The toughest pill to swallow is the fact that a team walked into OUR HOME COURT and won by 20. That should never, EVER happen. And it should especially never happen at Michigan State. Granted, Purdue is a great team. I don't think anyone disputes that. But what also became apparent yesterday is that our home court advantage has all but disappeared. And that, my friends, falls on the fans.
For as long as I can remember, the Breslin Center has been described as one of the toughest places to play and the Izzone has been one of the best student sections around. I'm not sure either deserves that label anymore. There were a few times this year when the section was on its game--the wins over Wisconsin and Illinois probably wouldn't have happened without the fans willing the team to victory. But for a lot of the season, I've watched games at other arenas--Purdue, Wisconsin, Duke--and thought "Breslin isn't like that anymore."
It's painful to write that. I was an Izzone member for 4 years and consider it one of the most amazing privileges I had as a student--but that's what being a member of the Izzone is. A PRIVILEGE.
Yesterday, I saw empty seats in the general stands--lots of empty seats. I rarely see members of the Izzone jumping up and down during games and it seems like people are more inclined to be on their phones while the band plays the fight song. Overall, suffice it to say the general energy during yesterday's game was lacking...and it was embarassing. That crowd should have been WILLING those guys back into the game. They should have been clapping and cheering and giving that team every ounce of their energy to show that they believed in them. They should have spent their afternoon protecting their own house and showing Purdue why all those banners hang from the rafters. Those fans should have filed out at the end of the game as drained as if THEY had been running the length of the court. Instead, they faded down the stretch of the second half along with the team. I know that as MSU fans we've all been spoiled over the last few years what with all the Big Ten championships and Final Fours--but that shouldn't give us a sense of entitlement.
And look, I get it--it's been a rough season. I've been as disappointed and as critical as anyone. I understand feeling like there was a lack of effort from the team or just flat-out not liking when your team loses big. But the last few games have been such a step in the right direction--I would hate to see it all be for nothing.
I think it's evident that as a team, the guys have their heads down--I'm going to go out on a limb and say THEY probably don't enjoy losing either. They've been putting in extra practice, answering the questions, trying to find a solution. And now, they need US.
It's easy to be a fan when your team is on top. It doesn't take much to smile and nod when the analysts on CBS, ESPN and the Big Ten Network talk about what a great team Michigan State is and how Tom Izzo is the greatest coach alive. The test comes when things get tough--that's when the fans are most important. It's our job to give them the confidence to know they can win.
The road to the NCAA tournament has been filled with potholes---but there are still a few miles to go. Let's see if we, as fans, can give our team's engine a little more power. Wednesday is the last home game--i.e. the final game for Kalin Lucas and Durrell Summers. It's a game against "lowly" Iowa--but I want to see the fans act like it's a game to seal the Big Ten title. I want to see the Izzone be louder than it's ever been. I want all those fans in Breslin and beyond to show our seniors how much we appreciate them and the memories they've given us--in good times and in bad. I want every player on that court to know that Spartans stand together no matter what the scoreboard may say. I want the Izzone to rock the way it used to.
I'll be watching from Chicago--I hope I can hear the fans all the way from EL.