A steady rain fell outside Breslin Arena as I walked past Tom Izzo’s office toward my car.
The lights were on as Izzo spoke to some folks two hours after Michigan State beat Northwestern in the Big Ten regular season finale’. I turned to my left and saw a woman standing in the dark and in the rain on crutches with a program and Sharpie in her hands. Her right leg pant lege flapped in the wind. She was an amputee. I had to ask.
“Why are you standing out here?”
Her name was Terri. She was from Grand Rapids and she was a huge fan of Izzo. She did not attend Michigan State but became a huge MSU fan because of Izzo. She loved the way he conducted himself. She loved that he won and she viewed him as a rock star hero.
“I don’t know,” she said. “I just love the guy. He is great and I just want to meet him so bad.”
It was 10 p.m. now and I looked up at Izzo. There were no signs he was going to leave.
“What if he stays here until midnight? What are you going to do,” I asked.
“I will be here,” she said. “I am not leaving until I get to meet him. This means that much to me.”
Terri smiled in anticipation of the biggest meeting of her life. She stood with one leg, two crutches and hope. Little did I know that there were a half dozen others in running cars waiting for Izzo to leave. This is a ritual. All they want is a signature and a moment with the coach. Is it wrong of me to think that Terri needed to get out of the rain, rest her leg and go home. It was not easy for her to stand there to meet Izzo.
Some fans will go to any length to meet sports heroes. They stand in line for 45 minutes and pay $50 for a signature. They sneak into hotel lobbies and pay off people to tell them where a certain coach or athlete will be. I wanted Terri to go home. She looked tired and her hair was getting matted down because of the rain.
About 10 minutes her face lit up as Izzo left to return home. She got her signature from Izzo along with the others who pounced out of their car once the lights in his office were turned off.