Before I get to the heart of the matter here, I just felt I should admit that I love heckling! I don’t do it now, but back in the so called “day” I was a very established heckler I felt. I would go to baseball games at the old Tiger Stadium and sit in the left field upper deck seats. I had season tickets in the front row of the section and I would yell at the top of my lungs just to get a response out of players. Could you really blame me? The team was awful, nobody was at the games and this seemed to be the one thing in my life that I was actually good at considering I have such a LOUD voice. I remember how satisfying it was when I got a player to react back to me, whether I was talking about a guy’s average or off the field issue, I was relentless and I was very proud of my one skill in life.
I remember buddies of mine telling me what to say when I ran out of material. It was like I was the star of a sitcom with my own writers feeding me my next great line. It was awesome, and yes on the rare occasion that people actually came to the game it did annoy them, but I didn’t really care.
Of course I did have rules! I would never swear or say anything racial or classless. I wanted to get to the players but not in that way! If I was going to get someone to react it would be because I was annoying, loud and clever, never anything else!
Now that you know a little about me, we need to talk about Saturday afternoon at the Breslin Center. Michigan State routed Purdue by 25 but that wasn’t the story. Instead the juicy chatter after the game was the Spartans student section “The Izzone” and how members of the group were being classless to Purdue’s Robbie Hummel. Of course Hummel is the 5th year senior that has suffered through two ACL tears. One ended his 2009-10 season while the other one had him sidelined for the entirety of last year. It’s been a brutal go for a guy that leads the Boilermakers in points and rebounds.
MSU routed Purdue 83-58 but after the game head coach Matt Painter wasn’t focused on the loss, instead he was upset about the fans, so much that he was even seen in the 2nd half getting into a verbal confrontation with one of them. Can you imagine? Painter yelling at fans instead of coaching his team while the game was getting away from him? Don’t you have to be better than that?
Painter in his post game comments shed a little light as to what he was fighting about with fans saying “I think the Izzone is great,” “But if they’re going to say, ‘I hope you tear your ACL again,’ I’m going to say something. He doesn’t deserve that.” Of course Hummell was the target of all the ACL remarks.
After Painter came Tom Izzo who, after the nice conference win was also asked about his student section, the same group of fans that he had e-mailed earlier in the season to create more of a home court advantage. Izzo said “I would throw the guy out of here who said something like that. “If he wants to talk about his grandmother I wouldn’t like it, but I’d deal with it. If he wants to talk about an injury and a kid who’s been through so much, I’d try to find out who it was and make sure that he buys his ticket elsewhere.” The Iron Mountain native also told reporters that if a student really made a comment about Hummel’s health that he’s “going to rip the Izzone again.”
It’s funny that the target of all the controversy, Hummel himself was not phased in the least about the comments. Hummel, when asked afterwards responded saying “I couldn’t give a crap what the Izzone says.” Even if Hummel wasn’t affected by the alleged remarks, his play sure was as he shot an unprecedented 0-for-11 from the field and finished with just 2 points on the day, a career low.
So there it is, the story that Izzo, Painter and all of East Lansing is up in arms about. OK, maybe I’m being a little dramatic.
Here is what I think…
I believe Painter should have been more focused on his team and not what was going on in the stands. To bring up bad names the crowd was shouting during a game in his postgame remarks is silly and embarrassing. Painter has coached in the Big Ten for a very long time and I would think he would consider himself lucky if ACL remarks were all he heard on the road, especially at a place like the Breslin Center. There is a reason these games are played in front of people and there is a reason that the home town people like to make it as hard as possible to win in front of them. To cry and moan about injury remarks from the crowd is Painters way of trying to transfer the focus of the game. The real outrage if you are a Purdue fan should be losing on the road by 25 and not what one fan might have been yelling at a 5th year senior.
As for Izzo, I bet you he doesn’t really care what was said on Saturday. He didn’t bring it up, Painter did and Izzo was just asked about it. What’s he going to say; get over it Purdue? Of course not! Izzo has to pretend like he is offended but he is probably not.
We are talking about 18 to 22 year old kids on a weekend at a basketball game. Sure, hoping a kid tears his ACL is classless but I guarantee much worse has been said, heck much worse was probably said at that game form that section alone on Saturday. I think Painter should change his diapers and get his team ready for Michigan on Tuesday in West Lafayette, a place where the roles will be reversed and his student section will be yelling not so nice things at John Beilein and the Wolverines.
Now that I have said my piece I have one more comment.
I’m mad at Painter for forcing me to write this blog, however I am more made at the student that yelled the remarks. Not because it was offensive but rather because it was the furthest thing from clever and the fact that it gets publicity just gives hecklers everywhere a bad name.
We are MORE creative than that! At least I think I was!