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December 14, 2009

A luxury train, a sermon, a recruit and Izzo's sentiments

A wide sweep here before I take a three-day, midweek, mini-vacation:

    * Got an e-mail on this and I must say, it sounds pretty cool. As Ferris Bueller once said: "If you have the means, I highly recommend it."
    American Rail Excursions is offering a Private Rail Car Tour to New Orleans and San Antonio, December 28, 2009 to January 4, 2010. Michigan State fans can travel to Alamo Bowl in comfort and style by private rail passenger cars. These are vintage cars from the Golden Age of passenger rail travel that have been restored and meet all requirements for high speed operation.
    The private cars depart Chicago at 8:00 PM, Monday, December 28 and return to Chicago at 2:14 PM, Monday, January 4. Passengers may make connections with this special offering by Amtrak trains from Pontiac, Detroit, Dearborn, Ann Arbor and other points enroute to Chicago. Direct connections can also be made with Amtrak’s Bluewater train from Port Huron, Flint, E. Lansing and other stations. Amtrak’s Pere Marquette originating in Grand Rapids can also be used by passengers between Grand Rapids and Chicago.
    You can travel in style and comfort like famous athletes and entertainers. While in San Antonio, passengers will enjoy strolling the famous Riverwalk with its many restaurants and shops.
Also included is a narrated motorbus tour of New Orleans and a luncheon cruise on the Mississippi steam paddleboat Natchez. The private cars will be attached to the rear of three famous named trains: The City of New Orleans, The Sunset and the Texas Eagle. Amtrak passengers are not allowed in our cars.
    Fare is $2,299 per passenger, double occupancy in double bedroom with private bath.  Single bedroom (roomette) is $2,899 per passenger, single occupancy of a double bedroom is $3,999 and a suite is $3,999 per passenger, double occupancy. Fare does not include game tickets as ticket prices and seat location vary so much. Tickets are available from Michigan State and firms like TicketMaster.
    Passengers will enjoy many included meals and full beverage and snack service is included in afternoons and evenings.  No extra charges for alcoholic beverages including domestic and imported beer, wine and mixed drinks.    This tour is totally seamless from Chicago to New Orleans to San Antonio to Chicago. No need or expense of hotel in San Antonio or New Orleans. No hassle of checking into or out of hotels.   No airline security hassles.  Just pleasure. All passengers will have their own private bedroom and access to lounge and dining areas. This is a deluxe sleeper operation. No coach seating.
    American Rail Excursions is the largest operator of private rail passenger cars on the Amtrak system. Passengers may call 313-300-8411 to order. Inquires to 313-300-8411 or [email protected] Checks, VISA, MasterCard and Discover accepted. By mail to American Rail Excursions, PO Box 2345, Dearborn, MI 48123-2345.

    If anyone does this, do me a favor and let us all know how it was. And lend us some cash.

    * Kirk Cousins will speak at Trinity Church, 3355 Dunckel Road in Lansing, on Christmas Eve. Services are at 3, 5 and 7 p.m.

    * Our Dan Kilbridge informs me that MSU football has a new verbal recruit, Ohio running back LeVeon Bell, and he has talked with him this evening. Check for the details on Bell in Tuesday's LSJ.

    * As mentioned earlier, Tom Izzo had a lot to say about the MSU football situation. Here are his thoughts:

    Asked about how Dantonio is handling this:
    “I’ve talked to him more than a few times. To me it’s still one of the sadder things that hits. I don’t understand all of it. I don’t agree with any of what went on, but I don’t agree with you guys or society or anybody else on what reality is. I really don’t. I can’t believe it’s front page (Sunday). I mean, I really can’t believe that. I don’t understand it, I don’t see it. It’s the world I live in now, it’s what I’ve got to do, but it doesn’t mean I have to agree with it all.
    "I didn’t agree with the first thing that happened, meaning --- hmm, let me pick and choose my words – I mean we are interviewing people in California who had no idea what happened. I don’t understand that. I mean, I do not understand that. And if I don’t know everything that’s going on, how in the hell are we interviewing or listening to people on the radio talk about what should and shouldn’t be done? And I don’t know what’s happened.
    “And then we’re giving a guy a vote of confidence or not a vote of confidence. On what? So, me personally, I think Mark Dantonio has handled it a hell of a lot better than I would’ve. I’m sure as hell happy he’s our football coach. And I don’t think he needs anybody sticking up for him, either. But it’s sad what we’ve come to now, that a fight is bringing this kind of attention and news. I just am appreciative that it’s not anything more than that. And I’m wondering what would happen if it was a little bit more than that? I mean do we just shut down the school, or what do we do?
    “Without making light of this, did anybody that’s writing, talking, advising, did any of those people ever go to college? And what kind of Disneyworld do we think we live in.”
    (Fred Heumann mentions that the combination of the 2008 fight with hockey players and this incident have people upset).
    Izzo: “Well, the first one was a punch, right? I mean, explain to me what it was, because I might not have the right information.”
    (Hondo Carpenter: It was a punch.)
    Izzo: “One punch? I wouldn’t have been in school, just so you all know. I wouldn’t have been in school. I mean, God, Fred, you say it like that, you ever been around it? Or did you ever go out and have a beer?”
    (Heumann: Yeah.)
    Izzo: “OK, well. What we do with the athlete is this. We keep saying that it’s such a privilege to be an athlete. It is. But don’t think an athlete doesn’t work, whether it’s a women’s athlete, a men’s athlete, basketball, football. I mean it’s not like we don’t earn our keep. You know, and we’re anointed that we have all these responsibilities. And I agree with so many of them. But pretty soon, I don’t know, are we gonna differentiate that a traffic ticket for an athlete is different than a traffic ticket for John Doe?
    “If we go speeding or we don’t put our nickel … and I know I’m gonna open myself up for criticism and I’m not advocating anything. I just, man, we put a guy in a tough position. And we’re gonna beat that dead horse. And I understand it’s everybody’s job. But I’d just like to know, are the people … this selling paper thing, I don’t agree with, either. I don’t believe it’s true. I just don’t believe it’s true. Because sometimes we’re gonna go to where there’s gonna be so much news that, OK, it’s gonna be negative, it’s gonna hurt the program. People aren’t gonna want to read about a bad program. They’d much rather read about a good program.”

    (Heumann: Reiterates that he was asking about Izzo helping Dantonio).
    “I don’t need to counsel Mark Dantonio, he’s a big boy, he can handle his stuff, but don’t let the public steer you the wrong way. There’s things he doesn’t know yet. How do they know? And if they’re that good, we should hire them. But I will guarantee you, just by your comment on the first one. I disagree with some people that are telling me what should be done, when they have no clue what really happened.”

    (Heumann: Just playing devil’s advocate.)
    “I appreciate that, it’s just a sore spot because it’s been such a sore spot to our university some. Football program, some. But you know, every once in a while a guy comes around. I mean this guy is about as good a human being as I know. And I just, I watch, ‘Well, we’re gonna give him support. And he’s got our support now,’ and you know what? I’ve seen it destroy us enough over the last 15 years in football. And so all I guess I would say (to him) would be this: ‘Keep doing what you’re doing, Mark. I like the direction you’re headed, I like what’s going on. I like the way you’re recruiting.’ We’ve all got issues. And when I say we all, the people I’m talking to right now and the person who’s talking. Everybody’s got issues.
    “I’m just saying, God, we’re into a fight is … I’m struggling. I’m the biggest advocate of, our guys should be role models and all that. But…”

    (Carpenter: What about people in media who have pitted you against Dantonio?)
    “I’m mad about that, too. I will say that. I’m mad because I’ve had my own issues, I’ve had problems with guys, I’ve had that. That is almost like trying to get between me and Mark. … Trying to I think give me a backhanded compliment and give him a backhanded insult. And I think that’s ridiculous. I really do. I think that is so ridiculous. I mean we talk on what we’re gonna do with our guys, we talk with Mark Hollis so we’re all on the same page. We all know we have the same problems, and I mean that is so ridiculous.
    "You know what it comes down to? If you win 25 games (in basketball) or eight or nine games (in football), you’re one person. If you win 18 games or five or seven games, you’re another person. Who’s kidding who? That’s what it comes down to. And to me, Mark Dantonio is the same person if he wins five next year or 10. And if we don’t watch it, personally, we complain about our football program. We, all of us, have been part of the problem.
    “We’re the ones condemning people, immediately, for different things. And it hurts recruiting. And Mark Dantonio will tell you this, Tom Izzo will tell you this, Mike Krzyzewski will tell you this. And pick out someone a lot greater than any of those. Better players make you a better coach. You don’t have the horses, you ain’t entering the Derby. It’s just the way it works. And so, sometimes what you don’t see on the front end really gets you later on. And I think we’re making mistakes.
    “I mean the guy made a decision, with the best information he had, he made the best decision he could make. And I can promise you, I support that 250 percent.”

    How are your players taking it?
    “Well first of all, I’m not sure. But I would imagine I’ve had a player or two in a scuffle. I’m sure Travis was in a couple in his day, if not with me with somebody else. So I mean, I still can’t believe we’re talking about a … there was no drugs or alcohol. I’m not condoning it, but I’m just trying to figure out where we are with it. I think there were other issues Mark had, and I think that’s why he made the decisions he made. But I really struggled with this for him and I guess I don’t have a good answer for that except that I know the guy’s going through a lot and he really doesn’t deserve it. He really doesn’t. He’s tried to do everything within his power of handling it.
    “And don’t give me the good kid/bad kid thing. I mean I don’t want anybody saying, ‘You’ve got to recruit better kids, you’ve got to do this or that.’ That’s so much baloney. It has nothing to do with that, I don’t think, I really don’t. I really don’t.”

    Do you tell the players not to let it bother them?
    “I don’t tell them that, I just tell them to be careful and I’m trying to find one of those bubbles the little boy lived in. You know, that little bubble? That’s what I’m trying to do, find 13 bubbles so that my guys can just roll around and nobody can get near them and they don’t have to get into anything.”

    (Heumann: Didn’t mean to set you off)
    “It doesn’t set me off, it’s just I feel for the guy. I can’t imagine what he’s going through. And I feel for guys that don’t do their homework enough to know that, you know, we had incidents. We had fights. We had an alcohol issue. We had suspensions. And then try to put me in a place where, because we’ve won … that’s ridiculous. I’ve had just as many problems as Mark, per capita of player probably. If you looked at it percentage wise.
    "And things are getting blown out of proportion more and more every day. And again, that means I’m minimizing it. I’m not minimizing it, I’m just trying to say that … I think, I’m not sure but my 9-year-old is studying the evolution of man and you know, cave men. They fought back then, they used a damn club, OK? They’re fighting now, and they’re gonna fight 100 years from now.
    "And that isn’t minimizing it, that’s just saying I’m so happy that there weren’t worse things that went on. And I feel bad that a good friend of mine’s life has been kind of affected, and some good players, over something that.
    "There are two sides to every issue. Two. And I’m not a lawyer, I’m not a judge, I’m not a prosecutor, I’m not the football coach. I just did this. If Mark Dantonio thinks that what he did is right, I believe in Mark Dantonio. Not because he’s my football coach, really because he’s my friend. I’ve known him for 15 years, I believe in the guy. I believe in what he stands for. The only problem is, don’t let society make your decisions for you. Because most of those people don’t know what went on, or don’t know the kid.
    "And when I heard the second-chance one, people were mad because (Winston) got a second chance … I’d just like to know where all of us would be without a second chance. Or a third. Or a fourth."

    How have you seen Dantonio change?
    “He’s a pretty upbeat guy. That’s why I said, he handled it a lot better than I would have. He’s a pretty upbeat guy, but he said it. There’s gonna be some resolve to it and he’s gonna move on. There’s some things he’s upset about and he has a right to be, meaning with his own players. And he’s dealing with those things. But I haven’t seen him change a lot if that’s what you mean.”

    And with that, check back here Friday afternoon with news from MSU's Alamo Bowl media day.

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Joe Rexrode
MSU Sports Reporter
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