NCAA Championship: Michigan State Fans Have More To Prove

Mac WhiteContributor IApril 6, 2009

DETROIT - APRIL 04:  Head coach Tom Izzo of the Michigan State Spartans reacts against the Connecticut Huskies during the National Semifinal game of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship at Ford Field on April 4, 2009 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

In the past few weeks, two things have forged the 45,000 students of Michigan State University into a true community: a team and a series of e-mails. It’s old news that the men’s basketball team has played its way to a berth in the Final Four and beyond.

Head coach Tom Izzo and company had been dreaming all season of the chance to contest a pair of “home games” in Detroit.

There’s something in the air in East Lansing. Fans lucky enough to watch the UConn game on a big-screen in one of the town’s intimate bar settings can sense it. The MSU administration clearly can sense it as well, which brings us back to the e-mails.

The contents of these letters to the student body, one penned by MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon, the other by Coach Izzo, have been distilled into a page on the school’s Web site. Please feel free to view it, but try not to laugh. The page is more  sage precaution than gross overreaction, unfortunately.

As a proud recent graduate, I must take the good with the bad when it comes to my alma mater. It has been called a party school and lately has played host to riots and other behavior unbecoming of a Big Ten university.

I’ve never seen a burning couch, but I’ve seen a burning mattress. It lay abandoned in the middle of the street, flames lapping at its material to expose rib-like coils.

This was just a year ago, and I’ll probably never understand the sentiment behind that statement of defiance. Its appearance in the center of a major thoroughfare coincided with a period of warm weather and a block party that went a little too far.

In the past, students (and other fans) have gathered to vent their frustration about the fate of a basketball team, with similarly despicable results. Police used more than 200 canisters of tear gas to subdue a riot in 2005, the night MSU lost to North Carolina in the Final Four.

Here’s hoping that after this weekend my little college town and its team will be remembered for the right reasons. Sideline tactician Tom Izzo chooses to live here, as does clutch shooter Kalin Lucas and defensive pest Travis Walton.

This is a community that looks out for its own, and sometimes that means posting a notice about what does and doesn't constitute a civil disturbance.

As an eternal optimist, I sense that something is in the air in East Lansing. I’ve never smelled a burning couch and hope that remains the case. I know victory smells sweeter anyway.