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Mitrou-Long’s honesty needed in all sports

Mitrou-Long’s honesty needed in all sports

On Tuesday afternoon, the news that Iowa State’s Naz Mitrou-Long would be out for the remainder of the season flooded the newsfeeds on Twitter and nearly flooded the eyes of Cyclone fans across the state — and probably even the country.

Mitrou-Long underwent hip surgery on April 1 and May 7 of this year. Less than a year of recovery, Mitrou-Long played in the first couple games of the season for Iowa State, before being sidelined with increasing hip pain.

The news was haunting to Iowa State fans, who lost their beloved head coach already this year. Now, the Cyclones have another obstacle blocking the road to redemption.

Mitrou-Long is by far one of the most well-spoken, educated and all-around nicest athletes I have ever spoken with. Our one conversation was brief — a 15-minute interview about another player on the team — but he was always very intelligent about the way he talked about basketball.

Rarely did he give me the jock speak; the “we give 110 percent, take it one game at a time, play hard every minute” kind of crap you hear from players and coaches who don’t understand why talking to the media is a part of their duties.

I always enjoy reading stories that have his quotes in it. There’s never one that is the same as another.

But as this news broke of him missing this season, outside sources and fans started speculating that Mitrou-Long was going to be a graduate transfer to another school.

That Mitrou-Long would be leaving Iowa State. Now, speculations like this can sometimes be sexy. It brings an interesting and dirty vibe to the forefront of stories. Mitrou-Long is one of Iowa State key starters. Losing him for a season is bad enough.

Losing him altogether would be detrimental. But instead of letting the story drag on and on and letting some ESPN source fabricate a “a source close to the team said” story, Mitrou-Long came out, and silenced it right away.

Wednesday, he had this to say: “This is how I feel about that. If you haven’t lived in Ames and if you’re on the outside looking in, there’s probably a reason for that. You probably think Ames is just a plain place, a bunch of farms and a little college community, but once you’re here and once you’ve been here for as long as I have, you grow an emotional attachment to these people, to this community, to this school and to Iowa State.

“To be a Cyclone is much more than people think and to everybody on the outside looking in, they don’t understand my relationship with this school and with these people and what it means to bleed these colors. For people to say that is crazy.

“I’ve dedicated myself. If I was thinking about transferring I would have transferred after my first year when I didn’t play a minute. I didn’t do that because I’m committed to this place and I’ll always be a Cyclone.”

I never really doubted or had the same speculation that Mitrou-Long would take his talents elsewhere. He never struck me as that kind of player or that kind of person. And to see this raw, emotional passion for his team, his city and for his school, it makes me wonder why more players and coaches often hush-hush this kind of energy.

And I’m not just talking about players and coaches touting their school for being great. This emotion was more than a “I love Iowa State because it’s awesome” kind of statement. It was straight from the heart.

The sports editor at the Iowa State Daily wrote an interesting column about why coaches rarely are honest when personal conduct issues happen on the team. When a player gets a OWI and is suspended, a coach never says “he messed up big time. He was an idiot for thinking it was something he could do. This is X, Y and Z things we’re doing to get him some help, but we’re doing ____ to reprimand him as well.”

It’s always this beating around the bush, he-said-shesaid that readers and fans get, until finally the police report comes out, and someone from the team leaks what happens. Then it becomes a PR nightmare trying to backtrack and make it look like the team was never covering up the fact they have a kid — a KID — that’s in some trouble and needs some help.

The bottom line is this: Athletes from 8th grade through the age of 40 playing in the NFL or NBA should take note of players like Mitrou-Long. He’s as unscripted as they come, and that might worry some PR people at the university, but it makes for such a more honest light in sports.

In a time of Deflategate, corrupt politics, scandals, domestic abuse, etc., we could all stand to see just a little more brutal honesty from the people we’re looking up to or even playing alongside.

It’s this kind of raw, unscripted emotion that can really help fans connect with a player and a team and make sports entertainment a little more real and a little more fun for everyone.

Stephen Koenigsfeld

Sports Editor

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