Saturday, June 04, 2011

The tears are so yummy

Hokay, so ...

I'm not gonna say I restarted my blog just to write about CheatyPants McSweatervest and the hilarious shenanigans at Ohio State, but I'm gonna say I didn't, either. This whole schaudenfreude-tastic story has been my Jelly of the Month Club -- it's the gift that keeps on givin' the whole year.

At this point, there's not a whole lot of in-depth reflection on Tressel's career and blatant disregard for NCAA rules that hasn't already been covered ad nauseum by better writers than me. But I've definitely had some thoughts, and hey, this is my freakin' blog.
. . . . .

I remember the disappointment of 2002, watching Michigan come up juuuust short of crushing Ohio State's dream of playing in the National Championship Game Presented by Edward Rife and Jack Maxton Chevrolet. I remember the frustration of 2005, when a stupid regular season ended in even stupider fashion with a last-second loss to OSU.

2006 ... ugh. Just thinking about 2006 puts me into a where-are-my-pills depression. That was THE year when everything was aligned for a national title. The leadup to The Game that week in Ann Arbor ... man, I can't even describe it. And then Bo Schembechler died literally 24 hours before kickoff. Seriously, what are the odds? I've never been so hyped, anxious, sad, scared, etc., for a football game. It (and by "it" I mean "the best game I've ever seen") went the wrong way -- and Michigan hasn't really been the same ever since.

The 2007 game was weird and painful, with Chad Henne's arm dangling by a thread, Ryan Mallett incapable of throwing a ball within 5 yards of a receiver and the offense finishing with something atrocious like 91 total yards while Ohio State just ran into the line over and over and over and over because it didn't matter. Michigan finished 8-4 and Ohio State played in another national title game.

(The last three years never happened, obviously.)

Mike Hart, Chad Henne and Jake Long were great players -- some of the greatest ever at Michigan. They never beat Ohio State, and that will always be a footnote on their otherwise-spectacular career resumes. Lloyd Carr's popularity level during the nothing-to-see-here era in Tressel's Used Car Emporium dipped from "not quite Bo but very good" to "hurry up and retire so we can stop losing every meaningful game."

But in the 10-year stretch that saw Tressel become a god in Columbus by going 9-1 in The Only Game That Really Matters, there wasn't a single win over Michigan (or probably anyone else) that didn't involve somewhere between one and a gazillion players who received improper benefits and shouldn't have been playing.

This is the point where I should say the following: Tressel was a better coach than Carr, a better delegator than Rich Rodriguez, a better package of bible thumping and program managing than anyone else in the Big Ten. That's the main reason Ohio State has been awesome for the past decade.

But it helps a LOT when you're ignoring the rules everyone else has to play by, when you're running a professional program against college programs and can promise recruits things nobody else can (and then get them with no repercussions). Maurice Clarett, Antonio Pittman, Santonio Holmes, Troy Smith, Thaddeus Gibson, Terrelle Pryor, Mike Adams and literally countless others were living the high life and no doubt promoting it to every recruit who made it on campus. People knew (just google Mark Titus or Club Trillion). The concept of a level playing field ceased to exist the moment Tressel took his holier-than-thou facade from Youngstown (which was leveled with major NCAA violations right after he left) to Columbus in 2001.

And it's not just about Michigan -- I'd be slightly less giddy but still equally smug in watching the last few months of hilarity unfold if I were unfortunate enough to be a fan of (insert occasional Big Ten contender here). I know "fair" went out the window in kindergarten, but seriously. No fair.

I don't have even the slightest bit of empathy for Tressel, Ohio State, the mouth-breathing/chest-beating fans or anyone else who contributed to OSU's recent dominance. They made their bed and enjoyed their silky, improper sheets for what seemed like a hell of a long time, and if there's any justice in the world, they'll get to sleep in their own crap for just as long.

Brian at MGoBlog wrote a great piece on the nuclear end of the whole "Senator" act, with the main premise being that Tressel is the warden from Shawshank Redemption. Definitely an apt comparison.

But to me, Tressel is this:

He's the televangelist who pounds bibles by day and solicits prostitutes friendly car dealers by night, then gets caught and cries about a "lapse in judgment" and spouts his Christian values, then gets caught again (except even worse) as we realize the entire thing was a sham, a facade, whatever you wanna call it.

And like a cult, the Ohio State "brotherhood" is so brainwashed that there are still people rallying outside Tressel's assuredly beautiful, pricey home in Upper Arlington with signs saying "You're in Our Prayers." Of people who need prayers, Jim Tressel is low on the list, regardless of how many times he beat Michigan and took OSU to the BCS bank.

The pathetic part: I bought it, and so did everyone else except maybe the tinfoil-hat-wearing subsection of Michigan supporters. I'd tell people, "I hate Ohio State but gotta respect the way Tressel wins and runs a clean (lol) program." And yet there was so much we ignored or brushed off as a rogue booster (Youngstown), a crazy mofo (Clarett), a needy college kid (Smith), a guy who got bad advice from his car salesman (Doug Worthington). Everyone should have seen it a long time ago -- OSU compliance did.

But hey, if it hadn't gone as ridiculously far as it did, we probably never would have found out about it and Tressel would still be rigging raffles, watching his players drive around in loaner Escalades and kissing babies to ensure himself a statue outside Ohio Stadium and a cushy, idolized retirement.

Then again, he'll probably still get those things (at least the idolizing and maybe the statue) by preaching from his doorstep with quotes like this while the truck drivers gather 'round and smash their beer cans:
"Don't forget: Nov. 26th we're going to kick their ass!"
Maybe. It'll be a little tougher when they're actually playing by the rules with a lame-duck coach and no scholarships to give out (and yes, they're going to get absolutely hammered).

So yeah ... I'm kinda enjoying this. I'm also kinda pissed when I think about the Hart/Henne/Long era and the things that could should have been.

My emotional pie chart would look something like this:
  • 60% glee (30% amusement at OSU becoming a national laughingstock, 30% satisfaction knowing that their decade-long run of awesomeness is D-U-N).
  • 30% anger thinking of all those painful, season-ruining losses that were at least in some part due to cheating.
  • 10% curiosity at (a) what program-cratering news will come next and (b) exactly how devastating the penalties are going to be.
Realistically, the worst has probably already come out. But between the ongoing "lol Terrelle Pryor's driving what?" investigation, Pryor's amazing ability to get even his own fans irate, the bottomless pit of embarrassing (to them) information and the NCAA's August hearing in which all this will be rehashed in glorious detail, there'll be plenty of sweet, sweet Buckeye tears to be tasted over the next three months.

After a decade of cheating, I figure that's a decent start toward karmic justice.


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