The Game of Bleachers

By Jake on June 1, 2011 at 1:00p
28 Comments
Littlefinger paid Cam Newton. It is known.

Writers across the country continue to spill loads of ink as the current Tressel Saga unfolds. That isn't likely to end anytime soon. While a coach resigning in disgrace, deserved or not, is a devestating blow to a football program, it's Manna from Heaven for those who write about the sport. Color me conflicted. And even when the issue blows over, the coaching search will keep tOSU in the headlines throughout the next year. As when a school as big and important as Ohio State steps a foot onto the coaching carousel, the whole damn thing starts to tip from the weight. That said, there is only so much that can be said about an issue before you start treading the same ground. How many times do we need to be told that Pryor is a lightening rod or that Tressel wasn't what he seemed? 

Now, you may or may not be as "with it" and refined as myself, but if you are, then you've been watching HBO's Game of Thrones as intently as I am. Nominally fantasy, GoT is a story of intrigue, political maneuvering, backstabbing, war, and a tiny amount of sex for the kids: like The Wire with swords and British accents instead of guns and ebonics. Two of the main characters in this drama, Littlefinger and Ned Stark, offer contrasting portraits of how to wade through a complex and pitiless world. I think the show offers us as Buckeyes fans a compelling dichotomy through which to examine Jim Tressel's legacy. I pose a simple question: Is Jim Tressel Ned Stark, or Littlefinger?

Lord Eddard "Ned" Stark is an honorable man in a society of liars, thieves, and sadists. Tressel, himself a sort of throwback, has much in common with the Lord from the North. Ned is a man of tradition. Keeping the Old Gods and and honoring the ways of his ancestors, he is a fish out of water in the cosmopolitan and complex capital city. Hailing from the frigid castle of Columbus Winterfell, he is called up to the big leagues by his close friend and confidante, King Robert Baratheon. Unfortunately for Ned, honor is more of a hinderence than a help in his new locale, and he quickly finds himself outflanked and hemmed in by the more practiced players of the "game." Yet unlike most of the nobility, and despite all of his missteps, Stark does what he thinks best for his family, his bannermen, and the people. Like Tressel, his image as a man of honor was nigh unimpeachable, yet bad decisions ultimately lead to a tarnished legacy. 

Lord Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish is a man who many know, but no one truly understands. Like Tressel and Youngstown State, Littlefinger came from humble beginnings as lord of a smallhold in the Fingers (hence the nickname), yet has risen to among the highest of positions as Master of Coin. Unlike Ned, Littlefinger is a master politician and holds a keen mind to go along with his prodigious wealth. Tressel, known as "The Senator" and rarely saying anything he doesn't want said, may have been involved in his own double-dealings. Littlefinger loves Catelyn Stark, Ned's wife, and many of the despicable things he's done over the many years have been in pursuit of her love. Likewise, it may be that Tressel's love of his university and his players lead him to forsake his integrity. 

Jim Tressel, after 10 years of coaching, is perhaps more of an enigma then ever. The only thing we know about the man for sure is that we don't know him. Is he a Ned Stark, an honorable man destroyed by a corrupt system? Or is he a Petyr Baelish, a conniving master of deception, pulling the wool over the eyes of every willing believer? The question of whether Tressel's motivations are honorable is largely irrelevant as far as the university and the football program are concerned, but the veracity of his integrity lies at the heart of his legacy. Tressel broke the rules. He did so repeatedly. He overlooked the tattoos, set up players with questionable jobs, and perhaps most egregiously, in a moral sense, he rigged raffles at football camps. 

Yet, as is the case with every story, the man himself is likely more complex than any characterization can encompass. It is not a mutually exclusive dichotomy we're faced with: Tressel as evil and manipulative con artist, or honorable but naive father-figure. The truth is, looking after the well-being of the players and the interests of the university is Tressel's job, and insofar as those two things conflict with the rules set forth by the NCAA, it is honorable for him to break those rules. Just as Robin Hood was more honorable than King John, it could be that Tressel is a tragic hero, fighting a broken system. Yet just as possible is that Tressel is just as cynical and corrupt as everyone else, but merely better at hiding it (or worse, since he did get caught). We never really find out what Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish's end game is. We know he's a liar, a cheat, and willing to sacrifice almost everything in pursuit of his goal. Yet we don't truly know what his goal is. The same can be said for Jim Tressel. We know he broke the rules, but we don't know why.

The fact is, as Deadspin writes, the system itself leads to a lose-lose proposition. Game of Thrones is also a story about a broken system, where no action is honorable and everyone is a villian to somebody. The NCAA and College Football is much the same way. While one world is fantasy and the other reality, one a "game" with life or death stakes and the other truly just a game, the question of integrity lies at the heart of both. 

28 Comments

Comments

Jake's picture

Other coaches in GoT:

Viserys Targaryen - Lane Kiffin

Robert Baratheon - Bret Beleima

Robb Stark - Pat Fitzgerald

Walder Frey - Joe Paterno

Tywin Lannister - Nick Saban

Renly Baratheon - Mark Richt

Stannis Baratheon - Mark Dantonio

Any more?

Arkansas Buckeye's picture

Kal Drogon - Ed Orgeron (or maybe Will Muschamp)

"It seemed like a good idea at the time."

AltaBuck's picture

John Snow - Luke Fickell

Tyrion Lannister - Steve Spurrier

Jamie Lannister - Urban Myer

Varys - Les Miles

Theon Greyjoy - Bobby Petrino

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

Jake's picture

Tyrion Lannister as Steve Spurrier = epic

AltaBuck's picture

someone needs to photoshop a visor on the imp for perfection.

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

Orlando Buckeye's picture

Jamie as Urban maybe quite apt.

Jamie is hated in the first book, but 

SPOILERS

 

Is a sympathetic character in the later books.

 

/SPOILERS

Is it Saturday Yet's picture

LMFAO! Wow.  I see Tress more as Ned Stark kind of ignorant on how to properly stab people in the back to get selfishly ahead.  

There are too many Lannisters.......

Fickell is Khal Drogo?

AltaBuck's picture

I don't think Luke is the type to think with his small head like Drago. However, Drago could certainly recruit considering the types of parties he throws. Stanley McClover would be attending for sure.

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

Is it Saturday Yet's picture

I was thinking more along the lines of intensity and motivation.

AltaBuck's picture

Mike Vrabel (New DC) aka Drogo?

You're right about the intensity and motivation. Drogo can give a pep talk and then back it up by kicking ass.

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

Is it Saturday Yet's picture

Did I miss Vrabel becoming the new DC?  

AltaBuck's picture

Just on my wish list.  I think Vrabel would be an awesome DC after Heacock decides to retire.

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

Is it Saturday Yet's picture

That would be cool.  He could probably recruit well.  I thought maybe I missed some good news.

AltaBuck's picture

''I would love to go back to Ohio State in any capacity,'' Vrabel said. ''I've got a lot of friends who coach there, gotten to know some of the players by working out there in the offseason. I would say that would be the only place I would probably coach. If I could get into coaching, I would probably look there first.''

http://www.arrowheadpride.com/2011/5/31/2199348/mike-vrabel-ohio-state-football

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

TommyWayne's picture

Robb Stark = Fickell?

The Hound = Hoke?

 

Is it Saturday Yet's picture

I thought Bielema could be the Hound.

TommyWayne's picture

I thought that too for a bit... Maybe the Mountain?

Jason Priestas's picture

THERE IS ONLY ONE HOUND: MARK HOUNDGINO, FORMERLY OF KANSAS.

Or wait.. I'm thinking of the Mountain.

Is it Saturday Yet's picture

Wait until we bust into the Whedonverse or LOTR........

741's picture

I had to google that shit... Buffy the Vampire Slayer dude? Really?!

Is it Saturday Yet's picture

It's more about Firefly and his work in comics and hopefully the awesome job he does with the Avengers movie.

Hootie159's picture

I don't know if anyone else has read at least the first book (and so knows exactly what will happen) but the comparison of Ned Stark and Jim Tressel is, and especially will be, PERFECT.

I daresay the athletic department as a whole makes a good comparison with Littlefinger.

Hopefully Fickell will be Robb Stark...

Jake's picture

Hopefully Fickell will be Robb Stark...

You don't like Fickell, I guess?

Is it Saturday Yet's picture

Derp comment removed......

Hootie159's picture

Quite the opposite...

 
KenK's picture

Jake, I don't know anything about GoT, but I'm going with Tressel=Ned Stark. Sean Bean is a true badass.

Johnny Hooker: "He's not as tough as he thinks". Henry Gondorff: "Neither are we".

RoweTrain's picture

007 is better than 006 in my opinion.