When I was first planning on what to write today following the game on Saturday I was ready to come out guns blazing and set fire to the whole thing. I was ready to call it the end of an era, to take the coaches, players, AD, everyone to task. I was ready to come out and lay waste to the MSU football program, and I am sure many of you were as well.
And then Sunday afternoon news broke that made being upset over losing a football game seem trivial. Cassius Winston’s younger brother Zachary was hit by a train and killed in Albion, where Zachary attended Albion College and played on the basketball team.
As the day wore on additional details only added to the tragic nature of the news.
While Zachary wasn’t an MSU player, he was well known by the team from his time around the program. MSU had just played Albion in an exhibition game and there was nothing but smiles from the three Winston brothers, even though Zachary was sidelined with an injury.
Upon hearing the news there was an outpouring of condolences from former MSU players.
Praying for Winston family. Remember when smoothie would always be in my chair cause it was next to cassius in locker room and he just start smiling and laughing and joking. RIP Zach Winston— Matthew Mcquaid (@mattblast3) November 10, 2019
Man I’m sick to my stomach. RIP Smoothie.— Kenny Goins (@K_G_1_2_) November 10, 2019
Endless prayers and condolences for my bro @cassiuswinston. The whole spartan nation is behind you. Much RESPECT for playing tonight— Branden Dawson (@whynot_22) November 11, 2019
Amazingly, Cassius Winston played Sunday night in MSU’s home opener against Binghamton. It doesn’t matter that MSU won the game 100-47 or that Winston scored 17 points and had 11 assists. What mattered is how the players, the coaches, and the fans were able to provide some level of comfort to Cassius in what must surely be the worst day of his life.
We found out that Tom Izzo was with Cassius and his family deep into the night, trying to provide comfort, support, or anything he could to help in those grief stricken moments.
We saw teammates holding Cassius during the moment of silence before the game to honor his brother. We saw the Izzone put up purple and gold ribbons, Albion’s colors, as their way of letting the Winstons know that they were in all of our thoughts.
What we saw was sports at its best. Teammates and coaches who are more like family. A community coming together to support a young man during a tragic time. The game didn’t matter, the score didn’t matter. Whether or not Cassius Winston played was up to him, and no one would have thought any different had he not shown up to the Breslin Center at all on Sunday.
The fact he did, shows how important those people and that program and community are to him. For a couple hours, that entire arena was his support group.
What we saw was the side of college sports that we as fans often lose sight of, something I have been guilty of plenty of times. The impact the coaches and teammates have on these kids is something that transcends wins and losses. Sadly, it often takes a tragedy or something similar to make us remember that.
Don’t just take my word for it.
Love this man. Don’t Care what none of y’all say. With all due respect you wouldn’t understand. There’s things I know that he’s done/doing for people that go so far beyond the field and he’ll never ever disclose these things but they are LIFE. CHANGING. https://t.co/R2ouo3xOc4— Darien Harris (@DHarris_45) November 10, 2019
As I sit here and write this, news of another tragedy in the MSU community is breaking. Former Michigan State football star Charles Rogers has passed away, he was 38-years-old.
Rogers might have been the best athlete to ever put on the green and white in any sport. He holds the top two single-season receiving yardage seasons and the all-time touchdown reception records at MSU. If you never saw him play you certainly have seen highlights of his, like the incredible catch in the back of the end zone against Notre Dame.
In his post-MSU career, Rogers had his share of issues on and off the field, and for his story to end like this is truly a shame for someone with so much potential.
In the wake of yesterday’s news a lot of people have tweeted out or posted the names and numbers of places to contact if you or someone you know might be going through a hard time. Here are a couple of those, but certainly not the only ones.
As fans, we are removed from these events compared to the players, the teammates, the coaches, the brothers, and everyone else who knew these young men. But that does not mean that we cannot learn something, and take something away from it.
For me, I watched the introduction to the game, the moment of silence, saw Izzo and Winston crying, and then Winston go out and make a shot and look over at his family before heading upstairs to put my kids to bed. I hugged them a little tighter, stayed with them a little longer, kissed them and told them how much I loved them.
I was so far removed from the feelings I had 24 hours earlier when I was angry over a football game, and I had some guilt for even feeling that way in the first place.
I am sure there will be moments down the road where I overreact to the results of a sporting event, such is fandom. But I hope that moving forward I can try and be a little more grounded in my feelings.
These are kids, playing together with others who have become like their brothers or sisters. The coaches are not just people who call plays, they are mentors and often become like family.
Sports can have a great impact on many of these players lives, one that is far more important than the culmination of their record at season’s end. We saw some of that last night in East Lansing, and hopefully we can all try to keep that in mind and just add a little perspective to our fandom.