The reason I (still) really like Jim Tressel
by Colin Gawel
Part 1 - The backlash to the backlash.
Jim Tressel botched it. It’s undeniable. In an in-explicable lack of good judgment, the head tackle football coach of my hometown Ohio State Buckeyes went from one of the good guys to a hypocritical villain in less than 24 hrs. (Which is still 23 ½ hours longer than it took Lebron James to destroy his reputation with “The Decision.” Bron Bron only needed 3 seconds and 7 words to dismantle his entire kingdom. Talk about efficiency!) Anyway...back to tattoo gate.
I’ve reviewed all the facts, and it doesn’t look good no matter how you spin it. To make a messy situation much, much worse, Yahoo sports reporter Dan Wetzel dropped his story with the precision of a laser guided bomb into a slow news cycle. If he breaks the story two days earlier, Tressel gets bumped down by NFL labor and the Lebron’s struggling Miami Heat. Two days later and its more NFL Labor and March Madness. As it was, on Wednesday March 9th, the fall of Jim Tressel was the only game in town and it wasn’t pretty.
National sports programs such as Mike and Mike, Colin Cowherd, Jim Rome, and even the local host in C-Bus, Bruce Hooley, spent most, if not all, of their programming deriding Coach Tressel as a liar and a hypocrite. I know this because I listened to most, if not all of it. I guess I felt it was my duty to tough it out through it all and show some solidarity. If I listen when we win, I need to listen in the tough times too. Besides, I’ve been known to have some fun at Rich Rod’s expense, (Who didn’t?), and now it was my school’s turn to feel the cruel sting of the (tongue) lash. Thank you, sir. May I have another?
Note to Buckeye Fans: Please spare me the whole “the media HATES Ohio State” nonsense. America loves itself a fall from grace, and this was King Kong falling off Lincoln tower into the Olentangy River in real time. It had “buzz,” as they say. The media get paid to give the people what they want and keep those ratings a bumpin. It’s not personal. It’s just business.
Still nobody enjoys his alma mater’s reputation being chained to the back of a pickup truck, dragged through the mud, and then strung up and beaten like a Federale Piñata in Juarez at Sundown.
But, in fairness to the anti-Buck-nutz, we did have it coming with our whole THE Ohio State bit, and the Senator’s “Winner’s Manual,” and that sham of a press conference, and so on and so forth. Even more, we have committed the cardinal sin of winning. Nothing gets people bent out of shape like domination, and back-to-back BCS Bowl wins is tough to beat. I haven’t read the “Winner’s Manual” yet, but perhaps the next edition could have a chapter called, “Losers Really, Really Hate Winners.”
Put it all together and the conditions were ripe for a major backlash. A perfect storm even.
OK. That’s the bad news. The good news is that every backlash itself has a…backlash!
So as of 3:42 a.m. EST Friday March 12th, I am initiating the backlash-to-the-backlash phase of the media frenzy (and cracking this beer to celebrate).
Why I (still) really like Jim Tressel
A true story starring Jim Tressel and me.
It was just after 6 a.m. on an extremely cold December morning. I was opening up my small coffee shop, and on mornings like this, the parking lot isn’t exactly bustling. Even the Mc Donald’s drive thru was empty, which was unusual yet comforting. Most mornings I am condemned to stare out the windows of my vacant coffee shop only to see the McDonald’s drive thru lined with cars 10 deep to get their cup of morning Joe. As least if we both are dead, I’ve sort of battled them to a draw. Which kind of feels like a victory for small business. (See Gordon Gee re: Michigan, 1992)
Anyway, out of the darkness, headlights pull up to the door of the shop and some shadowy looking figure starts loading something out of his back seat. This sort of activity is actually fairly common at this hour as I’ve noticed crazy people love to do things when other non-crazy people aren’t awake. Add that to the fact that I am located next to a post office and all kind of lunatics are hanging around to buy a stamp or mail a package or whatnot.
The person struggles to open the door of the coffee shop as he is carrying 3 extremely large bags of something. I probably should have helped, but I was sort of secretly wishing he would leave me alone. I had just unlocked to door and was hoping to glance over the sports page before dealing with customers.
The person dropped three large bags of coffee on the counter and said, “Hold on, I’ve got two more.” It was Coach Tressel.
He lives in the area and gets his haircut nearby, so I wasn’t completely shocked to see him. On occasion he would stop through for some coffee and we might have a little chit chat about something non-football related. I always like to ask him about the Cavs. He is a big fan, and you can tell he is excited that somebody has asked him about something other than his job. Can you imagine how boring that would be? Talking about your job all day to strangers?
So he comes back in with two more bags and says, “Someone sent us all this coffee, and there is just no way we can use it. We are leaving for Arizona in an hour, and I didn’t want it to go to waste. I thought maybe you could use it?”
“Um, OK, sure,” I stuttered. “Geez. Thanks. Thanks a lot.” Then, as if he was going to draw up a play for me, I asked, “What do you want me to do with it?”
Coach said, “That’s up to you. I’ve got to run or I am going to miss the plane.”
As he pulled away, I realized that Jim Tressel, the head coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes, personally loaded his car with 25 pounds of coffee and drove to my shop on a bitter cold December morning before leaving to coach in the National Championship game. He could have thrown it in the trash or had an assistant bring the bags over or not done anything. But no, he brought them himself because he thought they might be something we could use. If the situation were reversed, it is safe to say I wouldn’t have acted the same way.
The coffee bags were decorated silver and scarlet like a Buckeye football helmet. Since it was a gift, I didn’t feel right about selling the coffee. I decided to brew it up the day of the Ohio State vs. Florida National Championship game and give it away for free as “Good Luck Buck Brew ” or something. The day of the game the local news came out and did a story on it, and some Buckeye fans even tried to offer me some decent cash for the remaining bags to which I said no. Not because I wanted the bags for myself, mind you. I just didn’t want weasely Buckeye fans like these to have them.
The “Good Luck Buck Brew” brought luck all right. The bad kind. Florida 41, OSU 14. The day after the game, a customer in the shop was calling for Tressel to be fired after such an embarrassment. (Yes, fired for losing in the championship game. This is totally normal in Columbus Ohio) I told the customer to pipe down. Wins and losses aren’t everything. Jim Tressel is a good man, he still is. Where is your loyalty?
Since the scandal broke, I’ve often thought about what I would say to coach Tressel if he stopped in for a cup. Something like, “This too shall pass”, “We’ve got your back down here”, or “keep your head up”. All lame. It’s like seeing an unfamiliar relative at a funeral or running into an old roommate just after their car has been towed. “Uh...Sorry about that stuff n things”. Who am I too talk? It’s probably just best to say nothing. Suppose I could still talk Cavs, but that runs the risk of being even more depressing.
NCAA compliance note: and I want to be in full compliance. I’m cooperating here. (Fargo..Duh) It’s time to come clean. I didn’t exactly start the “Backlash to the Backlash” as I may or may not have claimed earlier in this same essay. (BTW- “Backlash to the Backlash” is now legally trademarked thanks to my savvy business partners Gene Simmons and Pat Riley. So don’t go printing or saying it without permission)
The “Backlash x 2” was actually started on the morning of the scandal by none other than legendary basketball coach Bobby Knight. He was appearing on “Mike and Mike” to talk some pre-emptive B-Ball, March Madness style, when in the height of the backlash, they couldn’t help asking the coach what he thought about the Jim Tressel scandal. The General, who love him or hate him, never had a violation on his watch, said “he made a mistake, but if you are asking me if I could send my son to play college football for one coach in America, it would be Jimmy Tressel”,
Mike Greenburg seemed stunned and followed up, “Really? After all this” Bobby, “absolutely. He takes care of his kids”
I don’t know why essays need an end, but if this one has to have one, here it is. Did Jim Tressel make a bad decision to gain a competitive advantage? Sure. The guy is paid to win games and nobody does it better. But I have seen with my own eyes his helping people where there was no competitive upside. Be it bags of coffee or inviting seniors to practice and then his office for a chat. He doesn’t golf or socialize or go on vacation. He is not like you or me or Steve Spurrier. Did he look uncomfortable in the press conference recieving his two game suspension and $250,000 fine? Yes. To quote Glengarry Glen Ross “Shelly, you know who doesn’t look uncomfortable talking to the police?” -- “No”-- I’ll tell you, …… “criminals”.
I thought about what Bob Knight said and started running through the names of other coaches I would trust with my son, if one day he were talented enough to play for one of the top college football programs. I suddenly realized, “damn, I guess it would be it would be Jim Tressel.” And if there is a bigger compliment I give a person, I cannot think of it right now. CG
-Colin Gawel is musician/writer/husband/father who moonlights as a coffee shop owner. visit www.colingawel.com often. It has more content than Disneyland.
Lessin’ you need my Buckeye Bonafides, check out this Sports Illustrated Article written by Joe Oestreich featuring.. http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1152204/1/index.htm
The List. If you have a football coach you would rather send your son to play for, please click contact with the reason. (Top 50 football schools only, football success not important so Michigan is eligible) (A joke)