I have got to wonder what the general mindset of the team is this week after experiencing the high from an exciting come from behind, overtime, victory and the shock and disbelief of learning that their coach had suffered a heart attack and will be unavailable for an unspecified amount of time? Sports by its nature are often affected by emotions of a player, team, coach, or crowd, and this Saturday the eyes of the nation will be on the Spartans. You can bet that there will be more than one mention about how MSU will respond without Dantonio on the sideline. I can already hear the hosts of three major college broadcasts, Chris Fowler, John Saunder, and Tim Brando enquiring as to how the team will or has responded to the absence of their coach.
Last week all the focus on playing Notre Dame at night was supposed to be sufficient to get the team motivated. For additional incentive, Dantonio named the injured Josh Rouse as the honorary captain, hoping to provide an additional emotional lift to his team much in the way that Amp Campbell did in 1998. For as exciting as the game may have concluded, I came away with the feeling that the team wasn’t as psychologically and emotionally charged as hoped for. In fact I would say that Notre Dame displayed more of an energized persona than did the Spartans.
That brings me to this weeks question, “What is going to be the attitude of the team come Saturday?” Will Northern Colorado have the misfortune of shaking up a hornets nest or will the atmosphere be more like a funeral wake?
I would hope that the Spartans, collectively as well as individually will dig deep and play with the purpose and resolve appropriate to honor their coach. They do not need to dwell on the misfortune of temporarily losing their head coach. It is not the type of attitude exhibited by Dantonio when faced with adversity, and lord knows he has had his share these past few years with player arrests and dismissals. Even with this most recent setback, Dantonio has displayed an attitude that this is just a minor inconvenience and he will come through it stronger and more qualified to even handle a near death experience.
Until his return to the sideline I would hope that the team will maintain the resolve displayed by their coach. Many members of the team have expressed their genuine love and appreciation for Dantonio and see him as a father figure. If by misfortune Mark Dantonio would have died Sunday morning I would hope that the lessons learned by the players by being around this man would have rubbed off. Dantonio has preached that life is filled with obstacles that must be overcome. I cannot think of a better way to honor one’s father than by carrying on his legacy.
Here’s to hoping that the players feel the same way and use this as motivation this Saturday and throughout the remainder of the season.