The question everybody’s asking is when Ayo will return. The question everyone should be asking is what Ayo will return.
Trauma changes people. It’s a fact of evolutionary biology.
Jason Heyward & Dickie Thon didn’t recoil from inside fastballs because they’re cowards. After he got hit in the face with a fastball, Heyward’s brain sent him a signal based on that learned trauma. Thon’s beaning changed the way he saw fastballs because an orbital fracture changed his depth perception.
It’s possible that Ayo will be exactly the same old Ayo when he returns, but it’s not likely.
Tiny physical changes can alter the perception, and consequently the muscle memory, that he’s developed since infancy. And then there’s the subconscious psychology of his trauma. The PTSD.
Again, Ayo doesn’t need to know that he’s been traumatized to be changed by the trauma. He can have all the confidence in the world, and still recoil, unconsciously, from contact.
We haven’t heard much about Ayo’s treatments, except that Brad Underwood used the word “doctors” rather than the word “doctor.” We can assume an otolaryngologist is involved. We should hope ophthalmology wasn’t necessary. But what about a Bad Memories doctor? The National Institutes of Health have studied drug-induced amnesia for at least a decade. If Ayo’s brain is rendered incapable of learning from his trauma, he’d be better off. You’d want Ayo to know that he can drive to the bucket without a tiny part of his brain telling him he’d better not.
If you’ve heard Brad answering questions about Ayo’s treatment, you’ll know it’s not worth asking whether any particular therapy is involved.
It’s interesting that you & I knew about Ayo’s nose before Trent Frazier did. Or anyone else on the team for that matter. You’ll recall that Brad was nearly giddy after his first loss in 8 games. Trent seemed sincere in saying “he’s fine.”
They didn’t see the play from the angle we did. They didn’t see the replay. They didn’t see the Breslin Kliegs casting an unusual shadow from a swelling bulge.
I’ve attended zero games this season, so I’ve had little to write about. You saw it yourself. We’re in the same boat. There’s nothing I can tell you that you didn’t already know.
Because Illini Report is written for people who watched all the games and know all the details, the only thing I can share that’s worth your time is something I saw but you didn’t.
You’ll notice, in the writing and questions from the Illini media pool, that journalists instinctively work this way. They ask about something that happened off camera, on the sidelines. Perhaps it involved reserve players on the bench, or coaches yelling in the tunnel. It’s something only they can tell you. It justifies the travel expenses. It’s the reason to read them, no matter whom else you read.
I can write about Ayo’s nose not just because I saw it on TV, but because I had my own nose smashed into my face, during a game.
It was the day Mitchell Brookins caught that long TD and Illinois beat Iowa 33-0. I headed the soccer ball, watched it sail away, and then saw Aaron Libman’s face as his tooth penetrated my nose. Dr. Robert K. Kuramoto fixed it surgically, but my nasal passages still keep me awake too often.
I was my team’s best player when that happened. Then everything fell apart. I was never able to slide-tackle again. I quit soccer, and started playing football, where they give you a facemask.
SORRY NOT SORRY
Let’s not pretend that Tom Izzo didn’t send his goons to pester, poke and ultimately batter the Illini. If Mady Sissoko weren’t playing to foul, he’d have defended Ayo’s drive with both arms straight in the air. That’s how the game is coached these days. So either Izzo is a lousy coach, or Sissoko hammered Ayo with both arms because that’s what he was told to do. (You’ll find, if you spend a week researching everything this author/commentator/social media participant has ever written, that superlatives about B1G coaches mention Beilein and Bo Ryan. It’s not an error of omission.)
If you’re like me, you were already frustrated — well before Ayo’s clubbing — from watching Sissoko bother Kofi Cockburn. There was nothing subtle about it. That’s why Kofi eventually snapped, and swatted Sissoko’s arm away — a moment which gleeful sadists among the Spartan fandom cited in bothsidesing the violence.
Brad’s spent a good portion of the past two weeks talking about Kofi’s patience despite the incessant pounding he puts up with. So far, nobody at conference headquarters has noticed.
If the Big Ten cares, it’s done nothing to deter the bludgeoning. So MSU continues to bludgeon. In the Spartans next game, Chris Holtmann watched in horror as Josh Langford tackled Duane Washington to prevent a game-tying shot.
Slo-mo replay showed the Spartans did it again on the subsequent play. Why allow a team to score if you can just knock them to the ground instead?
The bothsidesers will tell you that everyone does it. And there’s nothing anyone can do about it. And besides, what’s the big deal?
And then there’s the segment of the Michigan State fanbase that doesn’t merely rationalize Izzo’s brand of tackle basketball.
They celebrate it.