Tom Izzo: “we’re in the 23rd place trophy generation, a soft society”


Tom Izzo

Tom Izzo said something last night at his postgame press press conference that I’ve been saying for years. Even though Tom Izzo and I are from different generations, he agrees with me that “these kids today.” Well, I may sound like a “hey, you kids, get off my lawn” curmudgeon, but Izzo and I see the youth of America in similar lights. Izzo, who is usually soundbite gold, gave us this gem in Evanston, IL following his #4 Spartans 54-40 win at Northwestern.

Izzo was asked about the challenges of motivating players today.

“I think we’re a soft society. So motivate the guy next to you that you work with.

We’re all softer, so they become softer. And yet you’re trying to play at an elite level, it ain’t a good time for soft people.

That’s why I love football so much because I sat there in my room today and I’m watching the press conferences, and it’s all Seattle and San Francisco, and it’s all talked about that the toughest team is going to win. This team tonight (Northwestern) is tough. They played tough. They were a joy to watch, I wish I could have watched them play Michigan or something, and played like that, then I would have felt even better. Sorry. But it never changes, tougher teams are going to win when talent gets to be equal. “

Hearing the “sorry” in Izzo’s Upper Peninsula of Michigan (almost Canadian sounding) accent, heightened the effect of his speech.

Then came the money quote:

tom izzo michigan state

“It is a little harder to motivate kids I guess because they’ve been pampered so much. We’re in the trophy generation, give ’em a trophy for 23rd place, make ’em feel good. Make mom and dad feel good, you know.”

I concur. You should see the emails and resumes I get from college kids applying to intern for this site. Even from my alma mater. Even from the best journalism school in the land, which is just up the road from me. Almost all of these kids who’ve tried writing for me have been awful and clueless. They just want an excuse to get into games and talk to athletes. Much worse are the query letters from people looking to guest post on this site. Good god. Borat has better tact, class and command of the English language.

“In my day, we didn’t….” However, the cliche is true to life.

When I played Little League baseball the unwritten rule was, if you’re really bad they bat you last in the order and they stick you out in right field where no one ever hits the ball. And you only get to play three innings. Today, all these kids have their name on the back of their professional looking jersey-shirts. And they get equal playing time.


So basically Tom Izzo was trying to say a version of that. I think.

I brought up this Tom Izzo soundbite (don’t call it a rant, he was in a good mood when delivering this message to the nation’s third largest media market) to a couple of the other journalists present. They all seemed to agree with the sentiment expressed. One guy who runs a NU website said “it’s a candy-ass generation.” Well said.

Although almost everyone will disagree with the idea that this game was enjoyable to watch. Michigan State put up 6 airballs, by Izzo’s count, and the league’s number one three-point shooting team was just 12% from distance.

And the final score was 54-40, which was just as brutal as it looks. Credit Chris Collins and his Northwestern defense. They truly do “get after it” on that end of the floor.


Now we know that Tom Izzo is a hard liner (the picture above certainly validates this notion). He’s a “tough love” kind of leader.

Look at these videos of Tom Izzo chewing out his players and displaying his anger in an ALL CAPS TONE OF VOICE during an interview with Allison Williams of ESPN. And that’s in a game in which they WON! Giving the then #3 Ohio State Buckeyes their first loss of the season. By the way, Tom Izzo also gave us a health update on preseason All-American and future NBA first round pick Adreian Payne.

Paul M. Banks is the owner of The Sports, an affiliate of Fox Sports. He’s also an analyst for multiple news talk radio stations across the country; with regular weekly segments discussing:  Illinois, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Bears and Bulls on NBC and Fox Sports Radio. President Barack Obama follows him on Twitter (@paulmbanks)

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  1. I always have to defend the young people these days. They’re WAY more motivated than my cohort of GenX slackers and generally smarter too. Kids these days are producing some of the best music, for example. Kids like to read now, even if it’s on the internet. Hell, NERDS are cool…people specifically defined as being smart are now idolized. Also many of them KNOW how badly they’ve been screwed by the older generations.

    Possibly the old jocks are just angry because they lost in the long run?

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