That UM fan strikes new pose for MSU game
Ann Arbor — You know who Chris Baldwin is even if you don’t know him.
If you watched the finish of last year’s Michigan-Michigan State game, you know. If you’ve seen the highlights of those final 10 seconds any of the umpteen million times it’s been shown on television or viewed online, you’ve seen Chris Baldwin.
As soon as Michigan State scored to win, 27-23, in those final seconds on Michigan’s fumbled punt, recovered and returned for a touchdown, the camera panned to Baldwin. He was wearing a maize Michigan sweatshirt and looked astonished, confused and miserable, his mouth agape and hands on his head and his elbows out in the “surrender cobra pose” — check the Urban Dictionary online, and you’ll see Baldwin illustrates the definition.
“That play pretty much came right at me,” Baldwin said of Jalen Watts-Jackson returning Blake O’Neill’s fumbled punt for the game-winning score.
A little more than a year later, Baldwin, a computer engineering junior at Michigan and a Saginaw native, said he has posed for “hundreds and hundreds” of photos with those who recognized him from that game. And he’s still stopped for pictures.
“First, they say, ‘Are you the guy?’ ” Baldwin said. “Sometimes they say, ‘Are you the Michigan State guy?’ which is kind of an interesting title. Usually they tell me some quick story about how they were doing the exact same thing. Usually they want to take a picture. I’m used to doing the pose, and sometimes they do it with me. They like the whole package.”
He later learned people were going to Halloween parties dressed as him, and affable Michigan defensive lineman Bryan Mone, who lived on the same dorm floor last year, had fun with Baldwin every time they’d cross paths.
“He would do my pose at me,” Baldwin said. “He thought it was funny.”
Baldwin’s notoriety was drawn from a decision by ESPN director Mike Schwab, who had his camera crew ready for an individual fan shot regardless the outcome.
“One thing funny about the fan, he was the first shot,” said Schwab, who directed the Michigan-Michigan State broadcast last year. “I set that up saying, ‘Whatever happens, let’s capture a fan rather than 30 rows of fans.’ That shot was available because we were thinking that way.”
As Baldwin left the stadium after the stunning loss, he finally looked at his phone and learned of his newfound fame.
“There were 20 text messages with my picture,” he said, adding he thought that would be the extent of it. “I was on TV for two seconds, and I figured people would move on to NFL Sunday and that would be the end of it.”
It was only the beginning.
Baldwin became the face of the Michigan loss and remains so.
“It’s been fun overall, but it’s not necessarily fun being associated with that in particular,” he said. “I’m famous for being a UM student and a football fan. I don’t seek out highlights of the game or seek out the game. I’m used to seeing it now and don’t have much reaction. It’s kind of funny now that I am removed from the moment.”
In the days after the game, a company in Ohio, Cincy Shirts, produced a red T-shirt with Ohio State’s “O-H-I-O” but in place of the first “O” was an outline of the now-famous image of Baldwin. Many of his extended family members are Ohio State fans and, naturally, bought the shirt.
“I don’t mind,” Baldwin said. “I’m not offended, but I thought it was weird Ohio State was the first to jump on it since it wasn’t their game.”
In a gesture of goodwill, the company did send Baldwin a box of several Cincinnati food treasures and also made a $500 donation to the ChadTough Foundation in his name, to benefit DIPG brain-tumor research for children. Chad Carr, the grandson of former Michigan coach Lloyd Carr, died last November from the disease.
ESPN flew Baldwin to the College Football Awards show in Atlanta last December so he could present the College Football Play of the Year award to Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio.
“When I first walked up, he was sitting down, and he looked up and said, ‘Oh, is that you?’ ” Baldwin said with a laugh. “I said, ‘Yeah, that’s me.’ I said, ‘Congratulations on the season,’ and he said, ‘Thanks.’ I didn’t get to throw in any jabs.”
Baldwin and his friends, seen around him in the image from the game last year, are hoping to get tickets to Saturday’s Michigan-Michigan State game in Spartan Stadium. He is feeling confident about the No. 2-ranked Wolverines, large favorites heading into the game.
“At the very least, I don’t think we’ll be embarrassed,” he said.
But he has retired last year’s maize Michigan hoodie.
“My parents got me a new maize sweatshirt — they wanted to protect the one from that picture,” he said, laughing. “If we end up getting tickets to the game, I’ll definitely be wearing my maize.”