A Simple Faith In Success

By Johnny Ginter on May 8, 2013 at 2:00p

When you're a kid, everything seems like it's forever. A trip to buy groceries takes forever. School never ends. Sunday afternoons are an eternity between the purposefully ignorant of responsibilities Sunday mornings and the cold sweat last minute panic of Sunday nights. It's always forever until Christmas, and when it finally comes, it's always another forever until your birthday.

But then you grow up, and you realize that life is transitory, and things end.

Bands you like will eventually suck, you'll eventually cease to be cool, and your goldfish is going to be so dead in about two weeks.

It's a depressing thought, and that's why we look for the constants in our lives, because we need to make sure that we're holding on to something tangible, something that won't eventually slip through our fingers.

The Ohio State football team went 12-0 last season, and for the past few months I've been doing is trying to think of ways that it couldn't possibly happen again.

After all, that 12-0 record was a result of a combination of some luck and great individual performances at critical times, which, to my brain, means that it was an incredibly unlikely occurrence destined to never happen again anywhere ever.

What if Braxton Miller gets hurt? What if there is no second receiver option? What if the defensive line is overrated again this year? What if Tom Herman is distracted in what might be his final year at Ohio State? Who are our second and third linebackers? Really, Curtis Grant? Really? What if the offensive line suffers an injury? What if the safety play doesn't improve? Is Carlos Hyde a one year wonder? What if we lose to Michigan? What's going to happen when the eventual heat death of the universe causes total entropy?


The problem with this thinking isn't just how negative and anxiety-ridden it is, it's also that it doesn't give you time to sit back and enjoy it when things do go well. Of course, Urban Meyer doesn't have the luxury of doing either. The nature of his business dictates that he be a shark, constantly moving forward past both successes and failures with the belief that along the way you're getting things done and winning at the same time.

During the Civil War, Ohio General William Tecumseh Sherman wrote to fellow Ohio General Ulysses S Grant and said that, unlike himself, Grant "manifested a simple faith in success" that was akin to "the faith which a Christian has in his Saviour." That faith in his own ability to win was unshakable, Sherman said, and is what caused him to be great.

Urban Meyer and his fellow coaches across major sports, at all levels have that simple faith in success. I am both amazed and infuriated by this.

EeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeEvery fan everywhere always

I can think of once, once, in the past several years that I was utterly, unbendingly convinced that Ohio State would prevail in a big game that they were not 10 point favorites, and that was at home against Miami in 2010 (where they were 8 point favorites), a game that they won fairly handily.

Which is sad! Buckeye fans share the same curse that fans of the Yankees, Lakers, Manchester United, and the USA in general all have: expectations are so high for winning that we worry more about failure than we hope for success. We have nearly the opposite attitude that the players and the coaches of the teams we root for have, because we've become so attached to the idea of a permanent avoidance of failure.

Is it likely that Ohio State will go undefeated for the second straight season en route to a national title and eternal (read: 3-5 year) glory? No, it isn't, and every one of the concerns that I listed above is valid and could derail the season. Except for the heat death of the universe, that won't be for several billion years after Braxton Miller has exhausted his eligibility.

But with that said, we need to make an effort to enjoy the ride as it comes to us, no matter what our expectations are or how long we think we'll have Urban around to be awesome. The Purdue overtime win was a thrilling, ridiculous game that was a ton of fun in any context, bowl-ban year or not. Hopefully if a similar situation shows up this year when the team is 8-1, we can enjoy it just as much as it deserves.

Last story: last night I was watching the Reds game, all the way up until the bottom of the 7th when the Reds were losing 4-2. Knowing the Braves have an excellent relief corps, one of the best closers in the majors, and the Reds have been in a hitting slump, I said screw it and turned the game off.

Then this happened.

The point is, if you get too worried about all the variables and unlikelihood of things going well, you'll miss the walk off home runs in life. If you're good, you'll win. You just need to have a simple faith in success.

Or, like a poet once wrote, you just gotta believe!


Comments Show All Comments

BuckeyeBoyer85's picture

Choo! Has there been a better offseason acquisition? I think not.

Wayne Woodrow Hayes

bucknasty13's picture

James Loney for the Rays

Jack Fu's picture

That Sherman quote makes no sense. It is infuriating me. "Success," by definition, is a positive outcome. It is either something good that has already occurred, or the general concept of "positive results." You can't have faith in those things themselves. Faith is believing in something that has not yet occurred. Grant could have faith in himself. He could have faith in his process, in his men, in his plan. He could have faith that success would follow, that he would be successful. But he couldn't freaking have faith in the abstract concept of success itself.
If I were to encounter someone embroiled in some kind of conflict, and I asked them how they liked their chances, and they told me "I have faith in success," I would laugh in that person's face and say "Yeah, that's awesome. You realize there are two possible 'successes' at play here, right? 'Success' for you, and 'success' for them. You can't just have faith in 'success' itself, you dumb idiot." In any conflict, "success" will pretty much always happen. It depends who it happens for.
God dammit, Sherman, you're making me sound like a crazy person. WHEN DOES FOOTBALL START?

Basso Profondo's picture

Ha.  Great observation, most people blow right by "meaningful quotes" like that and do not examine the semantics.  I must agree though, is it football season yet?

onetwentyeight's picture

I actually love that Sherman quote because it totally highlights the difference between the type of person he was versus the type that Grant was. Sherman frequently suffered what we today would call nervous breakdowns or anxiety attacks. He graduated from West Point just like Grant did but led a undistinguished, fairly unsuccessful professional life both militarily and civilian-wise, marked by lots of failure, up until the Civil War. He was also famously reflective after the war and a lot of his writings on the aftermath show way more nuance and understanding than the policies Grant pursued as President. 
So obviously, I am a big Sherman fan and think that this quote totally makes sense if you know what kind of person he was. He was contrasting himself to Grant, who is the more typical "Type A", Leader - overtly confident and often acting unilaterally. The general historical consensus seems that it served him well during the War but not so well as President. 
But yeah, f*cking football already. 

Jack Fu's picture

I'm not saying the sentiment doesn't make sense (it's clear from context that his point was essentially that Grant had a more positive outlook than he did). However, the sentence itself - the words he chose, and the order he put them in - does not make sense. It feels like he chose his words for sound rather than meaning.

German Buckeye's picture

The words and order make sense to me.  Maybe I'm just dumb and not as deep a thinker as yourself.   I did fail at 6th grade sentence structure, so English maybe is not my strongest field of endeavor.   

joshsummers02's picture

I think when he stated that Grant "manifested a simple faith in success," I think he meant that Grant manifested a faith in his own success, not success in the abstract.  

"It's not that I'm so smart, it's just that I stay with problems longer."  - Albert Einstein

Jack Fu's picture

That's my point. He didn't say that. If he meant that, he should have said it.

German Buckeye's picture

I read Sherman's point akin to someone who approaches life with a glass half full v.s empty perspective.  Grant apparently approached his business as a leader of men with a positive start point, with the objective of success on the battlefield.  Sherman may have been one who looked at things from a more negative aspect, always worrying what might go wrong, and on the battlefield, that leadership dynamic can very well turn the tide if going badly.  Although both greatly achieved their aims in war, their approach to that "success" was very different. 

Hovenaut's picture

I list a quote from my favorite collegiate coach in my tag below.

I list a quote here from a coach would did well at the professional level, albeit before my time. His words I've read and remembered since I first came upon them as a kid:

"Gentlemen, we are going to relentlessly chase perfection, knowing full well we will not catch it, because nothing is perfect. But we are going to relentlessly chase it, because in the process we will catch excellence. I am not remotely interested in just being good."

- Vincent Thomas Lombardi

While Woody wasn't as polished as Lombardi, his passion for competition and victory ran equal. There's a set standard for the football program in Columbus, and it is embraced by those who lead it.

I'be remained a fan long after leaving Ohio because of that set standard, the tradition and the excellence. I live in Maryland now, surrounded by Terrapin, Mountaineer, Hokie and Nittany Lion fans who chuckle at my perceived overzealousness to my college football fanaticism.

But they don't know what I know......I know this team achieved much under duress last year, and that reaching similar heights again this year (along with a chance being eligible for greater success) is indeed a mighty task.

But they don't know who we have in Columbus, and they don't know - understand - the depth of passion fans like we here have for our team.

However things play out this season, we're blessed in our passion nonetheless.

Great write up Johnny.

harleymanjax's picture

I have faith that the Buckeyes are going to go on a march through the south that would make Sherman proud!

"Because I couldn't go for 3"

CentralFloridaBuckeye's picture

The Bucks can do it!  Just have faith!!