Earlier today the Eleven Warriors guys posted Drew Sharp's Detroit Free Press piece in the BUCKSHOTS section and after reading it once I had to read it again. And again. And a fourth time. As passionate fans of whatever program or sports organization we wish to support we often find ourselves on the defensive side of a debate, typically accompanied by some level of personal bias, but sometimes you simply disagree with what someone has to say. For me, this would be one of those times.
Sharp, careful to add "crooked ways" within the headline of his story, decided to take it upon himself to declare Ohio State the one program in the Big Ten Conference willing to be unethical enough to compete on a national stage. He focuses on the fact that the school honored the 2002 national title team, Jim Tressel included, last Saturday between the first and second quarter of The Game and he mentioned Urban Meyer by name only once within his 534 chosen words, but this article was aimed directly at Meyer or - at a minimum - aimed at The Ohio State University because of their new head coach.
There are a couple of things that have stuck in my mind as I've continuously tried gauging the overall outlook of the fan base as it relates to the Tressel Era and how they (we) choose to think of it:
- Most everyone agrees what he did was against the rules, 'illegal' or not, but never found a place in their heart to store significant hate towards the man because of the things he brought to the table over a decade's time, football and otherwise.
- The above personal decision was made far easier with the hiring of Urban Meyer. Afterall, I believe the fan base wants to remember the Tress we knew for ten years, minus the puzzle pieces the NCAA discovered in late 2010.
With those two thoughts in mind, let's go back to Saturday's celebration. Those not connected to the football program by alliance or fanhood despise what they saw on their televisions (or live, in Sharp's case) as players from that 2002 championship team hoisted Jim Tressel on their shoulders to the approval of 105,000-plus within Ohio Stadium. They don't understand how a fan base, much less an entire institution, can celebrate a man who brought a "Failure to Monitor" upon their historically successful football program.
What they fail to realize, in my opinion, is that the hiring (and subsequent success) of Urban Meyer has allowed us all to look forward to likely successes while looking backwards at the recent success that brought the program to where it is today rather than the downfalls that took the program to where it landed in 2011. Last year was a season of epic frustration for all involved, inside and outside of the lines on the field, but now serves as a simple bridge between (potentially) two successful eras of Ohio State football.
The Buckeyes were 11-0 going into Saturday's first half celebration.....as fans, what is there to dwell on?
According to Drew Sharp, plenty.
I've maintained this for years, much to the chagrin of Michigan fans fooling themselves that the Wolverines and Buckeyes are competitive equals. For better and worse, Ohio State's actions last week reaffirmed why it's the Big Ten's only reasonable shot at restoring national credibility.
The Buckeyes have no conscience.
Pardon me? Exactly what does Saturday's celebration, or willingness to do so, have to do with being competitive equals? The university didn't know of Jim Tressel's actions (or lack there of) as they unfolded behind the scenes. Neither did Urban Meyer or the twenty-five commitments who pledged their services to his program in the 2012 recruiting class. I simply don't understand the point Sharp is trying to make.
But the more important countdown begins after tonight's (B1G Championship) game when the Big Ten finally can get the team it really wants on this stage -- the Buckeyes.
So now it's a conspiracy?
Sharp's holier-than-thou article lays direct aim at a university that he chooses to call, "ethically flexible." Would he have taken the time to opine had Ohio State kept Luke Fickell in charge and posted a 7-5 record this season? What if the Buckeyes had dusted off another name from coaching's unemployment line and gone anything but 12-0 two seasons after dismissing Jim Tressel? Certainly not.
His post wasn't aimed at the university at all, in spite of the adjectives he chose to use to describe it. It wasn't aimed at Jim Tressel, the players who lifted him to their shoulders last Saturday or the fans who cheered him. His cross hairs were directly pointed at Urban Meyer and his still-unblemished record as head coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes. They were pointed at the success of the future, the potential of another dominant decade of Ohio State football and the position the conference is now in to play catch up. Again.
He started his article with a tone of astonishment: "It was a surreal moment, but it underscored with absolute clarity Ohio State's football mission statement."
He was pretending to describe Saturday's celebration of a former Ohio State football coach returning to the stadium he ruled for a decade before a fall from grace. Instead it was the perfect description for the 26-21 cap put on a perfect season by a man who will change the competitive landscape of an entire conference.
He was right in one sense - the Buckeyes are indeed the Big Ten's only reasonable shot at restoring national credibility, but for reasons Drew Sharp was unwilling to admit in print.