So here's the deal, Coach Izzo: You offended a lot of people with your passion yesterday. While I think you meant well and what you were trying to say may have been valid, I fear that a number of people are not hearing your true meaning.
How do you think Mateen Cleaves or Morris Peterson felt when they learned that they had no identity as Michigan State University National Basketball Champions? How do you think Chris Schaller, a former Michigan State University Lacrosse Player, felt when you claimed that his identity as a Spartan never existed, even prior to his sport being yanked out from beneath him as a result of Title IX? How do you think I felt, a former NCAA National Qualifying Spartan Gymnast who endured four shoulder surgeries in an effort to continue to compete for her school?
No matter what logo we had on our shirts, we knew who we were and what school we were representing. We never questioned our identity as Spartans. In some cases, we were more Spartans than we were people. We gave our heart and soul to Michigan State University. So, please, don't shame us.
When I went home to my small town and wore my Block S Varsity letter jacket, I can promise you that everyone there knew I was a Spartan. Never once did I have to explain where I went to school. I was a Spartan, a Big Ten Athlete, and people were impressed with the reverence of the jacket.
I can promise you that when my husband, a former Spartan Soccer Player, and I write our annual donation check to Michigan State University, there is no confusion as to which school we are sending it to because of lack of identity.
I know this is not how you meant it. But, the fact of the matter is this is how it is being heard. This is why people are upset. At Michigan State University, we were taught to be winners. We were taught to preservere and endure. We were taught to take pride in ourselves, our teammates and in our school. We were Big Ten Spartan Student-Athletes because we were committed and coachable.
And right now we need to be coached. We need to be led. Inspire us to jump on board with the logo. Don't bully us. Remind us that a logo doesn't define us as Spartans. It is your heart that makes you a Spartan. It is your winning attitude that makes you a Spartan. It is your ability to overcome difficult obstacles gracefully that makes you a Spartan. It is your willingness to look past your own opinions in an effort to stand strong, united, and proud that makes you a Spartan. It is leading by example with strong, moral character no matter what the given scoreboard may read that makes you a Spartan. It is what is inside of you that determines whether or not you deserve to be identified as a Spartan, not the picture on the front of your shirt.
I am a Spartan. You could paint my shirt red and adopt a puppy as the new mascot. I would still be a Spartan. No one can take that away from me.