Friday, August 22, 2008

Bitter Buckeye

I hate to call myself a Buckeye fan but I root for the team. I can’t stand Jim Tressel, with his button-down, fussbudget style, but I can’t complain about his record even though he’s shown a propensity for being outcoached in big games. I don’t relish it when the Buckeyes lose but there’s a sadistic little part of me that takes pleasure in knowing that Buckeye Nation, as they like to call themselves, will feel the pain of that loss for months on end.

It’s no secret that there are a lot of OSU haters around the country. Part of that is because Ohio State has been very successful over the past few seasons and that’s what Buckeye Nation tells itself. The animosity is steeped in jealousy. To a degree that’s true, but the ill will towards all things Buckeye has legitimate roots. Soft scheduling, abundant home games and dominance of a sluggish conference that has yet to embrace the concept of a championship game are major issues people take with Ohio State. Suspicious recruiting tactics, academic issues and boorish behavior by the players is also part of the problem.

I tend to cut players slack. I went to college. I drank and acted a fool. That’s what college kids do. That’s also what 40 and 50 year-old men tailgating outside of the stadium do. People sometimes get their ass on. No biggie. So when Antonio Henton got nabbed for trying to pay an undercover vice cop $20 for a quickie, I kept it in perspective. How was he supposed to know the cardinal rule? Hot hookers are always cops…well, at least to whatever degree a vice officer can be a cop. If you want a $20 BJ you need to settle for the flabby old hag with skuzzy teeth and body odor.

I didn’t cut the players slack on two occasions last year: their losses. There’s no shame in losing but beating yourself is unacceptable. That’s what Ohio State did when they lost to Illinois. But that’s not what irked me. Ohio State went out and laid an egg. They played with no energy and got worked over like a sparring partner but somehow after the game all those tired Buckeye players managed to muster up enough energy to engage in a midfield brawl because Illinois was celebrating a little too vigorously. Hey guys, if you wanted to defend your honor you should have won the game. Losers hit the showers, winners dance for joy. Deal with it.

Those same players showed poor character during the BCS Championship game against LSU when the vaunted Buckeye line invested more energy into running their mouths than they did in trying to block LSU’s defensive front. I’m not na├»ve, I played a little football and I know that there’s some jawing that goes on in the trenches but generally you keep your mouth shut when you’re getting your butt handed to you on every play. Not if you’re a Buckeye, apparently.

Now I’m an Ohio native and I’ve always consider the Buckeyes to be my favorite team so if I’m watching these guys play and thinking what a bunch of jerks they are, what are non-Buckeye fans thinking? There’s another solid cornerstone to Buckeye loathing. This program has shown a hell of a lot more ass than it has class. Is it as bad as Miami? No. Nobody can limbo quite that low but it is a departure from the standards I thought the program aspired to.

The perception that Ohio State, and by extension the Big 10 conference, is soft really doesn’t hold as much water as people like to believe. Ohio State sends as many players to the NFL as the next team and the conference holds its own in bowl games against any conference, even the ballyhooed SEC. The problem is that the Big 10 closes its season early and doesn’t feature a conference championship game even though the conference title has been shared on numerous occasions. It’s unfair to judge the entire conference by Ohio State’s disappointing performances in the past two BCS title games but the conference isn’t doing much to alter that perception. Instead conference honchos get defensive and whiny. That makes matters worse and that gives people more reason to hate on Ohio State.

Buckeye Nation won’t hear any of this. They bitterly complain about Ohio State gets no respect and how underrated the team is. Ohio State enters the coming season ranked anywhere from #2 to #5 in the countless number of preseason polls with the consensus locking them in the top 3. Still the scuttlebutt around the water cooler in any Columbus office is how the Buckeyes aren’t being given enough credit. That happens when you lay eggs when the national title is on the line, folks. Frankly, I’m surprised the Buckeyes are ranked inside the top 5.

That being said, the bar is set high this year. The Buckeyes are loaded with a slew or starters returning from last year’s runner up. Only one significant player left for the NFL and the Buckeyes has enough depth on the defensive line to fill Gholsten’s shoes. Aside from a road trip to USC the Buckeyes should win every game on their schedule with great ease. The USC game is even favorable because USC has big question marks on the offensive line and at quarterback. With the Buckeyes returning a veteran cast on defense they should have a tremendous advantage over the Trojans in spite of playing on the road. So it’s pretty safe to say that Ohio State should be unbeaten this year. Can they deliver?

I’m doubt it. They should have been unbeaten last year and the year before. I don’t think this team can stop admiring itself in the mirror for an entire season. That seems to be their downfall and that’s why people hate them. I cant say I blame them.

I hope the Buckeyes do well, I really do but if they stumble I can take solace in the fact that the idiots who call themselves Buckeye Nation will have to swallow that bitter pill.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Pop ups

Woody Austin was quoted as saying that the PGA Championship isn’t a lesser tournament because Tiger Woods won’t be playing. Um, yes, Woody, it is. Until I read that quote I didn’t even know the PGA Championship was coming up this week and for the life of me I can’t tell you who won the British Open. Maybe that makes me less of a golf fan but so are the other 10 million people who don’t care about the PGA if Tiger isn’t playing. I think that says more about grouchy old hacks like Woody Austin than it does me.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy met with Brett Favre and concluded that Brett isn’t ready to dedicate himself to the team in a manner that will be beneficial. Duh. Brett said as much in his retirement speech. He’s tired. A few months ago Brett said that the only scenario he could envision himself playing again was one where he was guaranteed an appearance in the Super Bowl. That scenario doesn’t exist. You have to play all 16 games and then run the playoff gauntlet to get in. That’s hard to do and requires serious effort. See ya later, Brett. Too bad you ruined your legacy with an intricate web of whining and backstabbing.

The Milwaukee Brewers are starting to come unglued. Prince Fielder is shoving pitchers around, the manager’s complaining that the press wants to ask about the team chemistry in the wake of said shoving match and the Cubs are pulling away. That CC Sabathia trade is looking brilliant.

The Yankees just sent Joba Chamberlain to the doctor. Remember when Hank Steinbrenner was throwing a fit over how slowly the team was bringing Joba into the starting rotation? Me too. Just sign the checks, little Stein, leave the baseball stuff to the baseball people.

LeBron James has put the fear of god into the NBA by admitting that he would consider offers to play in Europe. The question is whether or not LeBron is posturing to give NBA players some bargaining power when the next collective bargaining agreement is negotiated. The NBA is a star-driven enterprise and it can’t afford to lose somebody with the presence of LeBron but can any team in the NBA compete with some foreign billionaire who wants to throw a feather in his team’s cap? More importantly, can LeBron afford to lose the publicity he gets in the NBA? It should be interesting to see how this plays out but it’s highly unlikely any big name player is going to risk the side benefits of the NBA to chase a big contract in Europe.

Preseason polls have Georgia ranked number one. I guess we can tune in this coming January to see them get the BCS trophy. I believe Ohio State is a 5 to 1 favorite to play them and lose because apparently Jim Tressel is still under the impression that nobody throws underneath.

Speaking of Jim Tressel, he has a book on the market…something about winning. I checked and didn’t see any chapters on ignoring obvious signs of NCAA violations, scheduling 8 home games in a season, playing down to the level of your cupcake opponents or hypocrisy so I expect volume two to be out next summer.

The Olympics set to begin and even though interest seems to be at an all time low it might be worth following to see if the professional athletes the US sends can attain a lower international approval rating the George W. Bush. It’s going to be tough without Gilbert Arenas on the team but somehow I think they’ll pull through.