How Can You Cheer for Tressel?
By Jeff Langley (aka BuckeyeInBoca) - Guest Ozone Blogger
(Editor’s Note: Jeff Langley has been an Ohio State fan since his birth in 1964 and is a regular contributor on The-Ozone Forum. This story originally appeared as a post on our forum, but we felt his thoughts were probably not unique amongst those who wear the scarlet and gray with pride.
He does not represent the thoughts or opinions of the staff here at The-Ozone.net. He does, however, represent you, the reader.)
Watching the Ozone videos of Ohio State’s 2002 team got me thinking of something.
Being a Buckeye fan in South Florida who wears scarlet and gray almost daily, I get the question/insult a lot: “How can you cheer for Jim Tressel?” And it definitely increased after the Michigan game this year when Ohio State paid tribute to the 2002 National Championship team during the first half of the Buckeyes’ win.
Coach Tress got a standing ovation by 105,000 fans and members of the ’02 team carried him off the field on their shoulders. My sad, cynical Michigan, Florida and Miami friends would causally say, “How can you cheer for that guy? He cheated.”
Well, this is how....
My dad grew up in Portsmouth, Ohio as a huge Buckeye fan. He lived through the great times and championships of the 1950s and ‘60s, and the great Woody Hayes teams of the 1970s. We moved to Upstate New York in '79 when I was 14, but dad never let our love of the Buckeyes, Ohio State, and the history and tradition of real college football die.
He didn't really have to though, because 14 years of living in Ohio had etched it in your very soul, and it was never going to go away.
So at 48 years old – having lived in Ohio, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and now Florida – every Saturday afternoon in the Fall, no matter where I am, I still find a TV that's showing the OSU game and sit down with anywhere from 1 to 200 of my new best friends, and just enjoy the show.
In 2002, my Dad got sick. He was very uncomfortable most of the time, couldn't really leave the house very far or for very long. But for 13 heart-pounding, unbelievable Saturdays – and one indescribable Friday night in the Arizona desert – he was as happy, young and alive as I'd ever seen him.
That 2002 season was easily the greatest season of football that I can remember as a Buckeye fan. In '68 I was really young and only remember my dad and uncles yelling their heads off, not really sure why. The ‘70's teams were great but never won a national title, while the ‘80s with Earle, Spielman and the boys had some great moments.
John Cooper’s teams of the 1990s were unbelievably talented but couldn't beat that damned Team from up North.
But 2002 changed it all.
That team, that year, had it all. We were still hurting from the 90s short comings, especially against the "M" team. We had more hope than high expectations, a new coach we weren't sure of yet – though he did get our attention a year earlier by predicting we'd be proud of our young men in Ann Arbor Michigan in 310 days – and then actually followed up on it. Mike Doss was staying for his Senior year, we had some good freshmen coming in including a guy name Clarett, but we still didn't have a quarterback or a kicker.
By the way, the second biggest question I get is “How can you not hate Maurice Clarett?” I can tell you how, because I love Maurice Clarett. Without him, we don't have a National Championship, period. Maurice gave me one of the greatest years I've ever had as a Buckeye fan. And anything he's done wrong he did to himself, and he's paid for it many times over.
How many of us can say they went from being the king of an entire state, to a living hell, lost a fortune in fame and treasure, but are still standing?
Dad and I watched every game that year from his house in Key Largo, Florida. Every game except for the National Championship game, when he finally felt well enough to come up to Miami and watch it with me.
I am seriously amazed he didn't die from all those close games that year, especially against teams like Cincinnati. Seriously guys? You let the Bearcats stay with you for 60 minutes?
At 12:45 a.m. on January 4, 2003, dad and I had our last beer together celebrating the Buckeyes first National Championship since 1968. He passed away later that year.
Simply put, 2002 could and probably should have been the worst year of my dad's life, but it wasn't. It might have been one of the best. And it was because of that team, Coach Tressel, all his assistants, and those wonderful players who defied all odds, somehow pulled out every game, and beat one of the greatest college football teams in history to win one of the greatest championship games of all time.
Thank you Coach Tressel.... and I will always cheer you.