Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Column: Suzy Merchant's Spartans deserve the same as Tom Izzo's

November 18, 2021
<p>MSU Women&#x27;s Basketball returns to the Breslin with their first match of the season against the Morehead State Eagles on Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021. </p>

MSU Women's Basketball returns to the Breslin with their first match of the season against the Morehead State Eagles on Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021.

Photo by Chloe Trofatter | The State News

Three games at the Breslin and not once did Head Coach Suzy Merchant and her Spartan ladies have an "Izzone." I'll be the one to tell you, as if former State News women's basketball beat writers Eli McKown and Devin Anderson-Torrez didn't enough in their own columns – it's disappointing.

However, it's not new.

And sure, it's not conference season quite yet, and games against teams like Northwood, Morehead State, Niagara and Valparaiso, may not be all that exciting.

And sure, there are several other sports seasons going on, between football closing out, men's basketball kicking off and hockey halfway through their season.

And sure, the Big Ten Network loves to broadcast old football highlight reels on their "free space," while putting women's sports behind a paywall a majority of the time. (Listen, I'm all for paywalls, because that's what funds my paycheck as a reporter, but in this case, it infuriates me.)

And... OK. I'm sure you get the point.

Now riddle me this: Which excuse are you using?

I hope none. But I know my hopes are wrong.

What happened to the hype? What month did the fire behind the "support women's basketball" movement die out?

Did you all forget about the scenes from the 2021 NCAA Tournament that went viral on Tiktok after Oregon's Sedona Prince shared clips comparing the women's lackluster facilities to the men's luxurious ones?

Maybe you forgot about the lack of respect that someone like Sue Bird – who has 18 seasons and four league titles under her belt – gets in comparison to someone like LeBron James – who holds the same historical record? $221,450 versus $41.48 million for doing the same job, the only difference is: One is a woman.

What the f---?

Or maybe, you just like to play into the stigma that men's sports are better than women's sports? Maybe you even have an arsenal of blatantly sexist reasons why that dumbfounding opinion is yours to begin with?

I'm sorry.

I would say let me tone it down a little, but I truthfully can't.

It was heartbreaking, last night, to be sitting in the Breslin Center watching Merchant get handed a large, beautiful bouquet of white roses for hitting her 500th career win with no student crowd to hype her up.

It was heartbreaking to be one of FOUR reporters in the postgame press conference, where she talked about how blessed she was to be able to follow her dreams, with the support she has backing her, in her home state of Michigan.

I think about these various moments and then I think about how I sat in the same exact spot for the men's exhibition games against Grand Valley State and Ferris State earlier this month, where literally nothing special was occurring except for the display of the freshman class, and seeing the designated Izzone stands jam packed, "We want Steven" chants ringing loud in my ears.

I say this to myself every time I go into the Breslin for a women's basketball game: Merchant's Spartans deserve the same attention, respect and hype that men’s basketball Head Coach Tom Izzo's have.

Nia Clouden, Alyza Winston, Matilda Ekh, Tamara Farquhar, Moira Joiner and the rest of the squad deserve the same spotlight, the same publicity and coverage that Gabe Brown, Max Christie, Malik Hall, Tyson Walker and the rest of the men get.

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To do that, however, we as a collective need to start actually showing up and showing out for both ends of the Spartan basketball name. It shouldn't be just one or the other because, if you truly love basketball, you would see that the game is the same no matter whose hands the ball is in.

Both have earned their stars and stripes over the years. Merchant has put in the same amount of work as Izzo when it comes to rebuilding and redesigning the programs day in and day out.

So, in conclusion of this, I raise the following suggestion to the Izzone: Bring your beloved traditions and your drunken enthusiasm from green and white pride to the stands for the women's team, the same as you do for the men's team. Let's rekindle the movement to support women's basketball, right here at MSU.

Also taking suggestions for what to call Merchant's fanbase. What do you prefer ... Merchant Mafia or Mount Merchant?


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