If you watch enough sports you’ll hear plenty of clichés throughout the course of a game. They’re not all throw away sayings though. Some clichés are true. And after this weekend’s host of colossal NCAA tournament upsets, one in particular comes to mind, “There are no moral victories in sports.” The athletes involved really want to win. None of them want an opponent to have a “shining” moment during their team’s worst defeat in history. That’s especially true of the No. 2-seeded Michigan State Spartans’ in their 90-81 loss to Middle Tennessee.
Just to be clear, Middle Tennessee won the game. They didn’t get lucky. They were the better team, on that day, for 40 minutes. They were even surprisingly more physical than the Spartans who are most often heralded for such durability. This brings me to another sport’s cliché, “mental toughness.” When the strongest muscle resides above the shoulders, people can process one loss and translate the feeling into a lifetime of victories. That lesson transcends sports and MSU’s coach, Tom Izzo, gets that.
Izzo’s emotional distress bled out unapologetically after a reporter asked how the loss will be applied next year.
“I don’t care about next year,” Izzo said during the postgame news conference. “I don’t care about tomorrow. That’s the problem. You know it’s always what’s next? There’s three guys here that gave me every single thing they had, and I don’t care about next year. I don’t even care about tomorrow right now. I just care about the present and what they did for me, for us.”
How about that for living in the moment? Izzo has one of the best minds in the history of college basketball. His team will be back stronger and wiser.
Just a day’s news cycle can show us how we source our lives from sports. What goes on in the field of play informs the game of life. If you’re even a passive Michigan State fan you’re still in a bit of a fog. As a close friend and MSU alum declared, “I’m not gonna be alright for a while.” Well, for now, use your busted brackets as scratch paper for next week’s conference calls.