own official calendar, which can be found on the Association of Future Alumni website. Kermit the Frog was right: it’s not easy being green.

It’s not surprising that Sparty has so many responsibilities — since making his official debut at Spartan Stadium in 1989, Sparty has embodied many important Spartan ideals. He is said to “reflect the image of strength and character, not only on the athletic field, but the academic arena as well.”

Recognition of Sparty as an MSU symbol extends farther than our own campus. During the week leading up to the annual MSU vs. U of M game, the 9-foot Sparty statue located at the intersection of Chestnut Street and Red Cedar Road can be found flanked by members of “Sparty Watch” 24/7. This decades-old tradition was put into place to protect Sparty from being vandalized by nefarious Wolverines.

“Sparty Watch was explained to me as a long-standing band tradition and that it was something cool to participate in, something so many band members had participated in the past,” says Rachel LeFevre, a senior trumpet player in the MSU Marching Band and seasoned Sparty Watcher.

“Tradition” is a word that can be applied to Sparty Watch, as well as to Sparty himself. Between all of the roles Sparty plays and the ways which he is represented, he has remained a constant symbol on campus that connects Spartan fans worldwide.

 

Riley Cortright is a highly caffeinated senior professional writing major. Riley enjoys binge-reading novels, going out to eat, cooking food to eat and talking about eating. When she isn’t writing for the newest issue of ing, Riley likes finding new music and feeding her addiction for online personality quizzes.

 

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