The New Midwestern Stoics

By Johnny Ginter on August 6, 2012 at 3:00p
Aw, why so sad, buddy?

Last year, Braxton Miller was thrust into one of the worst situations a true freshman Ohio State quarterback has ever had to deal with. His presumed head coach had been fired just two months before fall camp, the nominal starting quarterback and his supposed mentor was off the team, and his new head coach was the former linebackers coach. Also Jim Bollman was still a thing.

The only saving grace was that he was under the excellent tutelage of quarterbacks coach Nick Siciliano (whereabouts currently unknown).

And during the entire season, in which he was mismanaged, undercoached, and left directionless by a fired coach and a dismissed starter, Braxton Miller kept his head down and his chin up, so to speak. He didn't complain, whine, or make comments. He just went about his business in the best way he could, through ridiculous losses/gameplans where he was asked to throw all of 4 passes or run a QB sneak on 3rd and 24.

You could say that this outward levelheadedness is mainly because, as a freshman, he often wasn't allowed to express his internal feelings, but I prefer to think that Braxton is the heir to a noble school of thought that stretches far back in time, all the way to the ancient Greeks and the Stoic philosopher Zeno.

Believe it or not, this is actually the second time I've referenced Zeno on 11W, who I feel is a pretty handy example to use when throwing around larger concepts of futility, frustration, and in this case, good ol' fashioned Midwestern stoicism.

The Stoics believed that the path to true happiness lied within the ability to control their will at all times. In other words, external factors wouldn't influence their personal sense of right and wrong; their world was entirely shaped by their own actions.

In fact, Zeno and the Stoics were pretty insistent on the concept that a person's actions, not their words, formed the true basis for how to judge a person. This is not a foreign concept to any of us; "actions speak louder than words," "speak softly but carry a big stick," Calvin Coolidge in general, and your grumpy ol' grandpa are all pretty woven into the fabric of the United States, but especially the Midwest, and ESPECIALLY in the person of Braxton Miller.

A lot of big name recruits like Miller come from storied programs in Ohio with a long winning tradition and an extensive support system to sustain success. Huber Heights Wayne in 2010 was not one of those programs, at least in the short term. Barely making the playoffs as an 8-seed, Miller willed Wayne to the state championship through upset after upset, continuing a thread of putting his team on his back that had gone on throughout a season where he played injured through much of it. Make no mistake, Wayne was anything but a stacked team, and their success was largely due to the efforts of their stonefaced senior QB.

Cannot be rattled

Then of course came his performance last year, a tour de force of Stoicism through the worst season of Ohio State football in many, many years. He improved, said little, and set himself up nicely for 2012. Now he seems looser and more relaxed, but I doubt the fundamental calm, levelheadedness of Braxton Miller will ever change.

The cool thing about this is that Stoicism seems to be en vogue for the 2012 Ohio State football team. Carlos Hyde, a Florida native who had made some wave-making comments last year about playing time, has been talking about leading through his actions, not words. John Simon seems like he'd be perfectly happy if no one would ever ask him to comment off the cuff about anything ever again. Even notoriously spunky Kerry Coombs has refrained from donning the metaphorical raccoon suit and P-meter dashing into the air (football season pending).

And frankly, I love this. I love that Urban Meyer is now left scratching his head with a team full of stoic leaders on offense and defense, because his paragon of leadership was anything but. But what he (if he doesn't already know it), and maybe college football fans/observers as a whole, are about to learn is that there are different ways to lead. You can be a leader and a force without beating your chest and sobbing at postgame interviews. You can be a winner without yelling and being demonstrative. You can be a champion through a calm, collected force of will.

The philosopher Epictetus once said that a Stoic could be "sick and yet happy, in peril and yet happy, dying and yet happy, in exile and happy, in disgrace and happy..." In essence, you are the shaper of your destiny, and given the right mindset, there is nothing that can change how you perceive yourself. For the 2012 Ohio State Buckeyes, who face change and punishment, maybe a team full of Stoics is exactly what is needed.


Comments Show All Comments

Arizona_Buckeye's picture

Zeno and The Stoics sounds like a cover band of old guys playing in some seedy hotel lounge!

The best thing about Pastafarianism? It is not only acceptable, but advisable, to be heavily sauced

Doc's picture

Those guys Rock! \m/

CJDPHoS Member

The Official DDS of 11W

Doc's picture

No, No, No, Fido those are The STONES not the The Stoics, but both are old men. ;]

CJDPHoS Member

The Official DDS of 11W

Run_Fido_Run's picture

For the record, I like the pre-1982 Stones.  

Doc's picture

I'm a big Stones fan, even post '82.

CJDPHoS Member

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Nappy's picture

Those are some sick MS Paint skillz

I never saw a football player make a tackle with a smile on his face

Johnny Ginter's picture, and it took me 25 minutes


OSUBias's picture

How come he has no buckeye stickers? Must be a redshirt. Probably because none of the chinstraps in our equipment room could contain that beard.
Edit: Forgot to mention that I enjoyed this article a lot. I agree wholeheartedly with the different type of leaders.

7 yards and a cloud of dust is a beautiful thing

Rapping Bum's picture

The Rapping Bum likse to get philosophical at Zeno's.  It's at Pennslyvania and third, down the street from Harrison's.

Help is on the way.

larzdapunk's picture

The only saving grace was that he was under the excellent tutelage of quarterbacks coach Nick Siciliano (whereabouts currently unknown).

I was just wondering about this the other day.  Seriously, does anyone know what happened to this guy? Is he a "QB Coach" for another team (LOLOLOLOL)?

faux_maestro's picture

I don't believe he has landed anywhere yet. I can't imagine why.

Your mom told me she wants a Dicken Cidar.

southbymidwest's picture

I thought I read somewhere that he is at Akron with Tresel in a non-football capacity. But I can't tell you where I read that.

Johnny Ginter's picture

there are rumors on the internets that he's running some QB hustle at one of the dublin schools, but who knows

Ohio Guy in Jersey's picture

Wasn't Zeno's a bar in the Short North? Victorian Village?
Not the same Zeno?

Rapping Bum's picture

Yes, it is Victorian Village.  At the intersection of Third and Pennslyvania.

Help is on the way.

JJB's picture

I never understood how a racoon suit and flying were related. Cape and wing'ed hat, yes.. a dumpster diving mammal... no so much.