Some of you may or may not be aware that last night Michigan State played North Carolina for the Men's College Basketball Title.
Regardless of whether you knew it or not, let me give you a little back story.
Michigan State wasn't supposed to be there, playing North Carolina. They defeated two number one teams to have the honor of playing for the title in front of a crowd hailing from their state.
In the days leading up to the game, the stories playing on the news and in the papers sang a familiar tune: How this championship could help the Michigan economy, how this would be such a Cinderella story for a citizenship in desperate need of a fairy tale, etc.
And then, of course, the game began. And, then, there are those that would say that it ended nearly as soon as it began. It wasn't pretty; what ensued. It was what some might call a routing, a massacre, an easy victory for North Carolina.
And then, of course, the media reports today. Since we listen to ESPN each morning on our drive to work, I got to hear the tail end of a Roy Williams quote (He's the coach of NC), where he was laughing with Mike and Mike in the Morning, joking about how he did his part for the economy and went and spent some of his money at the casino. Laughter all around as I shook my head and bit my lip.
I was driving to Lansing, where I work, the town where Michigan State hails from. In the same city of our state capitol, on a daily basis, I meet with individuals struggling to find employment who also happen to be struggling with some sort of disability, from being wheel-chair bound, to being displaced workers stunned by the closing of doors where they worked every day for the last twenty years.
Our state has been hardest hit by this downfall of our nation's economy. Our unemployment rate is in double digits, the highest in the nation. Our factories, which once were the fore-front of this nations industry, now closing all around us. We drive through town, every other house with "For Sale" signs in their abandoned yards. And each day, I walk out into a lobby full of people desperate to work, desperate for anything good.
It wasn't ever about the economy, Roy.
It was about hope. It was about overcoming the inconceivable. It was about, for once, instead of the usual, "Have you heard from any employers this week," answered with the shake of a down-turned head, it was, "How about those Spartans?"
It wasn't about your damn dollars tossed down in a casino.
It was about spirits lifted, if just for a minute, towards a sun that we haven't seen for a long time.
It was about a client that we still have on our roster who I couldn't get Taco Bell to call. It was about a letter I sent off to one Mr. Tom Izzo, head coach of MSU, talking about my client and how he couldn't recite our presidents or verbalize very well, but about how he could recite stats about Michigan State Basketball from the 1970's through today.
It was about a phone call that I got back, a four-color book on MSU basketball sent to my client, with his name written in it, inscribed, "Dream Big. Tom Izzo". It was about basketball tickets given to him, right behind the MSU bench, it was about Tom Izzo walking up to him after the game, shaking his hand, and taking him back into the locker room. It's about a kid that never believed in himself for one minute, that finally believed maybe he was worth something. That's what it was about, Roy.
So you can take your game stats. You can take your criticisms of when a time-out should or shouldn't have been called. You can take your talk of, "Well, maybe they shouldn't have been there in the first place", and you can take your lousy dollars dropped within a casino.
What you cannot take is what was finally true here: There was hope. And for a state full of people that forgot what that looked like, that will not be forgotten.
There is a long, hard road ahead, no doubt. We know that. But if a group of kids in green and white jersey's can make it to the final game, who is to say that we can't?
It wasn't ever about the economy. It was about what it took to get there.
And you can't buy that, no matter what the media and certain head coaches want you to believe.