Monday, August 2, 2021

Column: An ode to old friends and future Spartans

April 25, 2021
Paolo Giannandrea
Paolo Giannandrea —
Photo by Sylvia Jarrus | The State News

Everyone envisions their ideal college experience. Most don’t pan out that way.

I, at times, sacrificed social endeavors in pursuit of the one dream I sought after most in life to this point, one that was about to come to fruition until coronavirus hit, and my plans to follow and cover the Big Ten tournament and eventually the NCAAs were shut down in an instant.

I know I’ve exhausted this instance, but I just can’t seem to let it go. I obviously needed to learn something.

This is what I learned through my collegiate struggles: 

I don’t often argue with my dad, but we definitely have differences in perspective at times. I don’t disagree with what he’s saying, but I have a fault of trying to impose my own perspective.

I didn’t intend for two of my non-sports pieces to relate to Kanye West, but I realized something when I showed him the "Follow God" music video. The thought occurred to me while I was driving with him across our snow-riddled backyard in a similar ATV to the one in the video.

I can’t claim to patrol nearly the amount of acreage West owns in Wyoming, but I realize how fortunate I am because of what my family has provided.

Before I showed him the video, he expressed his conflicting opinions on the rapper, who at times is seen causing havoc, at others providing inspiration.

West is seen driving with his dad on the ranch he is developing into a futuristic "Yeezy Campus," as, during a monologue in the video, his dad recalls leading his timid son through the snow for the first time. His dad implies that following God is following in elders’ footsteps.

“Walk in the footsteps that I’ve already made.”

My dad did this for me before my academic career at MSU. I can still recall the awe, the butterflies I felt as a kid walking into the Breslin Center, greeted by the sights and sounds of rambunctious students and towering athletes. He couldn’t exactly predict the mistakes I’d make and advise against them before they happened, though. 

Throughout the song, West seems to allude to arguments with his dad and God at the same time.

“Arguing with my dad and he said it ain’t Christ like.”

I didn’t make the most of my opportunities, dismissing my dad’s being in my ear, reminding me I might only get the opportunity to cover MSU basketball once.

I fell complacent, neglecting the awe I first felt when reporting courtside, watching one of the three best players to ever come through East Lansing casually drain half-court warmups before doing so in games.

I only hope If you’ve agreed with potential lineup changes and player analyses, you’ve retained an inkling of the messages from my sister giving me more insight than I’ve gained in a lifetime.

That’s all I ever set out to accomplish.

College is a time when we realize that we’re all in this together. You confide in people who have gone through similar struggles. You learn along the way and from the ones who have endured much more.

It may be harder to realize that now, as we are more disconnected from fellow Spartans on campus, and all college students alike, than ever. 

I’ve gained and lost friendships along the way. I regret the procrastinating that prohibited me from grabbing lunch with one more childhood buddy I said I'd catch up with, one more outing I thought I'd make it out to. This happens to everyone in college, they say. Time gets away from you.

I regret not maximizing this time.

I do not regret where I committed the most time: to pen and paper. I tried to be a source of perspective when it wasn’t the easiest for me to do so, but I do regret not putting it on paper more.

Sometimes you lose sight of the footsteps in the snow and the wind.

Don’t go through this time without saying what you wish you would’ve said, doing what you wish you would’ve done. Opt for a precarious night out partying over a sedentary session playing Call of Duty.

So no, my college experience did not meet the lofty expectations produced by 18 years of fandom and adoration for the place surrounding the Red Cedar. Some of it was my own doing, some of it curtailed by the Coronavirus pandemic. Nonetheless, I still learned a lot.

I’m trying to do my part and pass it along, for current and future Spartans, alumni, and anyone else who happens to read this. Whether you’re religious or not, whether you are a Kanye West fan or not, the video presents a pertinent message.

So I’ll close with what West’s dad opened with.

“What does it really mean to follow God?”

If we had an answer, I wouldn’t have had reason to write this; I’m only trying to take a step towards it.

But I don’t believe that to follow God is a directive to sit in solitude and offer up prayers. I do believe that you shouldn’t compound a humbling experience with further arrogance. This is not meant to be a cautionary tale — just a reminder of the messages you may have received from older siblings, or that voice in your head telling you one day you'd regret staying in on a Friday night.

Listen to and learn from those who came before you. Heed their advice. You don’t know when one opportunity will be your last.

I’m only trying to show — and hope I have shown — friends of the past, Spartans of the future, my footsteps.

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