The Man Who Wasn't There

By Ramzy Nasrallah on May 31, 2011 at 1:00p
57 Comments
Summer of 2001: A thousand years ago

If you're looking for happiness, the fifth floor of Nationwide Childrens Hospital in Columbus isn't the best place to spend your free time.  It will put a hole in your heart.  Kids aren't supposed to get this sick. 

They should be playing outside and filling the air with their screams and laughter, not lying in beds hooked up to machines watching and listening to their blood constantly churn and recirculate. 

Pediatric hospitals are generally unpleasant buildings to visit.  The good people who work with sick kids do everything they can to insulate them and their families from fully absorbing the gravity of where they are and why they, often times, often live there. 

They wear solacing uniforms with Big Bird and Dora the Explorer printed all over them, they decorate the hallways with brightly-colored drawings and they're generally smiling all of the time.  Those smiles are for the kids and their families, but they're also for themselves too. Smiling on the outside sometimes tricks you into doing the same on the inside.

Adult hospitals aren't quite as comforting, because they contain an element of inevitability.  But kids are different.  Kids aren't supposed to get this sick.  It's too soon.  It's not fair. 

Over the past several years I've spent a lot of time in too many pediatric hospitals, not on account of free time or personal tragedy - thankfully - but because of my other job that has required me to do so.  It's a job that often exposes me to the kind of heartbreak that makes days like the ones where a beloved Ohio State football coach resigns feel like a papercut by comparison.

The fifth floor of Nationwide Childrens includes several units.  One of them is Hematology.  For unprepared visitors, it's an uncomfortable place to walk into on any given day. 

Leukemia is a bitch.  Hemophilia is a bitch. It's worse if you're a kid.  You should never be exposed to that much blood, especially your own.  It's got to be especially heartbreaking if you're that kid's parents.

On Friday, November 17, 2006 I was on that fifth floor of Nationwide Childrens finishing up rounds with a couple of nurses when the televisions mounted to the walls all simultaneously interrupted afternoon programming for breaking news: Bo Schembechler was dead.  His heart, which had betrayed him for decades, finally gave in for good.

It's not as if Michigan wasn't on anyone's mind in Columbus already that week; the Michigan game was less than 24 hours away.  Ohio State was undefeated.  Michigan was undefeated.  For several weeks, there had been an inevitability that both teams would make it to their November 18 meeting with unblemished records and nationally ranked first and second respectively, setting up the biggest meeting in a rivalry defined by big meetings. 

On that particular Friday, the hospital scrubs with Big Bird and Dora on them were not seen in the building.  All of the uniforms that day reflected the only colors that were on anyone's mind.  The clinicians and visiting adults on the unit, all decked out in scarlet and gray, were shocked and transfixed to the screens.  Bo was dead.  The Game was one sunrise away.  I was surrounded by sick kids hooked up to machines.  My eyes immediately welled up with tears.  It was too much.

The children who were awake in their beds stared emotionless at the televisions, unsure of how to respond.  It was understandable: Bo hadn't coached in 17 years.  The oldest patient on the unit was 14.  They didn't know who he was.

Smiling is part of the uniform in pediatrics.  Comfort has to be a part of healing.  It has to be an integral component of treatment.  The psyche has an incredible and mysterious impact on the body's ability to be resilient; if it believes that all is not lost then there a better chance for a favorable outcome independent of the power of medicine.  Bo was dead on the evening of the biggest Ohio State-Michigan game in history.  No one was smiling.  Suddenly, everyone was out of uniform.

I'm not sure how many seconds or minutes went by after the initial breaking news report, but lost amidst the noise of Central Ohio television anchors reading their respective scripts over each other, there was the ding of the elevator bell and the sound of its doors opening and closing.  Then, Ohio State defensive back Antonio Smith walked onto the unit and immediately stopped to take in the news Schembechler's passing.  Seconds later, quarterback Troy Smith followed him onto the floor.

"They're always here"

Smith and Smith walked together from bed to bed, visiting each child who had previously been watching their blood exit or re-enter their bodies.  The conversations were quiet and seemingly oblivious to the numerous adult eyes that were following them around the room.  From a clinical standpoint, I was taken by how well they knew the drill with this patient population: Don't sit on the bed.  Try not to touch anything.  Smile.  Be positive; it's part of the uniform.

Tressel was the chief accomplice to his own demise.

Watching both players engage with each child while parents and nurses silently observed revealed an interesting dynamic: Normally, it's the staff that's doing the smiling.  In this case, it was the children, nervously laughing while the eventual Heisman Trophy winner listened intently to whatever it was they were telling him.

It was all a little overwhelming, with the clinic, the Schembechler news and the players all converging on the same little space.  I watched as Troy Smith slipped into a gown to visit one immunocompromised little girl who was in isolation, as if he had done so numerous times before.  Those gowns tie in the back; you're practically guaranteed to see a first-timer try to put one on like a button down shirt and then sheepishly take it off and put it on correctly.  Troy took his gown from the cart and pushed his arms through the sleeves without even thinking about it.

"On any given day you can walk into this place and find Ohio State football players on a unit somewhere," a nurse told me.  "You get a little numb to it because they're always here.  This is a little different, with it being Michigan week and that being Troy Smith.  But they're always here."

As Troy and Antonio finished visiting the final child who was awake, one parent approached them both with a request:  Her daughter was in treatment and fast asleep, but she did not want to wake her.  She was a huge Ohio State fan, and more specifically, a huge Troy Smith fan.  So huge that she actually had a red number ten jersey draped on the chair in her room.  It was her chosen decor.

Troy walked to the foot of her bed and watched her for a few seconds as she slept next to the whirring machines that were plugged into her, then looked over at his replica jersey draped over the chair where her mother had been sitting.  He then drew a Sharpie and wrote a personal autograph to her on the white number one of that jersey, then laid it down on top of her as a blanket while she remained motionless as her mother stood at the bedside with tears streaming down her face.  He would not be there to enjoy her reaction to discovering who had visited her while she slept.

I walked off the unit to the elevator bank while the televisions continued to recap Schembechler's legacy and hit the up button to head to my next floor.  Moments later, Antonio and Troy said goodbye to the staff and came out to the elevators, where Antonio pressed the down button to leave. 

Suddenly, a female patient who couldn't have been older than 13 came storming out from the unit, wearing her own Ohio State replica jersey and wheeling her IV along her side.  She glared at the two players, extended her finger at them and firmly said, "Tomorrow?  Tomorrow?  You go do what you do!  YOU GO DO WHAT YOU DO."  When she repeated her directive, her previously firm voice fell apart and began shaking.

A Righteous kill

The two-sided narrative of Tressel's demise is one of either clumsy or diabolical hubris.  He was eventually felled by his own cover-up that was seemingly constructed to be discovered.  Maybe he suddenly got sloppy as a deliberate, serial cheater.  Maybe he just trusted his players too much and finally got burned.

Two hundred wins for Tressel in Columbus should have been inevitable.

I simply have a hard time believing that the extremely troubled kid from Glenville who would eventually be the runaway Heisman Trophy winner would have been spending the hours before the biggest game of his life in one of the unhappiest places imaginable were it not for his head coach.  He was unaccompanied by any chaperone or team official.  He was there on his own, and it was not his first time.  Tressel was not at the hospital that day.  Not in person, anyway.

Similarly, I have a hard time believing that a walk-on defensive back - an accidental starter for only his final year of college - who had probably been watching tape of Chad Henne throwing darts to Mario Manningham, Steve Breaston and Adrian Arrington all week with his mouth agape would have taken the time to do so were it not for the manner in which the football program was run. 

This is a fact: Tressel ran a program that preached virtue, public service and self-reliance.  Most of his players bought into it.  Some of his players abused the hell out of it; players that he took a chance on against what should have been his better judgment.  Toxic, lost causes like Ray Small, whom Tressel repeatedly tried for years to wake up and change for the better even though he contributed virtually nothing to Ohio State's gaudy win total during his four years in Columbus. 

Small, a championship simpleton, still does not seem to realize that Tressel was out to help him for all of those years.  If Small hadn't been sleeping at study tables of flunking out of survey courses at Ohio State while he pretended to be a college student he would have been decapitating rabbits behind a barn in a Steinbeck novel.  He was beyond help.  Tressel did not care.  He probably still thinks he can help him.

Start with Tressel at Youngstown State and follow him through his final year at Ohio State.  He ran both programs the same way.  The best-run investigation into Tressel, regardless of its intent, will discover that very quickly.  Try to calculate the players whose life trajectories he directly impacted positively.  Try to quantify the number of lives he indirectly affected through tirelessly preaching the importance of paying forward. 

Try to wrap your head around the number of children, senior citizens, the GLBT community, the disadvantaged, common anonymous citizens and the Ray Smalls of the world that he used his position to help over his career.  This is the guy who just fell on his sword and removed himself from college football.


How difficult do you think it would be to put together a detailed expose on the virtuous things that happen behind Tressel's back because of that same, double-edged philosophy that produced the catalyst for his lie and resignation?  Do you think SI or anyone else would fund a six-month investigation?  I would be a willing leak.  The line of happy on-the-record sources with first-hand accounts filing behind me would extend for miles.  For miles. 

The sources for that kind of story would be no less reliable than the ones that Sports Illustrated relied on for its underwhelming investigative report that essentially a recycled version of the same article written by ESPN almost seven years ago.  They both dug for dirt and they found it.  Tressel's got dirt.  Send the same resources anywhere, anywhere, and you'll find something. 

SI spent months calling former Ohio State players, begging them for negative information, then begging them for referrals where they might be able to get the negative information they needed to fulfill the narrative that they were trying to best illustrate.  Their story included an anonymous source citing a fixed camp raffle from 30 years ago.  Apparently, this cut right to the core of Tressel as a cheater willing to do anything to win.  The inclusion of this reckless endangerment indicates that nothing was deemed unreportable.

They turned over every rock in Columbus, Youngstown and everywhere in between to find every last molecule of dirt that they could to further bury a man who unleashed an avalanche on himself by committing what will go down as the sloppiest beguiling in Ohio history: A cover-up undone by he who started it.

When the kids at the Nationwide Children's hematology unit experienced that Friday of their lives, Tressel wasn't there.  When Troy Smith received what couldn't have been the only $500 handshake of his college career, Tressel wasn't there.  When Terrelle Pryor figured that nobody would notice Ohio State's starting quarterback driving a fleet of vehicles with dealer plates, Tressel wasn't there. 

When Ohio State turned in its highest APR ever and graduated more football players than ever before, Tressel wasn't there.  When players used that shady tattoo parlor as a personal ATM for years, Tressel wasn't there.  He put his players in position to make decisions and was willfully ignorant to the likely prospects that some of them would choose poorly. 

He put his own standards ahead of the NCAA's.  He wrote The Winner's Manual and played by his own rules.  Tressel never had eminent domain over college football; the NCAA does.  It's not his game, it's theirs.  They have their own manual, and as far as they're concerned, it's the only manual.  Plausible deniability and willful ignorance have successfully maneuvered around that manual for years.  Tressel operated like this for years, up until last April.

So now he's gone.  Ohio State's next head coach will not graduate more players at the same rate that Tressel did.  He won't send more two or three-star recruits to the NFL like Tressel did.  He won't positively alter the lives of more men than Tressel did.  He will not raise more money for more good causes than Tressel did.  He won't win more games than Tressel did. 

He might police players more closely than Tressel did, but at what cost?  College kids shouldn't have bad choices removed from their list of options.  That might help with NCAA compliance, but it doesn't help anyone become a useful adult.  Players should be taught to make better decisions and face tougher consequences. 

They shouldn't benefit from a cover-up.  That nullifies the intent of the lesson that Tressel had long preached.  That's the height of hypocrisy, which can also serve as a lesson, but more of the cautionary tale variety.  Not exactly what you look for from your program steward.

He said years ago that he didn't expect to leave Ohio State on his own terms.  That wasn't prescient; no Ohio State coach over the past half century-plus has left on his own terms.  That doesn't mean they are ever forgotten.  Ohio has two NFL teams; one named after an Ohio State coach and the other that was started by him.  Ohio Stadium's address is 411 Woody Hayes Drive.  Earle Bruce lives in Columbus and is quite visible.  So is John Cooper.  Tressel isn't about to fade into obscurity.  He's just not going to coach anymore.

Back in the summer of 2001, Tressel addressed the Big Ten media and thousands of fans at the annual summer meetings by drawing on Lance Armstrong's book, It's Not About the Bike.  He gave an unrehearsed speech that I'll never forget; drawing upon the recent tragedy of Korey Stringer's unexpected passing, Adam Taliaferro's paralysis and his own mother's cancer treatments, and how each of those episodes had impacted him, his team and Ohio State at large. 

While everyone expected him to take the podium and talk about football, he stood there and bluntly told 2000 football fans that "it wasn't about the ball."  He could have talked about a core group of refugee players from the Cooper era who would improbably go on to win the national title 17 months later. 

He could have talked about Michigan.  He could have discussed the challenges he would be facing taking over a program in turmoil.  Instead, Ohio State's new football coach chose not to talk about football at his first official Big Ten football appearance.  Yeah, we all fell for it so hard.  Totally fake, right?

The Tressel era is now over, and many are left wondering what's going to become of Ohio State football because of how it ended.  The hole that Tressel's absence will leave at Ohio State will be far more gaping than the one created by any decline in football fecundity. 

Outside of the tattoo parlors and the car dealerships, there was a lot more going on behind Tressel's back that hadn't been happening enough prior to his arrival.  And none of it will make the pages over SI or the documents of any NCAA investigation. 

Despite the hasty epitaph that's been written for him, acting virtuously when no one is watching was never a empty directive from Tressel.  The number of people who beneifited greatly from deliberately secluded goodwill of the Ohio State football program when neither he nor the general public were aware is enormous.  For them, it's not about the ball.  It never was.

57 Comments

Comments

Denny's picture

I'm just glad you didn't finish with the hospital ward bits, because I'd be bawling right now if you had.

As stand-up a defense as we'll see, Ramzy. Thank you.

Taquitos.

AltaBuck's picture

Thanks Ramzy! I needed some perspective and you provided it.

I have been known on occasion to howl at the moon. - Crash Davis

BuckeyeChief's picture

Great post; I think I will honor the Vest as best as I can by wearing my Troy Smith jersey to every race I have the rest of the year. Like Spiels said this morning "either come out fighting or go cry in the corner".

 

O H

 

"Clutch has no boundaries"

Reens's picture

I O!

What a great f*cking column. I honestly can't remember the last time I read something so perfectly put. I'm almost speechless, so that's an even bigger kudos.

Thanks for sharing what so many felt but didn't have the words or story.

JozyMozy's picture

:(

Wonderful column. I wish more people cared about presenting this side of Jim Tressel's presence as the "head football coach."  

ih8rolltyde's picture

I fully appreciate Jimmy T for the man he is and the lessons he tries to convey. I will miss seeing the Vest patrolling our sidelines. Today sucks, but I will always be a Buckeye.

****igan smells like old water that hot dogs were boiled in.  FACT

Kyle's picture

I've refrained from commenting here or saying much outside of my best friends who are all die-hards like me for fear of saying something out of raw anger and emotion I would later regret.  This article helped bookend this awful experience for me and helped bring into perspective that a man should be judged on his life's work and not the highlights or lowlights. 
 

 

The man was more than a football coach who won a ton of games and lied to the NCAA.  His off the field charitable works, fundraising, and goodwill never made a SI article or the 6 pm Sportscenter but those are the qualities that made him a beloved part of the OSU family and a big part of the reason he will be so missed.  All things come to an end; its just too bad it ended like this.  Godspeed and thanks for the memories Coach.

No one person is bigger than a program or institution, but this one, like Woody before, will cast a long shadow and leave awfully big shoes to fill.

btalbert25's picture

This is a great write up.  I definitely have a hard time believing that in over 20 years of coaching this is the first cover up or lie Tressel has told, but I also believe there is no other man I'd want leading my favorite team.  College football needs guys like Tressel, there are far too few of them that's for sure.   I'm not going to give him a pass for what happened, but I respect and admire the guy so much.  I hate that he won't be on the sidelines any longer and it's a damn shame. 

Bobcat04's picture

I completely know the scenes that you've described here, Ramzy.  I worked at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center for 5 years, and even walking to the cafeteria was sobering, much less being on the unit.  Heroes are especially important to a child who has to fight harder than they should, earlier than they should.  

  Excellent piece, illustrating exactly why this one stings so much.  Whomever we get to stalk the sidelines next will win games, but in a larger context, it'll be so hard to fill Tressel's shoes.

Matt's picture

I'm not tearing up, it's just that there is a lot of dirt in the air in here.

bstadnik's picture

That was an amazing piece of writing. Sometimes you read something that someone else wrote that gets to the heart of how YOU feel, but can't seem to find the right way to say it. This is that piece for me. I never met JT, but this is what it's all about.

Thanks Ramzy for sharing your perspective on JT. Unfortunately this kind of story doesn't sell magazines or newspapers and will be ignored by the mainstream media.

Well done Sir!

Brian

Go Bucks!

BuckeyeSki's picture

Great work as always Ramzy.

Banned from BlackShoeDiaries since 2008. Crime: Slander/Defamation of Character Judgement: Guilty

Is it Saturday Yet's picture

I had to spend time on that floor a few years ago with my own daughter for ITP, nothing close to what those other kids are going through, but because it was a blood disorder, she was on that floor.  It was my first time in a situation like that and I was brought to tears a few times watching some of the volunteers working with the kids.  No child should go through that.  I didn't get to see any Ohio State players myself, but heard the kids talking about them.  They had been there recently and it left a very lasting impact and you could see it in their smiles.  During the Red, White, and Boom fireworks they wheeled most of the kids over to the windows on a walk way to get a pretty good look at the fire works where they also had the radio on, and when Hang On Sloopy came on all those kids did their best O-H-I-O...

I might have cried a lil' bit reading your opening.  Thank you Ramzy.

DarthSweaterVest's picture

Like Woody, the stories of Tress will circulate amongst the OSU faithful and we will know the real mettle of the man who led our boys, not just the distorted picture that a few unfortunate incidents paint.  I will support the Vest now and always and I will miss hs presence on our sideline.

chibucks's picture

great article ramzy...  i hate that the media loves the negative portrayals...  whereas these positive ones slip through the cracks.  ohio state is going to miss tressel and the positive influence he's had on these young men's lives...

Maestro's picture

Bravo

vacuuming sucks

Doc's picture

Damn you Ramzy!  How am I supposed to see patients with blood shot eyes.  Another wonderful article.  Coach will be missed more than any of us can imagine.

 

Doc

"Say my name."

osubucks10's picture

http://www.fannation.com/truth_and_rumors/view/287037-gruden-would-take-...

 

I guess we can speculate until December or Jan, but always an interesting read

Is it Saturday Yet's picture

(edit) shouldn't thread jack this post......

Bucknut-in-the-South's picture

Unlike Ray Small, TP, and a handful of others, you get it, Ramzy.  And you give as good as you get.  Of all the excellent articles you have written, this is unquestionably the best.  Thank you.

Matt's picture

Ray Isaac to Greg Dohrman:  you are a hack.

http://deadspin.com/5807082/

RBuck's picture

This is the best read I've ever experienced about JT. Thank you so much Ramzy. It's a damn shame that not one national media outlet will pick this up.

"It's just another case of there you are". ~ Doc (1918-2012)

mtodd_robinson's picture

Hey Brother - Well done as always, thanks for putting all this in perspective. Nels and I will raise a Sierra Nevada in your name this evening ; )

Todd Robinson

NW Buckeye's picture

Thank you Ramzy.  Will be forwarding this post to my closest friends. 

Hoody Wayes's picture

2011: TresselMania

Sgt. Elias's picture

"Okay -- I've got an El Camino full of rampage here." 

LeeNorthbrook's picture

Ramzy, you are a helluva fine writer. I enjoyed this piece more than anything I've read in quite a while. Thanks.

lhardeman's picture

I know young adults aren't always the brightest people, nor are they known for making the best decisions, but I can't help but be taken aback by the shortsightedness of the Tat-5 and Pryor in particular.  Why would you bet the hundreds of thousands or even millions you have the potential to make in the pros for tattoos and cars now?  Before they even stepped on campus I would bet that Pryor, Posey, and Adams knew they would be drafted into the NFL.  They were very high profile players and in the top 5 of their posisition coming out of high school.  Their path was set as long as they weren't injured or made stupid mistakes.  And now they've potentially cost themselves a great deal for a couple thousand bucks worth of tatoos.  It just doesn't make sense.  Now there is cause to believe that Pryor may not even play another down of college football.  He was already on shaky ground before, now if he isn't allowed to play he very well may not get drafted at all.  Again for tatoos and new cars to temporarily ride in.  I hope this fiasco serves as a wake up call for future college players to start thinking of the long term instead of the short term.  I also don't buy all this crap about them selling stuff to support their families.  I understand your family may be struggling, but chances are they were struggling your first 18 years before college and another four years wouldn't make that much difference.  Especially since they probably wouldn't have to support you much since all your meals, lodging, books, and tuition is paid for.  I don't agree with a lot of the rules of college ball, but when you decide to take the scholarship, you agree to live by the rules of the NCAA and you very well know before then that you aren't going to get any of the money from your jersey sells, so stop throwing that lame excuse out there.  Regardless of how much money the NCAA makes from your name, they are providing you with an opprotunity to not only get an education, but hone your craft so that you can be able to make a living playing football.   If you don't take advantage of that situation (looking at you Ray Small) you have no one to blame but yourself. 

Matt's picture

Jesus.  Kyle Kalis nearly decommitted and then Fickell talked him out of it before he even made it known.

http://blog.dispatch.com/buckeyesblog/

The next few months are going to be extremely bumpy.

Denny's picture

As scary as that is, it's our new reality. Fickell being a perceived stopgap won't help, regardless of how badass he is in terms of holding commits.

A little relieving to know he's kept Kalis on for now, but you're right - it's worrisome.

Taquitos.

Buckeye in Athens's picture

11W, getting Ramzy on the writing team was one of the best decision you guys have made. Wow, what an article. Seriously great perspective on such a good man. 

Jason Priestas's picture

He's pretty amazing.

We knew we were on to something good when he skipped the mandatory 11W Grammar and Punctuation course.

Storied Rivals's picture

This is some fantastic writing!!! Regardless of the topic you have a great skill. Coming from a former journalist I am extremely impressed by how intelligently this was written. Of course, you found a great way for us all to remember how truly great Coach Tressel was! Thanks!

zitaspo's picture

Thank you so much for this article, absolutely FANTASTIC work. I was beginning to need reassurance on who Coach T was. The arguments against his character are always so one sided. ESPN would never point out his charity work, I'm sure of that. I'll be promptly directing any OSU haters who give me sass to this URL. They'll never know what hit them. 

Go Bucks!

BigBuck44's picture

Holy $&%# Ramzy! Unlike Dorkmann's slop, this is Pulitzer Prize material. Thank you. I really needed this. You've given me just enough pause to remove the gun from my mouth and wipe the tears and snot from my keyboard. We need to find a way to turn the volume up on this article. Amazing work my friend.

Shock-G's picture

Simply amazing and succintly has stated what I have been trying to say the past day and a half. Bravo good sir, bravo.

dorony's picture

this is the true tressel. my family lives and breathes buckeye football and this article all made us tear up a bit. thank you so much for this story; just another confirmation of what a good father, coach and man tressel is.

Colin's picture

This article was excellent Ramzy. Does this mean you're a pediatrician? Just curious...

I've often wondered what bloggers do for a living...besides write entertaining sports stories.

NeARBuckeye's picture

Some day in the future there's going to be a documentary on Jim Tressel's time here at Ohio State. And I hope that they can get past the Tat5 and MoC, and focus on the MANY things that Jim Tressel did right, and what made him such a special person to not only his players, but Buckeye fans as well.

I find that today I'm not as upset about Coach Tress resigning as I am upset about his name being dragged through the mud. I love reading stories like this about Tressel and his players. It shows how genuinely he cares for his players and supporters. 

I posted this a few minutes before the Dispatch broke the story that Tressel had resigned, and the irony of it has not be lost on me. 

"At an art function several years ago, Csuri's wife spotted Tressel, who was wearing his 2002 National Championship ring. During their conversation, Tressel learned that the players from the 1942 team were never awarded championship rings and, within a few weeks, had personalized rings ordered for every living player from the team."

Jim Tressel = Class Act

There's no one else like him, and I'll be damned if we let someone like that go just because of other people's negative perception of him.

Whoever replaces Coach Tress has to understand why we all loved him. It wasn't all about winning ball games. 

#TresselForPresident2012

Sgt. Elias's picture

As Ramzy notes, the line is miles long. Is it coincidental that so many people have similar anecdotes and experiences? My Progressive Insurance rep and I got to jawing on football years back and she mentioned her late mother's passion for tOSU football. She went misty recounting the story of Tress returning after Mom had awoken from a nap (Chemo-fatigue, she was asleep during JT and a few players 1st pass-through of that area of the The James. Apparently the nurses conveyed to JT her fandom at this time) and he spoke with her alone for 45 minutes. She said that her mother referred to the man as "a Saint" after, but kept the content of their discourse confidential. She died about 3 weeks later. This from my insurance lady...

 

 

 

"Okay -- I've got an El Camino full of rampage here." 

Sean N's picture

I want to join the crowd in thanking you for a terrific read.  Well done, as usual.

Tressel's straitlaced persona is no doubt the main reason that so many outside the OSU fanbase are celebrating his downfall. It is understandable to a degree and I get it. But what bothers me so much is that people seem to believe that this image was all an act, or something manufactured in order to get away with breaking the rules all these years.  Stories like the ones you and your readers are recounting above (which used to appear in the media all the time) have been in short supply the last couple days. 

My hope is that when the dust settles in a couple of weeks or months that people (the OSU haters across the country, but also the die-hard Buckeye fans of the type found here) can come to accept the possibility that Jim Tressel was a man who could cheat a little bit at football AND do great works for charities, help his players grow into well-adjusted adults, etc.  Human beings are complex.

Judging by the level of support he still enjoys among Buckeye fans, there is no reason that Coach Tressel can't continue to make a huge impact in the lives of Ohioans: championing various causes, raising money for charities, visiting hospitals and on and on.  If this scandal forces him to retreat out of the limelight and abandon the good he can do out of embarassment or shame, that would be a real tragedy.

Type G's picture

Tress is a soldier. He fell on the sword for the University. It's gonna really sink in and hit hard during that first game when we don't see him on the sidelines. Sucks. If I had a time machine I'd lend it to Tress right now.

Jim Tressel forever!

"No time for love, Doctah Jones!"

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater's picture

Ramzy, this is top notch writing.   Thank you for the "come back to earth perspective" that I was so badly in need of this week.  

We will be singing the praises of Coach Tressel for years to come, I am glad I read this to confirm my gut feelings about the man he truly is.

Thanks again and thanks to 11W for staying classy.   I love this site and would be a complete mess without you guys right now!

 

 

buckeyedude's picture

At some point in the future, I would love to see Bruce, Cooper(yes, Coop) and Tressel honored at halftime of some game. Not this year though, obviously.

Tressel has laid the groundwork, in a POSITIVE WAY, for the dude that is going to follow him, Tat-5 be damned(not literally, just a FOS).

BTW, I agree with most here that this was another amazing peice by Ramzi. If Sports Illustrated had any balls, they would publish it in it's next issue as a rebuttal or counter point to that Idiot.

 

 

burkmon's picture

Having been fortunate enough to meet with Coach and Mrs. Tressel, as well as various players at charity events throughout the years, I can confirm all the above is true.  How it does break my heart that his name and the name of our University is being trashed.  True, haters will hate, but this seems to run much deeper.  How sad, that it is human nature, to marvel in the destruction of another human being brought down by his own hand.  Jim and Ellen Tressel  both have done so much for the University, the football program and the community at large.  Thank you Ramzy for getting the (true) story out about the character our beloved coach.  This needs to be sent to and published in many local papers as well.  I will be sending the link to friends far and wide.

 

WC Buckeye's picture

Not many people outside of the regular 11W readers (and with work like this, Ramzy, those numbers are going to continue to swell significantly - you are a true wordsmith) and the people of Central Ohio are going to hear about any of these things - just like with Woody - and if they do, they won't care. The sad truth is that a lot of our fellow citizens are lazy, mindless drones who simply accept the popularized (si.cum and EsecPN) versions and gory details without much critical thought; they quote these outlets' versions of events VERBATIM to support their blind faith in the cleanliness of the schools they support. This is especially and incredibly true in SEC land.

 

Let's not forget this when the inevitable bad news breaks at one of these institutions, and we all know it will. These coaches are humans who in some measure (probably siginificantly below JT's, but I digress) quietly do a lot of good deeds despite their failings and indescretions that become public. If we want to believe we're better than the others, we damned sure better act like it when the time comes to show it.

The only thing that's new in the world is the history that we have forgotten.

TheBestPlayersPlay's picture

What I would love to see happen, and I know it won't ...I would love to see fans, alumni, boosters ...etc. come together in such unison and in such clarity that they make it all but impossible for OSU not to re-hire Tress. It would make a statement as a community, as a school, as a people that we are not going to be bullied or assassinated by a few predators and the sheep that follow. It would restore my faith in sports & humanity, because as it is ...it is quite shaken.

Dramatic, I know ...and perhaps this pushed me over the edge of a precipice I had been toeing for some time, however I am getting real close to quitting all sports for good. Real close.

I'll never look back when I do.

JozyMozy's picture

re: quitting sports- I don't know about quitting forever and never looking back, but I do feel some of the same 'fuck it' attutude that you're talking about. With all of the talking heads spewing opinions as hard as they can, it gets to be so much that I have to step outside of the situation and sorta marvel at how asinine it all is- the outrage, the bitter opinions, the cries for blood over one of the more solid men in college football getting caught in the harsh glare of the NCAA sportlight of investigatory scrutiny. Ugh. 

MissinJT's picture

This article helps give me a little closure...helps me know that I am right about JT, and all those haters, scum d-bags, and media scumbags are so, so wrong. Tressel deserved punishment, but not what he got. An icon and superhero of our age just left the stage...and far too many people are gloating over it. 

 

Thanks Ramzy...you are welcome at our tailgate anytime bro

bamabuckeye's picture

How do we get this message out.  It could help the narrative of tOSU going forward.  Who knows how to draw attention to this on googlenews.  Who knows a Buckeye with deep pockets who could put this in an open letter... back page of dispatch, USA today Ect.

Tearing a Man down sells papers and gains TV ratings, but I think with a push to the media this message could find its way through.

Thanks, Ramzy for help the light to shine!

 

bamabuckeye

stewart371's picture

Thanks for a touching and honest article. I have known JT for many years and he is all that you say and so much more. JT played football with my brother, Carl, at Baldwin-Wallace. Last year when Carl was in the James for 9 months, JT was there holding my hand. The last time he visited, Carl had been unresponsive for 2 days. By the time JT left, my beautiful brother had his eyes open and I was able to tell him I loved him and I knew he loved me. He shook his head "Yes" and held my hand so tight it hurt and wouldn't let go. My beloved brother died two days later but I will always be greatful for JT for giving me that last night.

I love JT and am therefore biased, but I am holding out hope that Buckeye Nation will unite and demand reinstatement of this wonderful man as head coach. Football is only a game but JT works diligently to mold these young men into productive adults, although clearly he is not always successfull.  Most young men are quite convinced they are invincible and have no ability to consider consequences as a result of their actions. College kids selling their stuff. What a concept!

JT loves his players and the university. It is a sad day when the leaders of the university allowed the media and the NCAA to decide what was best for the OSU family.

Carla

TheBabe45324's picture

I hope this well written article makes it's way to Tracy Jones of WLW 700 out of Cincinnati.  He absolutely slammed Jim Tressel.  I liked Tracy's other show but this show is beginning to show his obnoxious side.  Pride comes before the fall Tracy.  While I am disappointed that Tressel didn't get out in front of this and hid things for his players I am in agreement with this article that you consider the whole body of someones work.  The Buckeyes will go on and Tressel will land on his feet.

 

 

 

BuckeyesBackOnTop's picture

Amazing job Ramzy! This is a MUST read for everyone who has taken the time to read the SI article, especially those who changed or formed their opinions about JT based on the laundry list of hasty allegations. Thanks you!

 

crover7's picture

He might police players more closely than Tressel did, but at what cost?  College kids shouldn't have bad choices removed from their list of options.  That might help with NCAA compliance, but it doesn't help anyone become a useful adult.  Players should be taught to make better decisions and face tougher consequences.

So our next coach will do harm to his players by insisting they follow NCAA regs? He will harm their abilities to become useful adults? That makes no sense at all.

A laissez-faire approach to discipline does not encourage kids to make good decisions. Getting suspended or kicked off the team is not the kind of “tougher consequence” that will pay off down the road for someone like Tyrelle Pryor. That's completely nonsensical. Was there a misprint?

Let's examine how Jim Tressel taught his players to "make better decisions and face tougher consequences:"

1: cheating is fine because everybody does it.
2: if people find out you are cheating, lying to authorities is the best way to avoid incurring consequences.

I wouldn't want that guy on my team.

 

 

rdubs's picture

Well as a result of this situation OSU implemented a social media monitoring policy.  How does babysitting players' online activity help empower them to become real adults?  They still have to register their cars with the university.  There is nothing wrong with making the players aware of their responsibility or emphasizing the importance of staying within the rules, but at some point you have to stop holding their hand when they cross the street and hope they'll look both ways before stepping out into traffic.