Michigan State men’s basketball is heading to Ann Arbor for round 2 of the in-state rivalry. Any other time an article opened with that line, you would expect to then dive right into one of the most intense rivalries in all of sports. Ordinarily, articles would rehash the comments by Michigan Center Hunter Dickinson trashing students that attend Michigan State. We would dive into the violent altercation after the football game that resulted in mass suspensions and felony charges. Then, dissect whatever hot take Michigan State coach Tom Izzo had on the team he has spent a career disliking.
This is no ordinary time.
Michigan State is resuming basketball games less than a week after a gunman came to Michigan State’s campus, shot and killed three students, and wounded five more.
This game with the University of Michigan is being played just hours after the separate funerals for two of the three victims (the third victim’s funeral is on Tuesday).
Coach Izzo is keenly aware of the pain his community is experiencing, as his own son, Steven Izzo was driving to one of the buildings where the shooting occurred in the middle of the violence. The younger Izzo was instructed by police to leave the area, so the senior walk-on for the basketball team sheltered in place in the team’s practice area.
“I kept saying ‘I’m gonna go pick him up.’ And they said ‘No, you can’t do that,’” Izzo said.
As both a parent impacted by the event and a long time coach seen by many as the face of Michigan State, Coach Izzo spoke beautifully and powerfully at the campus memorial service. (NOTE: If you have not watched Izzo’s memorial speech, it is truly worth the effort, and is about 5 minutes long)
Coach Izzo at last night's vigil: "We need each other. For 40 years, I've always believed at Michigan State, we are at our own strongest when we're together. If any of you need help, please speak up." pic.twitter.com/zN4bs4h9mg— MSU (@michiganstateu) February 16, 2023
In the aftermath of the on campus tragedy, Michigan State athletics leaders brought the full basketball team together, to process the incident and discuss the near future for the team.
“[The players] felt that if they played it would help not only themselves [but] maybe the campus heal a little bit,” he said. “...We also know everybody grieves different and everybody processes trauma in a million different ways.”
After postponing the Wednesday night game against Minnesota, the team now travels to the University of Michigan.
While the atmosphere will remind everyone of the power of this rivalry, many unexpected sites and sounds will also remind people that both of these teams are from Michigan.
The University of Michigan staff and students are showing their solidarity with those impacted by the tragedy on Michigan State’s campus.
The same night as the Michigan State campus memorial, hundreds gathered on the University of Michigan campus to hold a memorial as well.
This week, the University of Michigan women’s basketball team wore t-shirts over their standard warm ups that featured a green heart with the MSU logo at the middle of it. The team’s coaching staff wore the shirts for the entire game.
Kim Barnes Arico and all of Michigan's women's basketball team and staff wore Spartan Strong shirts in their game against Indiana pic.twitter.com/r2JhOWfJZP— Brad Galli (@BradGalli) February 17, 2023
For the Men’s basketball game tonight there will be even more support shown for the Michigan State community. The Michigan pep band will play the Michigan State Alma Mater right before a moment of silence is held in the arena.
The men’s basketball players will be wearing special warmups to show their support. The “Maize Rage”, the 2,000 person student section will wear special shirts that state, “Michigan Basketball Stands with MSU.” Fans will also see LED wristbands distributed that will shine green and white lights.
The steps being taken by the University of Michigan, and the community across the state, are beautiful.
It is a shame it takes a tragedy to bring us all together. Even as we prepare for a rivalry game, we should always remember we are more than divided sports fans. We are a community that must strive to make our communal places safe.
We can always be #SpartanStrong. The goal we should all be working towards is to find this sense of community as we strive to keep each other safe. Let’s hope this can be a rallying cry to make the legacy of those killed, wounded, and traumatized this past Monday - and in mass shootings across our nation - to find ways to make our communities safe.
EDITORS NOTE: The writer (ME), incorrectly stated that the Michigan Band played MSU’s fight song. That was incorrect, the band played the Alma Mater. As there is no excuse for this error, please direct all anger at Brandon (me) for making this mistake.