My take on the Tom Izzo-Gabe Brown spat

Former Detroit Lions quarterback Jon Kitna said not to pay attention to sideline blow ups during athletic events. Coaches and players get riled up enough to cause national stinks five or six times a game.

I will apply that logic to the Tom Izzo-Gabe Brown explosion during halftime of Michigan State’s 86-80 overtime loss to UCLA in the first round of the NCAA tournament. It is not a sign that Izzo has lost his team and lost his program. It is not evidence that the game has passed him by.

It is a clear sign that Izzo holds his players to a high standard and when they fail he is going to let them know about it. It’s why Michigan State has been to eight Final Fours under Izzo and has won 10 regular season Big Ten championships and six Big Ten tournaments.

Unfortunately, if you want to win in competitive athletics there must be some unpleasant moments or feelings hurt.

Let’s examine what really happened. Near the end of the first half Brown froze and blew a defensive assignment which allowed the Bruins to score at the buzzer. Izzo got in his face. Brown wanted to storm away. Izzo grabbed his arm and tugged at his jersey. He did not punch him or grab him by the throat.

Izzo was irate. Brown knew the tongue lashing was coming because it is a culture Izzo created decades ago and a culture players accepted. Two years ago Izzo went off on Aaron Henry and I had to listen to people say that Henry was leaving the program and Izzo was too old school and is out of touch with today’s players.

Instead Henry stayed and became State’s best player and leader.

Now folks are saying Izzo is too old school for today’s modern player. No, he is too old school for many in today’s soft society. I was told 10 years ago that he was too old school and the game passed him by. He continued to make Final Four runs and win Big Ten titles.

Izzo might not have been as passionate if he had stronger leadership in his dressing room. There were times Izzo went off on players. But he didn’t have to go Hercules strong because by the time he walked to the dressing room the issue had already been handled by players who were not afraid to get in the faces of fellow teammates.

Mateen Cleaves, Draymond Green and others saved Izzo from being the bad guy. They took on the responsibility.

College basketball is run by the strong arm of coaches. The NBA is run by players. It is why Izzo stayed at Michigan State when the Cleveland Cavaliers called a few years ago. He knew his way would not work with professional athletes. And he could not get through to them if he were forced to change.

There were times Izzo attempted to back down and let things that irked him slide. And when he did he saw slippage in his program. Then he became Poppa Bear again because it is what he knows best.

Where I disagree with Izzo is he became indignant when the media asked him about the incident. We all saw it. There would be people that disagreed with it. Your job is to explain it.

“I get a kick out of you guys, get after somebody because you are trying to hold them accountable,” he said. “I don’t know what kind of business you’re in, but I tell ya what, if I was a head of a newspaper, and you didn’t do your job, you’d be held accountable. It’s the way it is.”

Also if something plays out on national television and everybody is talking about it Izzo should expect a few questions on the subject. That is the way it is.

What if your boss screamed in your face and tugged at your shirt after a heated meeting? You would not like it and might go to human resources to complain. So what’s different here?

Easy. Athletics is not the real world. During games players and coaches enter a different mental stratosphere. They are revved up, swollen up and geeked up. They become different human beings because they are competitors and the competition changes us.

They have an opponent trying to prevent them from doing their job in front of the world.

That’s why fights happen on the big stage. Often the cameras do not catch them. But they still happen.

Detroit is not a college basketball town

During my youth it was easy to find an uncle or older neighbor to drive us to Calihan Hall to watch the Detroit Titans do battle on a Saturday afternoon.

The place was packed or near capacity as the Titans played some of the top programs in the nation. One evening we saw future Boston Celtic Kevin McHale destroy Detroit with his patented up and under move as Minnesota won a thrilling contest before a packed house.

It was the place to be and there was enthusiasm even in the crowded and tight corridors that circled the arena. The old heads showed up in their best leather jackets and fedoras.

In the streets of my old neighborhood people snapped up University of Michigan basketball tickets from numbers runners and drug dealers who passed them out to satisfy good customers. This was a college basketball town.

Today it isn’t.

What happened?

There could be a few factors in play. With the decline in high school talent in Michigan there is not that high profile star player we all want to see play in college. Also most of the media attention is focused on our four sports teams.

In the case of UDM and Oakland, they play teams we are not interested in. Detroit had an opportunity to join the Big East and I wonder if there would be more juice if Georgetown, Villanova and St. Johns were rolling into town once a year.

One of the frustrating occurrences of doing talk radio in this town was trying to generate talk about college basketball. Whether Michigan, Michigan State or UDM had exciting basketball news, it didn’t matter.

Our phone lines were mostly empty. Bring up the Lions, warm pizza and cold drinks and the lines were filled. As Michigan marched to a Big Ten title and number one seed in the NCAA tournament I kept hearing from folks who love college basketball complain about the lack of buzz in this town.

The men should get a boost today on 97.1 FM because Michigan State blew a tournament game against UCLA and people will want to bitch about young men choking and an old head with bad clock management.

When I covered the Fab Five I often sat in Crisler wondering why there were so many empty seats for one of the most exciting runs in Michigan sports. Calihan is no longer the place to be.

That was even the case during the Perry Watson era when he brought a tough brand of basketball that often won conference titles and advanced to the NCAA tournament. Rashad Phillips played a dipsy doozle, dizzying brand of basketball that should have ignited an entire town.

He also played to mostly empty seats at Calihan. Stories were often buried inside the sports pages of the Detroit News and Free Press because the general public did not read them.

They sell out Breslin Center in East Lansing, but how many people in Metro Detroit care about the Spartans until they make magical runs in the NCAA tournament? In Ann Arbor there is a store dedicated to former football coach Bo Schembechler who never won a national title, but nothing dedicated to Michigan basketball who has.

The basketball offices badly needed upgrades, but school officials refused to give basketball one red cent until the Big House was spruced up to alumni’s likings. Coaches had to walk a quarter mile for practice. Jalen Rose, Chris Webber and Juwan Howard grew tired of playing before an unenthusiastic crowd and convinced school officials to move the student section from the second level to lower level to generate more noise.

Oakland University got it right. Instead of building a 10,000 arena, it packs its family, friends and supporters in a mini 4,000 seat stadium. That way you get the enthusiasm of a filled arena even when 3,000 folks show up to see the Golden Grizzlies battle the likes of Cleveland State or Wright State.

Oakland and UDM face the same problem. The Horizon League is filled with teams we don’t want to see. The Titans got a nice crowd boost when Butler came to town. Or when they played Oakland. Other than that, crickets.

We love sports in this town. College basketball just isn’t one of them.

Detroit has cool sports nicknames. The Lions don’t

The Detroit Tigers gave us Miggy, Sweet Lou, The Georgia Peach, Captain Hook, Hooks, Tram, Mr. Tiger, JV and Mad Max.

Who can forget Zeke, Spider and Worm, Bump and Thump, AD and the Dobber playing for the Pistons? Even Hall of Fame coach Chuck Daly earned the name Daddy Rich.

The Red Wings roster was filled with guys named Mr. Hockey, The Captain, The Dominator, Ozzie, The Professor, Vladinator and the Russian Five.

Yeah we have Megatron and the Super Natural with the Lions. But it says something when three of the highest profile players in team history came and went without a nickname. We called Matthew Stafford, Matthew Stafford, Barry Sanders, Barry and Chris Spielman, Chris.

Maybe that’s the stench of a franchise that never won a championship. Or even contended for one in six decades. Same Old Lions is not a nickname. That is a mission statement. Although we have Lions Kool-Aid and Lions cornbread we lack the names that tie an athlete to a city.

When Sanders made a big run the Silverdome rumbled with chants of “Barry.” But last time I checked that is simply his first name.

What gives?

Even Michigan State gave us Magic and Little Brother. Does Arrogant Asses and Michigan Man count in Ann Arbor?

This is T Foss reporting.

11 seed is about right for Michigan State

My Sparty wife Abs immediately stormed out of the living room after learning Michigan State was playing UCLA in a play in game for the right to play BYU in the NCAA tournament.
“We must really suck,” she screamed. “This is embarrassing.”
Actually it is not. She is used to seeing Richmond, South Dakota State or Oakland University fighting it out in play in games. It’s not like State is playing for the right to face top seeded Gonzaga, Baylor or Michigan as a 16 seed. The committee showed MSU respect by putting it in the tournament despite a 15-12 record. But at the same time it rewarded the Spartans for wins down the stretch over nationally ranked Ohio State, Michigan, Illinois and Iowa.
What do you do with a team that has shown that it belongs and does not belong in the tournament?

MSU was a tough fit in the tournament. Even during its finest stretch of beating four nationally ranked teams the Spartans had three double digit losses — two coming to Maryland who got a 10 seed.

The NCAA wanted State in the tournament because of past history. This is always a team that threatens to make long runs no matter how strong or weak. But you also did not want to punish a three or four seed by making them play the Spartans in the first round.

Imagine being Florida State, Arkansas or Purdue and your first round opponent is MSU? You’d be a little chapped by it.

By making MSU play in, we see if the Spartans really belong. They will play two games without facing a blue blood.

The Spartans could make the Sweet 16 by simply by stirring up three bowls of alphabet soup — UCLA, BYU and LSU. That’s doable and that’s fair.

Let me see if I can settle own my wet hornet wife Abs. State did not get screwed. This is not an embarrassment for the program. Let me see if I can just get her to enjoy the ride.

Shutting the door on the buddy you love is tough

I finished packing my bags for another Detroit Pistons road trip when I saw one of the most gut wrenching sights of my life.

My four year old son Brandon stood guard at the front door clutching the handles of a Winnie the Pooh travel bag. He grew tired of dad being on the road and he thought I needed company. It broke my heart because I’d have to explain to him why he could not come on the trip that included stops in Portland, Salt Lake City and Sacramento.

I told him I was traveling for work, not pleasure. I could not take him to games while I worked. I could not leave him in a hotel room while I covered games for The Detroit News.

I hugged him and explained all this in a rush as I hurried to the car and had to close the door in his face. All along he thought I’d change my mind and allow him to come. I felt like the biggest crumb in the world.

Road trips are fun when you are single. They are not so fun when you want to spend the weekend watching Diners, Drive Ins and Dives on a Friday night with your son or watch him play soccer on Saturday morning.

I felt like I shut the door in Brandon’s face too often while juggling two careers. It is my only regret. I never taught my son how to properly catch a baseball or do a drop step toward the hoop in basketball.

I needed to keep that gravy train rolling for my family. I made a vow while growing up in inner city Detroit that my children would enjoy a better life than me. The sacrifice was not spending as much time with them as I wanted.

It took retirement to square things with Brandon. He never complained because we still did things together. We made weekend trips to Costco where he attempted to eat every sample they passed out. We enjoyed triple D Friday nights and lunch together at his favorite restaurant.

And he loved going to the mall to pick out a new T-shirt or pair of jeans.

After I retired Brandon and I spent plenty of alone time. That’s when my son and I bonded most. We discovered the wonders of an air fryer together. We went to lunch more often and he was my main taste taster when I began smoking meats.

He became my best friend. Having a stroke pushed us closer, but I still remember the terror in his eyes when he saw me laying in a hospital bed. Then there was the time I took him out for coffee. I even remember talking to him on the drive over. The problem was I was in the car alone and Brandon remained at home.

Now I miss my buddy who is in the dorms at Michigan State University. It is really sad making supply runs to campus because of Covid-19 safety measures. We both wear masks. I scream at him through an open window and have not seen his room since the day we helped move him in.

I never hug him or touch him.

My wife Abs told Brandon she worries about me being alone in the house.

“Don’t worry mom,” Brandon replied. “Dads OK. He’s got his air fryer.”

But I don’t have my buddy.

Twitter dead end

I am reaching a dead end with Twitter in regards to my hacked or compromised account.

I keep getting emails from Twitter saying to change my password. I keep writing back that I cannot change my password. Somebody else has control of my account. I cannot log in or do anything.

Then Twitter writes back. Change your pass word.

It’s a vicious cycle.

I need to speak to a real human being.

Being booted off Twitter is like being kidnapped

Fedora Night at Comerica Park is in jeopardy.

I won’t be able to tell you when I fill in as a guest on the Woodward Sports Network.

I cannot tell you about the odd ball life I enjoyed as a broadcaster and sports journalist in Detroit.

Twitter has been my main source of communication because it is fun. Stressful at times, but most of the time fun.

My account has been hacked. My user name and password has been erased. In other words my job as a Twitter troll has been axed by somebody. Who? I do not know.

My Word Press account is linked to Twitter and this is the only way I can post on my time line. Somebody else has control of that. It’s like having your identity stolen. It is like having a part of you kidnapped.

Twitter is part of my rehab from recovering from a stroke. Doing podcasts and writing blogs helps me recover also. One of my doctors stressed the importance of doing what I used to do in moderation. He stressed the importance of doing things that makes me happy and makes me feel productive.

I decided being a Twitter troll was it for me.

However, stress and duress are deadly combinations for me, which rules out a full time job unless it is as lotion boy in South Beach once the pandemic dies down.

I will try to communicate with Twitter again today to see if I can get up and running again. Chances are I must shut my account down and start all over which means I will lose thousands of followers and we won’t be able to have the fun together again.

So we cannot organize Fedora Night at Comerica. Or I can’t tell you about my new buddies at Woodward Sports Network.

Any way blogs are supposed to be short. I’m out.

Wish me luck.

My Twitter account has been compromised

I no longer have control of my Twitter account. It has been hacked and somebody else has taken control of it.

The only way I can communicate is through my blog because whenever I post a link it is sent to Twitter.

Other than that I cannot communicate. Only the person who hacked my account can. So far my people say there has been no activity which is great. If you see activity on my account tonight can you contact me or alert someone who may know me outside the Internet world?

I love Twitter no matter how rough it gets. My fear is someone else will say things that may insult and harm others. I will post again in my blog later this evening.

I have contacted Twitter and no one seems to be able to help. It appears I might have to change my account and lose all of my followers.