Accentuate the Positive

(11/12) It's Time to Accentuate the Positives…

     In perusing the Buckeye boards recently, there is one thing I noticed.  It jumped out at me like an angry she-bear protecting her cubs.  The Buckeyes are currently sitting at 11-0, #1 in the BCS polls in November, and yet the boards are just overflowing with negativity!  What is going on here?  How many Buckeye fans out there would not have absolutely reveled in the whole season had they been told in back in August (right before the Texas Tech kickoff) that we would be 11-0 and that the absolute worst record the Bucks could manage would be 11-3?  What is going on here?

Perfection in Their Team

     First off, I think Buckeye fans – like all fans – are looking for perfection in their team.  The problem is that these expectations are unrealistic and unfair to the players.  No matter what the team does on the field, it is always easy to point out that from the recliner or the stands – "the Buckeyes shoulda won by 50."  If we keep the other team to only 7 points, then it is, "Well – it is just too bad we gave up their one long drive because we coulda beat them by 24 instead of 17, and a shutout would have looked very nice to the pollsters."  If the Bucks score 25, then fans lament not scoring 32 or even 42.  Meanwhile, the television seemingly shows 37 replays for every one actual play from the line of scrimmage.  In detail, the announcers and analysts pick apart the blocking, the route running, the timing of the pass, the open man who was missed…  So, fans are left muttering, "If Craig could only have thrown that timing pattern a little better, or if Jenkins would have caught that blasted ball, or if Childress had been a little bigger so he could have out muscled the defender…"

Perfection in the Coaching Staff

     Buckeye fans are searching for perfection in their coaching staff.  Never mind that there are 115 other teams in Division I-A that all would love to be undefeated right now.  Never mind that we are not perfect in our own jobs.  Sure, we may rationalize it that, "Hey!  I am not getting paid millions of dollars to coach and these dudes are!"  Well, Tressel is not getting paid even a million dollars right now, and you can bet the assistants are not getting paid anywhere near that.  In fact, the gulf between the assistants' salaries and millions dollars is just slightly smaller than the Grand Canyon…  No, nothing is ever going to be good enough in some respects because our staff has not called every play correctly.  We have not scored on every opportunity.  We have not run back enough kick returns.  We have been inconsistent in kickoff coverage at times.  On and on we could go with the perceived and real faults of the coaching staff.  Clearly, they have some weaknesses.

     Here is the deal; every person is human.  HUMAN.  For those who did not hear it the other day, Bob Stoops' news conference and comments after the game were fairly blunt.  He said that the Sooners were out coached and outplayed.  Then there is Oregon and Mike Bellotti – another pseudo candidate 2 years ago.  Bellotti knows offense like Bo knew football and baseball.  I imagine lots of Bucks would love to have an offense like Bellotti's that has scored 362 points on the season for an average of 36.2 points with close to 400 yards per game.  The problem is that Bellotti and company do not know a lick about defense.  Nothing.  Nada.  Zilch.  So, they sit at 7-3 and have given up 135 points in the last 4 games alone – 32 on Saturday to Washington State.  All the while the Bucks are at 11-0 with a defense that has yielded 37 points in its last 5 games combined.  Spurrier never once managed an undefeated season.  For all his offensive prowess, his teams were easy fodder if you had a good defense and just a decent offense.  Why?  Because Spurrier always unbalanced his team and hamstrung it because of a lack of defense.  Despite this, I am guessing that many Buckeye fans would rush to take him if offered the chance.  In 30 years, Joe Paterno has only 2 national titles.  Bear Bryant won a heap of titles but had only 3 squads go undefeated, and if you want to talk about predictable play calling?  Wow.  Biographer Mickey Herskowitz said of Bear, "Bryant believed that more than five plays constituted a circus." 

     Every single staff in America falls short of perfection.  Every one.  If we are looking for perfection and the perfect coach, then we will never, ever be happy.  Why?  To be blunt, no perfect coaches exist in our space-time continuum – nor will there be a perfect coach in the future.  Perfection is much like that cat trying to figure out how to reach the birdcage hanging from the ceiling.  You can stalk it, you can look at it from different angles, you can even take the occasional leaping stab at it and get fairly close, but you never can quite reach it and grasp the ultimate prize…

Impressing the National Media

     Buckeye fans are too caught up in worrying about impressing the media.  Question: what does it matter what the media says about Ohio State?  We are ranked #2 in the country and will go to the Fiesta Bowl if we win out.  This team and staff control their own destiny. 

     The media analysts are always going to find fault with any team that does not wing the ball around enough to satisfy them.  They are in love with pretty offenses and charismatic coaches.  However, pretty offenses are just like that little extramarital fling – they look really enticing but always leave you in a real bad spot once reality sets in… 

     They love charismatic coaches who pal up to them and give them great folksy stories to write.  Tressel is not like this.  He is a fine speaker, a very nice man from all reports, but he is not a sit by the fire, spin me a yarn kinda guy.  The media loved Hal Mumme at Kentucky and his propensity to call a play just scratched out in the dirt.  Of course, Mumme ended up allowing serious violations to occur on his watch…  So, charming is not always grand as these types of coaches can be little more than wolves in sheep's clothing.  And the media?  When the media discovers that it has had the proverbial wool pulled over its eyes, they become the vicious wolves.  If I had a dime for every coach the media lathered heaps of praise upon only to tear him down later, I would be a wealthy man. 

     Face it, the media is fickle.  Expect them to vacillate between love and loathing for the Buckeyes the rest of this season.  They love the team, they don't love the team, they love the defense, they don't love the offense…  It is going to change every single week.  The media will only fall in love with Ohio State when Ohio State proves it can win out.  Once it does that, then they will grudgingly offer their support of the Bucks. 

     If you just cannot live with this, then when the pundits come on, and you know they are going to be overly critical of this group of young men who are playing their hearts out – then turn off the television.  Go to another room.  I have been doing it for some time now – not because I am afraid to hear the truth but because I know these guys do not truly understand this team and am bent upon enjoying it.  Fans should never let the media's negativity destroy the joy of a season.  The media is only going to crown one king, and the rest of the teams in their eyes are second-rate.  Accept that the king is not Ohio State but Miami in their estimation and move on.  Letting the media get Buckeye fans lathered up about cheap shot comments is just allowing them to exert power over your day and this special season.

Past Plummeting in November

     Buckeye fans are kept up at night with recurring nightmares about falling down the stretch.  I personally have seen too much disappointment.  I was never around for the glory years of Woody where we actually were able to close out a season and get a national title.  I was born 5 years AFTER our last title and do not have a memory of the disappointments of '69, '70, '72, '73, '74, '75. '79...  Buckeye teams made it to November unbeaten and untied in all of those years.  Yet, every last one of them stumbled and became an afterthought in the national title race.  I have all too vivid memories of '93, '95, '96, and '98...  Vivid.  Every one of those teams had the talent to run the table, but none of them managed to pull it off.  There was the horrible defensive scheme in 1995 against Michigan.  In 1996, it was the slip by Springs and the lack of toughness by our offensive line to punch the ball into the Michigan end zone.  In 1998 it was Michigan State who capitalized on the Buckeye mistakes to end the national championship dreams.  I feel like have been witness to more collapses than a cardiologist.  I have seen more meltdowns than a glass factory worker…

     Just once I would love to see Ohio State win out.  Will this team pull it off?  I dunno.  I sure hope they do though because maybe we Buckeyes would be able to enjoy the ride the next go-round.

In Conclusion?

     My advice would be for all Buckeye fans everywhere to start enjoying this season before it is over.  Stop vacillating between euphoria and depression like some manic off their medication.  Stop chewing our nails off until our nail beds are bleeding.  If we lose?  We lose.  No amount of carping, griping, whining, worrying, screaming, or crying on the part of the fans will make a difference.  What will make the difference is whether or not the coaches and the players will focus and execute the game plan the final two Saturdays.     

     Look at the positives here.  When is the last time Ohio State had such positive media coverage?  Every time you turn on the television, they are talking about Ohio State.  Either it is Chris Gamble or Maurice Clarett, or it is Craig Krenzel.  Last week, for all the comments about how OSU is the worst team in the top 5 by one commentator, others were comparing this group to the 1992 national title team (which – I have been doing from day one) that may not have looked all that great but just continued to focus and to win every single game.  Again I ask, if someone had offered you an 11-0 mark at the start of the season, would you not have been ecstatic? 

     It is high time that instead of being so pessimistic?  Buckeye fans should sing the old song by Johnny Mercer from the rooftops. 

"You got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
And latch on to the affirmative
Don't mess with mister in between

You got to spread joy up to the maximum
Bring gloom down to the minimum
And have faith, or pandemonium
Liable to walk upon the scene."

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