Are We Sure We Want Alcohol Sold At Spartan Stadium?
The Michigan Senate on Wednesday approved a bill that would legalize alcohol sales at college stadiums throughout the state. That news means beer and liquor could be served at Spartan Stadium as soon as this coming football season.
The measure passed the state's higher chamber by a 36-2 margin, which shows it has the kind of bipartisan support that's practically extinct in this day and age of political division. More interesting, though, is that one of the two No votes came from State Sen. Sam Singh, who represents much of Ingham, Eaton, and Clinton counties, including East Lansing and the broader Michigan State University community.
Singh is intimately familiar with MSU, having served as East Lansing's mayor from 2006 to 2007, as well as for several years on the city council. He also represented the area in the statehouse from 2013 to 2019, before moving over to the Senate. Singh is an MSU alumnus, too.
What does it say that one of just two senators to oppose the legalization of alcohol sales at college stadiums throughout Michigan not only represents the greater MSU community but has basically lived his entire life in East Lansing and built a political career serving the area, and is a Spartan, himself, to boot?
It says that, despite a downright anachronistic showing of bipartisanship in Wednesday's Senate vote, this is a controversial issue, depending on where one is situated.
For Spartans who don't live nearby and/or don't make it back to campus all that often, it selling booze at MSU football games seems like a no-brainer. It'll lead to new revenue, and there's a lot of anecdotal evidence out there suggesting it could very likely decrease alcohol-related incidents on gamedays. It might feel weird to have beer and liquor at the concession stands, but 11 of the Big Ten's 14 member schools already do it for football. Besides, the college game hasn't felt like the college game for a while now, anyway. It's getting less and less amateur and more and more professional all the time.
But for those who still live in MSU's neighborhood and/or frequently visit, there's a far more palpable hesitation. Many worry that alcohol sales at Spartan Stadium would only worsen alcohol-fueled problems on gamedays. The idea of beer and liquor flowing in the concourse while the school simultaneously runs PSAs about behaving responsibly seems utterly hypocritical, because it is.
But that's where we are in modern-day college sports. Players are changing teams more frequently than those in the professional ranks. Money, no longer forced to be passed around under the table, is brazenly and unrepentantly leveraged as a recruiting tool. TV networks call the shots. Academics mean nothing — not that that's anything new to college sports.
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The fact is that alcohol sales at Spartan Stadium are an economic eventuality. The name of the game in college sports today is alternative revenue streams. Athletic departments have to find more money and new money in order to keep pace in college sports' ever-expanding economic arms race. They have to do this just to survive.
There's still a long road ahead for this measure, though. Even with the Senate's green light on Wednesday, the bill still needs a two-thirds approval by the state House of Representatives. And if that happens, there's one final hurdle the legislation would yet need to clear to become law — gaining the signature of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a prominent MSU alumna.
Alcohol sales at our college football stadiums may seem just plain wrong, but take a look around this sport. "Just plain wrong" ought to be the game's slogan right now. Times have changed. That's why so many schools have crossed the ethical Rubicon and struck up lucrative sponsorship deals with casinos and sportsbooks. Some, like MSU, even have official alcohol sponsors.
Is it really that unthinkable, then, to have alcohol on tap at college football games?