THE SITUATIONAL: American Gangster

By Ramzy Nasrallah on September 6, 2023 at 1:15 pm
jim tressel surrounded by penguin capos

Ryan Day is a man of conspicuous tendencies.

It's tough performing any job in front of a nationally-televised audience - we cannot possibly imagine the scrutiny. Think of your own habits at work, where as many as six people (!) in the world know you're prone to wordy emails and eating lunch too loud.

Which by the way, that's gross. Close your mouth when you chew. Savage.

Unlike you, Day has millions of strangers watching and critiquing his decisions. Start atop of his tendencies list - first, this man does not give up. He will line up his offense in a rushing formation and run a stretch play to the boundary even if there's an airplane actively skywriting THE BUCKEYES ARE RUNNING A STRETCH PLAY TO THE BOUNDARY above the stadium.

It does not matter who sees it coming, whether it's you with Doritos dust all over your chest or a middle linebacker effortlessly shooting the gap and blowing it up two, three, nine times in a row. Day will make it work until it works, damn it.

His steadfast, no-quit attitude isn't reserved for just for the offense. We saw it twice with the same fake punt that didn't work, and there's a 2-point conversion concept in the quiver that just can't get off without a delay of game penalty. Maybe we'll see it someday? I would bet on it.

WINNING is EASIER ONCE an opponent HAS BEEN mentally broken.

As the expression goes, if at first you don't succeed, keep failing at the expense of superior alternatives. That's straight NietzscheTen men in the box is something that can be overcome. Sounds better in German, probably.

His mindset - some may call it stubborn - was the essence of Game One. Day brought his 2022 Michigan game plan to Bloomington, where he was intent on proving that same meaningless point, albeit this time in an un-losable game.

The Buckeyes also stacked running backs and tight ends to buttress the left side of scrimmage, accepting that wet wings can't quite fly yet. This created a cascade, which created other tendencies.

Putting more tight ends on the field means more opportunities for chronic missed blocks non-wide receivers being targeted. Attacking middle linebackers vacate the middle of the field, leaving a hole where tight ends and/or Julian Fleming are commonly found in their routes.

Nature was in balance. Throw toward the blitz is smart quarterbacking. Kyle McCord is smart.

Yeah, his results were checkdownish - but the guys he found most often were wide open for a reason. You don't need an advanced degree to understand every reason why Marvin Harrison Jr. had two catches while Cade Stover and Fleming ate all afternoon.

Day has tendencies. You have tendencies. I have tendencies. New quarterbacks have tendencies. Indiana had tendencies too, which we'll address shortly. But Ohio State's head coach having such an obvious penchant for being stubborn is cautionary, and that's millions of strangers and other coaches are watching him perform.

no 1 takes himself out of the play, thank you no.1
Counter toward the boundary, and the grisly consequences of failing to set the edge.

Pretend you're Jim Harbaugh - hey, don't pick your nose on camera, it's hypothetical. Goading Ohio State's head coach into getting wrapped around the axle proving a meaningless point to himself (we are tough! We can run the ball! Grrrr!) tricks him into ignoring his unfair weapons on the edge and in the slot.

This wins the battle and the war. It's far easier stopping Ohio State's receivers on rushing plays. If they muffle their ability to shock and awe, their confidence drains while yours gains. If you need data, consider the Buckeyes' 2nd halves recently when they have declined to put up video game numbers.

Winning is easier after an opponent has been mentally broken, or as Nick Saban routinely tells his players go make their asses quit. The John Cooper version was win the surest way and it's possible to do both. Hit them with your mismatches, your aliens, your unfair advantages and your absolute fucking ruthlessness from the opening kick.

And then, maybe try proving that meaningless point to yourself. Earn the right to be stubborn. When you reverse the order and keep it close, you gift your opponent hope. Hope is dangerous.

Michigan was hopeless for a decade. It's in command now, and hey remember last year when the Wolverines hung around for a half while Ohio State proved it could, in fact, run the ball? Football isn't charitable. It's perfectly fine to hoard all the confidence on a Saturday afternoon.

And confidence is what the next two weeks are all about. Contrary to popular belief, the best thing about being 1-0 is not being 0-1. Welcome to Week Two! Let's get Situational - 


counting down the seconds to a cover
Sep 2, 2023: IU head coach Tom Allen watches the clock during the 2nd half against Ohio State. © Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

The Indiana Hoosiers had no intention of beating Ohio State on Saturday.

Tom Allen was absolutely giddy heading into halftime down seven to an opponent openly holding a quarterback tryout. His team had just gifted the Buckeyes an extra possession which had turned into points as time wound down.

Ohio State was getting the ball again to start the 3rd quarter. Smiling from ear to ear.

The Hoosiers were trying to solve their own quarterback position too, but they didn't allow either guy to do anything but burn clock. They did not attempt to lull the Buckeyes into a false sense of security before surprising them. It was a deception-free affair.

Say whatever you want about Greg Schiano, but he empties the playbook when facing Goliath.

Rutgers and IU are both historically bad. Schiano tries to win, often at the expense of losing badly. On Saturday Allen conspicuously strived for a cosmetic loss.

Harsh? Indiana showed no intention of trying to score points. The Hoosiers doinked in the three they got off one bad Ohio State turnover. They never crossed the OSU 39-yard line (!) otherwise, and they barely took shots at a secondary that was gruesomely exploited over its previous three games

In the 2nd half with a manageable deficit and precious time slipping away, the Hoosiers sustained back-to-back drives combining for 20 plays and zero points while eating up over nine minutes of clock. They didn't even flip the field - Ohio State got the ball back in favorable position both times. That's not Tresselball. It's cowardice.

Indiana's game plan was casual keep-away. Look how close we kept it! Progress!

The hoosiers did not take a single chance on Saturday. Their only objective was to run out the clock and keep the loss as cosmetic as possible.

It was an uninspiring football homage to basketball's four-corners offense, put out of its misery in 1985 when the NCAA mandated the shot clock, a rare W for an organization that accumulates Ls. This rule prevented mediocre teams from basically taking a knee and calling it basketball. It forced everyone to actually play.

Nearly 40 years later, the latest terrible NCAA rule favors packing more commercials into broadcasts while rewarding mediocre teams who waste time. Ohio State - which ran the ball all afternoon - held a 22-8 advantage in 1st downs on Saturday and not even a two-minute advantage in time of possession.

One team tried to score, however awkwardly, while the other did not. Scoring extends games. That was off-strategy for the home team on Saturday, which was content with a cosmetic loss from the outset.

The Hoosier offense will look different Friday when it faces Indiana State, but you can count IU reverting to four-corners again October 14 and 28 when it visits Ann Arbor and State College respectively, and Allen's priority becomes covering another gaudy spread.

That way he can show "progress" and hope IU retains a committed loser for an eighth season. But there's bad news for Allen in Boulder. Winning doesn't have to take forever, and it's about to be harder for losers to buy more time by wasting it.


The Solo

CONTENT NOTE: This season Situational enthusiasts are controlling the Intermission jukebox, and as is the case in your local tavern - nobody knows who's choosing the songs. You have the right to get mad. If this goes off the rails, good. We're taking a eulogistic detour this week.

My first experience with commercial bartending took place on the evening of July 13, 1990.

The setting: An outdoor concert venue known as the Capital Music Center in what I think might be Beulah Park today? I was 16 at the time. Yeah, wasn't exactly "legal." Mom, don't be mad.

This was the era when Jimmy Buffett swung by Central Ohio every summer. His live double album Feeding Frenzy was recorded on that tour, and I got my first taste of bartending at his Columbus show.

Buffett finished A Pirate Looks at 40 and was veering into Jolly Mon Sing, too cringy for me even by faux Caribbean couture standards. The timing seemed perfect for a pee break to get not-carded at the bar for probably the fifth time that evening. Teenagers are dumb, but they're not stupid.

When I got there, the servers were...all gone? Taking a break? Abducted? A dozen of us gazed helplessly at unattended beer taps, praying for a hero to return from an ill-timed cigarette, we suspected. After about seven seconds of waiting I decided to be that hero.

jimmy buffett's 1990 tour
Jimmy Buffett's 1990 American tour.

I slid over that countertop like it was the open window to the General Lee. Poured myself a couple of lukewarm ones and laid the requisite cash on the unattended tackle box beneath the counter, because while underage drinking may violate Ohio law, stealing was a crime etched into stone tablets by God.

But before I could hustle out of there, thirsty patrons began hollering orders. Two beers. Four beers. Three premixed margs from the same large vulcanized barrel that probably held orange drink for Grove City youth soccer teams on Saturdays. Three girls from my high school who had never looked at me before began cooing my name and pleading for drinks.

I immediately understood the power a bartender wields. Those girls never spoke to me again.

So I kept pouring. And charging. And making change. And earning tips. It all came to an end when the opening guitar riff to Fins rang out into the night, and I ceremoniously clocked out with pockets full of wet Washingtons, a drenched concert shirt and as many beers as my arms could carry.

The finale was Margaritaville. It features a steel drums solo. Let's answer our two questions.

Is the steel drums player in this video actually playing the steel drums?

Backing keyboards give steel drums additional depth in this effort, and the Coral Reefer Band's steel drums and keys were handled by Robert Greenidge and Michael Utley. Steel drums are absent from this video because this version is just Blake Lively and her stunt double from The Shallows surfing in Australia.

Did you see that movie? It has a bird named Steven Seagull. Incredible. Not marked for death.  I don't think there is an official Margaritaville video, but I also didn't strain myself too hard looking for one. VERDICT: No.

Does this steel drums solo slap?

Margaritaville doesn't rank among my ten favorite Buffett songs, but this is a eulogy. You play the hits of the departed. It would be in poor taste to disparage hit songs for becoming too popular, or to comment on any albums released after Last Mango in Paris. You pay respect today. Be edgy another day.

I will say without stuttering that A White Sportcoat and a Pink Crustacean is one of the five most timeless albums of 1973, along with Dark Side of the Moon, Houses of the Holy, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and Let's Get it On. And Margaritaville? Timeless. Should have been immortalized in the Library of Congress 30 years ago. Finally happened in April.

Buffett's final honor. Thanks for importing island vibes to my home state, Jim. VERDICT: Slaps

hey kids looks what's back in stock in all sizes

The Bourbon

There is a bourbon for every situation. Sometimes the spirits and the events overlap, which means that where bourbon is concerned there can be more than one worthy choice. We're still in eulogy mode.

Panty melter. You're welcome.
Spiced Rum Old Fashioned: Good on a boat or land.

The only issue I'll raise with Margaritaville is this unfortunate disclosure, emphasis added.

but there's booze in the blender

and soon it will render

that frozen concoction that helps me hang on

A proper margarita - worthy tequila, Grand Marnier or Cointreau, lime juice, salted rim, lime wedge - is delightful. I could argue margs necessary for surviving oppressive summer months. Some patriots even exchange them for goods and services (NSFW).

That said, frozen margaritas are an abomination. They shouldn't even be called that - it's my hottest champagne comes from a sleepy county in France, otherwise it's sparkling wine bartending take. Frozen margaritas are mediocre adult slushies, nothing more. Call them that instead.

That being said, I'm completely out of my depth with tequila. So this week to honor the man who made Parrothead a word, I'll focus on a different and more relatable lyric:

ran into a chum with a bottle of rum and we wound up drinking all night

Spiced Rum Old Fashioneds are pleasant and chewable. I use Scrappy's Bitters with Major Morgan (that's a promoted captain to you civilians). Sweet enough without simple syrup or a sugar cube. Appropriate for toasting a departed sailor.


starting QB with nearly no stickers on the helmet in the final game of the regular season, normal stuff
Nov 20, 2004: Jim Tressel gives Troy Smith a play against Michigan. OSU thrashed the favored Wolverines 37-21. © Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Ohio State was originally scheduled to play San Jose State this weekend for a cool $1.8M. Both schools agreed that wasn't a good idea, and the Trojans picked up the (USC) Trojans instead.

It left the Buckeyes with a non-conference hole to fill. On April 25 last year, Youngstown State filled it at a seven-figure discount, taking home $800,000 for the privilege of playing football in Ohio's greatest building on a fall Saturday.

That's more than the Penguins will take home from any of their other money games through 2027.

It will end up being about a fifth of their season revenue from a single afternoon's work. The deal was sealed at a time when athletic departments across the country were still digging out of a pandemic hole. The gap created by a canceled March Madness, no fans in stands and forfeited NCAA payouts created financial setbacks everywhere.

Youngstown has a little too much experience with struggling to make ends meet. This was a big save. Saturday's game was a huge step toward getting Penguin athletics solvent again.

Two months later Youngstown State's president announced his retirement. His work was done.

You don't have to believe Jim Tressel cut that deal. It wouldn't be the first time you've twisted yourself into an awkward position insisting Tressel didn't know about something. In a single pen stroke he saved his former employer a million dollars and gave his current one a windfall. Legend.

The coach who won at whatever he chose to compete in - and wherever he chose to compete - while leading with empathy and service delivered one final W to his Penguins, 22 years after he left Youngstown for Columbus. He wrote the book. Remember that on Saturday when someone complains about Ohio State's FCS opponent. The Penguins will lose, but YSU already won.

Thanks for getting Situational today. Go Bucks. Beat Youngstown State.

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