Spartan Bob - 10 Year Anniversary

Submitted by Everyone Murders on October 14th, 2011 at 9:26 AM

The perspicuous readers of this blog may note that the Clockgate game was actually on November 3, 2001, so the term "anniversary" may be technically incorrect.  But since MSU is on tap this weekend it seems like a fair time to discuss the Spartan Bob / Clockgate game.  In my opinion, Spartan Bob (Bob Stehlin) epitomized the noxious element of the Spartan fanbase.  They won the game (Smoker to Duckett pass), and therefore any mention of the fact that one of their officials apparently purposely cheated to give the Spartans an extra play was dismissed as "whining".  Michigan was ranked 6th in the polls at the time.

Making matters worse, Brent Musberger was calling the game.  (If you're a fan of Musberger, I apologize to you.  And I am frankly surprised that Musberger's mother reads this blog.) 

I can't think of a bigger douchebag Spartan than an adult who was proud of cheating on behalf of his team, ultimately driving a change in the "who can be a timekeeper" rule.  Hopefully Spartan Bob's not wearing that shit-eating grin after the game Saturday:

Bob Stehlin, known as "Spartan Bob," now lives in Ludlow, Mass., near his sister, who he just met for the first time in 2009. Stehlin became embroiled in controversy in the 2001 MSU-U-M game when as timekeeper he left a second on the clock before MSU's winning play.



El Jeffe

October 14th, 2011 at 9:31 AM ^

Meh. With 10 years of hindight I have a hard time ginning up much rage about that game. Michigan played like a gigantic pile of dog shit, and the only reason we were even in it at the end is because Bobby Williams somehow failed to notice that Duckett was rushing for 8 yards a carry, which would have been 12 except it's hard to run the football when you're beating the defenders about the ears with their own femurs.


October 14th, 2011 at 11:31 AM ^

to the fact that Jeremy Laseur went WWE on Charles Rogers' facemask, already double teamed and out of the play completely, on 4th and 62 on that same drive, and we don't have much of a gripe.

But to the point, I think the hold was the bigger outrage than the 1 second.  I frame by framed that game, and while it is more likely than not that the clock stopped to soon, the video is actually more inconclusive than one may think.  If the clock ran out, State would have had a legitimate, while far fetched, gripe that they got shafted too.

The hold on the other hand, holy shit, and it went on for like 5 seconds right in front of the referee.  I am all for refs not deciding the outcome of the game, but that call simply had to be made.


October 14th, 2011 at 1:35 PM ^

As for the video, it doesn't match up with the Stadium clock perfectly. There's like a second delay in the video. In person, the crowd counting it down, it was more like 2 and a half.!?!


October 14th, 2011 at 9:32 AM ^

Was watching it in a bar and started jumping up and down thinking we had won...that guy is no good and he wears velcro 3 year old wears velcro shoes


seems like almost all the experts I have read are picking the spartans and the spartans have been the ones making all the noise in the papers with quotes, only former UofM players seem to be talking (Van Bergen did mention a resemblance to the trophy).

For these reasons and D-Rob I have to think we are going to win on Sat.


October 14th, 2011 at 1:31 PM ^

I'm with you. In this particular case I hope the transitivity holds, but generally I love to see it fail. Like last year's MSU > Wisc > Iowa > MSU outcome. And hey, they beat Wisconsin who beat OSU so they should be the all out Big Ten Champions, right? OSU also beat Iowa who beat MSU 37-6.

Section 1

October 14th, 2011 at 10:14 AM ^

And, talking to people who watched it on tv, I got the sense that they were a little less outraged than I was.  Remember the Beckmann radio broadcast of that game?  How he was screaming like Bob Ufer on meth?  It was because that for anybody who was there, watching the between-play rhythm and watching the clock tick down, that final play was an abomination that easily ranks alongside Eddie Brown's (admitted) intentional interference with Desmond Howard.

True story; as the clock ticked down on the previous play, I started yelling happily, "That's it!  It's over!  There can't be enough time to run another play!"  Only to have the Sparties in front of me turn and sneer as they scored on the next play.

It was an outrage.  Everybody knew it was an outrage.  It was theft.  You never forget that stuff.


October 14th, 2011 at 9:36 AM ^

Well I was barely even 10 when it happened so I don't have too many memories about the game itself, but it sucks. However since then we've gone 7-3 against them, that ain't too shabby


October 14th, 2011 at 9:36 AM ^

it sucks that UM lost that game and that it didn't feel like it was on the up and up, but its been a long time, wounds have healed and it turns out that Spartan Bob is actually a human being and not some sinister robot. read this article and let me know if you feel any differently:|topnews|text|FRONTPAGE

Everyone Murders

October 14th, 2011 at 10:00 AM ^

And I never accused him of being a robot - I accused him of cheating.  And being unrepentant about cheating.

The rule at the time was that the clock could not be stopped until the official on the field signaled "time-out".  At the time, the host stadium supplied the timekeeper.  Acting as timekeeper Spartan Bob ignored the rule, stopped the clock before the official signaled time-out, and was very smug about the whole thing afterward.  He also made himself a public figure by appearing on talk shows, etc., after the fact.  He was lionized as a hero by the Spartan fanbase.

The LSJ piece is very sympathetic to the guy, and I fully get that (gasp!) it is just a game.  But his attitude after the game, which could fairly be summed up as "tough shit, Michigan, I was controlling the clock" is a bit different than what you see in the LSJ.  And if he's matured a bit over the years, I sincerely think that's great.  The undertone of the LSJ article is that since he was stalked, etc., he doesn't feel bad about what he did.  IMO, the issue of whether he purposely ignored the rule is separate from the issue of whether some Michigan fans reached out to him.  And much of the hostility he suffered seemed to be driven by his overall "too bad for you, Michigan" attitude at the time.  And that attitude was echoed by much of the Spartan fan base.

Finally, anyone who contacted this guy to bitch him out or otherwise threatened him in any way displayed a total lack of perspective and should be ashamed of themselves.  Just to be clear on that.  The point of this post was to engender some discussion of the notorious event with the benefit of some perspective.  Also, it's Junior Hate Week.  (Real Hate Week is in November, of course.)


October 14th, 2011 at 1:44 PM ^

I'll feel sorry for him when he apologizes to the 80 some Michigan football players he cheated. And deprived them of a Big Ten Championship and Rose Bowl birth (that certainly couldn't be any worse than playing "should have been in the National Championship game" Tennessee). Because Illinois was the Big Ten champ, with 1 loss, and we beat them. (So even if we still lose to OSU at the end, we're co-champs with the head to head edge).

Brings up two other problems at the you said, the ball is supposed to be stopped when the ref signals, not when the ball hits, so there's always an extra second (see 1998 Rose Bowl) before it can officially stop, wich is why so many game run out. And the refs are supposed to treat that play like any other play in the game...and not SPRINT up to place the ball so MSU can set and snap it.  If you walk for 3 and a half quarters, you walk at the end.

And at the time, he all but admitted he cheated knowingly. He can go screw himself.


October 14th, 2011 at 10:07 AM ^

I see nothing in the article that convinces me that he is not a pile of circuitry. I am currently still hating on his dumb android butt. I don't mind losing (much) but losing because of a cheat? That stinks bad. He cheated and is proud of it? He is what is wrong with sports.

Section 1

October 14th, 2011 at 10:11 AM ^

I have no sympathy or understanding for that guy.  Fuck him.  I don't care if he was an orphan or Captain of the Enterprise.  I don't hate him because of his family background and I sure as hell don't respect him because of his family background.

Frank Beckmann is right, and I was an eyewitness.  I wouldn't  shake Spartan Bob's hand for any reason.  I actually like the fact that he continues to think he was right, because I can go on hating him unapologetically.


October 14th, 2011 at 10:27 AM ^

Section 1 - he's just a human being, and this is just a football game. If Wolverine Wally did the same, you wouldn't be outraged, you'd be in line to pour him a shot of Apple Pucker at Skeeps the next time he showed up with Pauly D on Ladies Night.

How petty can you get?

Wait, don't answer that, I already know.


October 14th, 2011 at 11:39 AM ^

This guy fucked over a bunch of college kids by intentionally and inaccurately stopping that clock. There is no gray here. I don't give a shit how poorly UM played that game. They played well enough to win the thing in the time allotted. 

From reading most of your posts and your general persona on this board I realize you get off on playing devil's advocate and judging everyone else for "caring" too much but there's no advocate to be played here. He was wrong, he (accidentally) admitted he did it wrong. End of story.


October 14th, 2011 at 1:51 PM ^

But couldn't disagree more. I'm trying to think when Michigan has ever cheater to win to make for an equivalent. I guess in the Illinois game that year we got a couple of controversial, the other not so much (it was just a bad call).  And I think most Michigan fans say it was a bad break for them, and that's the way things go sometimes (I know I do).  We don't dispute it, but then, we didn't actively try and do it either. Even though we still lost to them, the confusion about the pylon rule had some saying that giving us the TD against MSU was right....but when it became clear after the game it wasn't, I don't think too many people are going "ha-ha, it was the right call". Not that it mattered.  Frankly, if we did something like that,  a lot of us would be ashamed...and not glorify it as our "greatest victory ever". Think of the Fab Five....we might nostalgically remember some of it, but for the most part, the era has been ostracized.  We threw ourselves to the wolves for nothing violations in football while others skate free.  Frankly, all the evidence on how Michigan has acted in the past proves you wrong.


October 14th, 2011 at 10:17 AM ^

saying is that because he had no father and a semi tough childhood it's OK for him to cheat? Awesome.

His own account of that play is his own admission of doing it wrong. You don't watch the play, you watch for the ref's signal. Plain and simple. But, hey his father was a piece of shit so I guess we should just eat it.


October 14th, 2011 at 10:40 AM ^

and obviously he was in the wrong. but "cheating" is pretty common in sports and if he demonize every single person who has misstepped en route to a win, we have a lot of energy to spend on this. the play before anthony carter beats indiana, michigan's running back (sorry for not knowing the name) literally lateralled the ball out of bounds to stop the clock, which is illegal. is he an asshole? obviously, its a bit different as bob was supposed to be non biased, but these things happen and we can either hold a grudge against an old man or we can just chalk it up to the mysteries of human existence and being a sports fan and move along.


October 14th, 2011 at 10:51 AM ^

The difference with Spartan Bob's cheating is that he is not a player or a coach. He was not someone who was supposed to directly affect the outcome of the game. This isn't a dirty hit from a player on the field it's the equivalent of the water boy on the sidelines tripping a player going for a touchdown.

Everyone Murders

October 14th, 2011 at 10:59 AM ^

In spite of the LSJ's generally kind treatment of the guy and his protestations, it's pretty clear he was getting off on the notoriety.  Discussing annual taunts he was receiving, he says in the LSJ:

>"Last year was the first year I got no calls from anybody from Michigan," Stehlin said. "And to be honest with you, I was disappointed.">

Kind of shows his true character, doesn't it?


October 14th, 2011 at 9:52 AM ^

The extra second pissed me off, no doubt.  Even though we played like hell in the second half.  Steve Stewart's holding of Larry Stevens on the final play felt worse when I finally had the stomach to go back and look at the play.  (To say he was being held is an understatement.) 

This was very much like the mugging of Desmond on the 2 point conversion 11 years earlier.  The ref is so close and in perfect view of an obvious flag and he does nothing. 

What a great memory to relive.  I'm sure they'll show this play this Saturday.  Just like they always show A-train's fumble in 2000 whenever we play Northwestern or Rob Houghtlin's field goal from 1985 whenever we play Iowa.

O.K.  Now I need a drink.


October 14th, 2011 at 10:09 AM ^

Those two plays were the worst of the worst. Spartan Bob, violated the rules to favor his team, it ranks higher on the offense list. The saftey that tripped Desmond freely admits it, but I don't blame him, he had to do it as he was beaten. The issue there was how did the ref not throw the flag.


October 14th, 2011 at 9:48 AM ^

That game was the first michigan game I ever saw live. My dad shelled out a few bucks and got us seats about 20 rows up on the 50 yard line. We played like crap that second half but we still should have won that game. I don't care if Spartan Bob is a human he is still a cheating ass bitch.


October 14th, 2011 at 9:54 AM ^

There is a video out there I saw shortly after the game taken from the opposite end zone and shows the clock.  In it the fans are counting down "6,5, 4, 3,....." in perfect sync with the endzone clock until it gets to "2" and then the clock stops and the fans are say the least.  

Of the biggest reasons i hate the last three years of MSU games is that they actually BEAT US without cheating.  Which....if memory serves...hardly ever actually happened in the three decades prior.  Spartan Bob game was the apex IMO


October 14th, 2011 at 10:11 AM ^

come down to that extra second. We let them drive right down the field on that last drive and had a really stupid hands to the face penalty.


Anyway, I have been in the greater Lansing area since 1999 and met Spartan Bob at a summer party / cookout. This was around '02 to '04, I don't remember exactly. It was mentioned at our introductions who he was and that I was a Michigan Man. I didn't get into it any further - it really wasn't the time or place. He was actually a pretty nice guy.