Resilient. Tough. Champions.

Resilient. Tough. Champions.

Basketball

Resilient. Tough. Champions.

What’s Not To Love?


The Michigan State Spartans are 27-3 and have clinched at least a shared Big 10 regular season title. The team just won its eleventh game in a row, including a record comeback victory on the road against Northwestern after trailing by as many as 27 points. State is ranked #1 in the USA Today Coaches Poll, and #2 in the AP Top 25.

These Spartans are led by a couple of soon to be NBA Lottery picks, a supporting cast of young and dynamic stars in the making, while being buoyed by abundant depth and solid experience at every position. Throw in our Hall of Fame coach who is a proven winner in March and one is left with a simple question – what’s not to love?

Let’s not bury our heads in the sand, and let’s address the black cloud that hangs over the university. The past several months have been brutal for Michigan State. And for good reason. Alumni, students, faculty and fans were first stunned and outraged by the Larry Nassar story, then subsequently blindsided by ESPN and the Outside The Lines coverage. Our sympathy for the victims of Larry Nassar’s sick maleficence is overwhelming. Our collective hearts have been broken by what happened, and by our institution’s apparent mishandling of nearly every aspect of it. The healing process has only just begun.

As for the ESPN elephant in the room, I really don’t care to re-hash or otherwise distinguish their story and their relaying of it. And I’m sure that they’ll continue to “stand by their reporting” and the timing of it. To me, their graphic showed their intention. The graphic being their image of Larry Nassar alongside of Tom Izzo and Mark Dantonio. They won’t stop.

Now that we have addressed all of that……..

How about this team? Let’s recall that we’re talking about college kids here. Remember when you were in college? How about the character that they have shown through all of this, both on and off of the court? The pressure that they have faced has been intense. They are playing the game on the court at a championship level with tremendous heart. They never quit. Off the court, they have had to deal with issues and accusations, and have been made to answer questions (from “professional adults”) about topics that they should have no business answering. At times over the past several weeks, some of these players have been like de facto spokesmen for the university. And let’s be honest, they’ve largely done a better job of it. These young men have handled themselves with an inordinate amount of maturity, toughness and poise.

And how about Tom Izzo? The pressure of this season, off the court in particular, has been unrelenting. He has had to answer a barrage of difficult questions daily, and subsequently has had to deal with the public perception and fallout of those answers (or “lack of transparency” depending on the viewpoint). All the while, he has done a masterful job with this squad. In a long and already legendary career, this season might just wind up being his greatest. In keeping this team together and playing to a championship level through all the tumult, he has lived up to his Hall of Fame credentials. He and his teams have always had a reputation stemming from grit and relentlessness. None more so than this year. This team embodies the defiant toughness of their leader as they noticeably rally around him.

Seriously, what’s not to love about this team? They are tough as nails. Spartans. They are a credit to collegiate athletics and the university they represent. This team has put some wind back in my sails and has helped this middle-aged guy kind of love sports again.

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