It's easy to prove your point when you've already got your mind made up on something. Since the dawn of the Tressel era, Buckeyes have convinced themselves that their years of futility against Michigan under Cooper was a direct result of Cooper "not getting it." "He never emphasized the rivalry!," they'll claim - all justification for losing. It's never "Michigan teams were better," which was true in many instances, or "Ohio State players didn't execute properly." Nope. The sole reason for the losses against Michigan under Cooper was simply because Cooper didn't get the rivalry, as if it's something to obtain, stuff in your pocket, and pull out in case of emergency.
Tressel came in and made a cryptic statement at a basketball game, and immediately got it. Finally - this man understands the rivalry. Simultaneously, Lloyd Carr sat in his office and reached into his pocket. It was gone. He had lost It. Lloyd no longer had the magic of "understanding the rivalry."
Does this sound dumb to anybody else?
I thought it might.
Now Buckeye fans point to Rodriguez, claiming that the man "doesn't understand the rivalry." They'd love to believe that we've hired our own version of Cooper who, remember, lost because he didn't get it. It's what they want to see, so they've got their minds made up. Well, once you've got your mind made up about something it's pretty easy to prove it. Case in point, the latest from The Buckeye Blog, who's tag-line is, to their credit, "College football analysis and opinion with a heavy Ohio State bias." At least we know who we're dealing with. The latest post, entitled Will Somebody Please Teach Rodriguez About the Michigan Ohio State Game is, however, a bit over the top. And by "a bit" I mean "really really" and by "over the top" I mean "dumb."
Let us begin with Rodriguez press conference quotes, followed by Buckeye Blog commentary.
Rodriguez: On why he hasn’t made this game the ultimate priority of the season?… "Well, I don’t know, maybe I have and you all don’t know it. I don’t think everything that I’m thinking or telling the team is made public, but I didn’t make any public statements or declarations or anything like that, because there are a whole lot of things that we’re trying to do. [emphasis added by Buckeye blog]
Buckeye Blog: Is it just me or does he sound like he’s hedging?
Hedging what? What on earth does he need to hedge? Here, I'll give you a definition of "hedge:" Making a statement to offset the potential adverse developments in the future. Potential adverse developments? They're expected to lose by 20 points! Why would he need to hedge that?
A reporter asked a question: why he hasn't appeared to have made this game the ultimate priority. His answer, maybe he has, is good enough for me because I don't get to attend team meetings. I don't get to attend practices. Do you? Because unless you do, you have no idea what goes on behind closed doors. But wait - I forgot - you already have your mind made up.
Even if Ohio State hasn't been priority #1 and he's "hedging," I'm ok with that. I would think that this year, the "ultimate priority" would be getting you quarterback to complete a downfield pass. Or maybe installing an offense that was foreign to these players. Or maybe, just maybe, WINNING A FEW GAMES BEFORE THE OHIO STATE GAME. To suggest that the Ohio State game should be the priority for this particular team is ludicrous - it's like asking a baby to run a marathon before he can walk. Well this Michigan team is still tripping over itself on the "walking" part of things - Rodriguez never had the luxury of being able to prepare for Ohio State. The priority this year, as full of fail as it has been, was to get this team to look like, you know, a real football team. I know you think that is somehow showing disrespect to the game and to the Buckeyes, but believe it or not there are other games that Michigan had to play and worry about this season. How much emphasis on the Michigan game did Tressel put on during Penn State week this year? Too much?
Rodriguez: "I’ll never diminish the importance of a Michigan-Ohio State game ever. Never have, never would. It wouldn’t be smart to do that. I wouldn’t do it anyway. First day I got on the job, somebody sent me a "Beat Ohio State" button, and it’s sitting next to my phone. I see it every day. [emphasis added by Buckeye Blog]
Buckeye Blog: You’re kidding right? You mean the only reason you wouldn’t diminish the importance of The Game is because you realize it wouldn’t be the "smart" thing to do…as in the Michigan fans would hand you your pink slip before the end of the first half.
And like I said, Tressel didn’t need a button.
Look at his first sentence, you dolt. The one that YOU BOLDED. You want so badly to believe that Rodriguez "doesn't get it" that you're willing to throw out the thesis statement in that quote and focus on a supporting argument. Even the supporting argument that you find so damning is qualified in the VERY NEXT SENTENCE. He states that even if it was the smart thing to do he wouldn't do it anyways.
Rodriguez: Just because I don’t say something about that on my first day on the job, doesn’t mean I don’t understand the importance of the game. It’s just we’re in a process now of trying to build a championship program, and there are a whole lot of things on our plate.
Buckeye Blog: Is it just me or did he just diminish the importance of the Ohio State/Michigan game?
No, he didn't. What he is saying is that when he arrived on campus, there were other things to do besides go to a basketball game and make a cryptic statement about being proud of players. He is trying to build a championship program which, since you're so inclined to scream "disrespect," goes through Columbus at the end of every season.
Rodriguez: For right now, the most important thing is Ohio State. There’s a lot of work we’ve got to do to get this program where I want it to be and where our fans want it to be.
As important it is to Jim (Tressel) and his program and his staff, it’s just as important to us."
Buckeye Blog: No really…it’s true…I want to be just like Jim Tressel and his program and staff.
Again, look at the first sentence. Right now the most important thing is Ohio State. Did you just not read that part?
And yeah, Tressel's won 3 consecutive Big Ten championships and gone to 2 consecutive BCS Title games. Yes, I think that's pretty much what we're after. You can't scream disrespect out of one corner of your mouth, then jeer when respect is given. Oh wait - you can because you've already got your mind made up about this, and even if the evidence is contradictory, you're going to use it anyways.
Rodriguez: On the players teaching him an appreciation for the rivalry?… They don’t need to help me. I’m trying to — I told them last night, I don’t think I have to explain to them the importance of the game and the intensity of the rivalry. I think if you follow college football at all you understand that.
Buckeye Blog: Yeah…if you follow college football you’ve got to know how important this rivalry is…just ask any SEC fan.
Where in this statement are fans even mentioned? He's talking about his players who came to Michigan. Not SEC fans. Where do SEC fans even factor in to this? His players know how important the rivalry is; it's one of the main reasons that many of them came to Michigan in the first place. Bringing SEC fans into this is like saying "yeah, I know this quote is about the players, but how do the Kenyans feel about this rivalry? The Martians? The French?"
Rodriguez: On preparing for the game?… Well, I would hope at least in particularly with rivalry games and Michigan-Ohio State, that it’s easiest for them to focus on the preparation. You’d like for them to take that mindset in every week because every game is so important. That’s why everybody wants to play college football.
Right now, the regular-season games have so much importance on every game that you hope they take that championship preparation into every week.
One thing about a rivalry game, in particular this game, you would think their intensity and preparation is at an all time high, so the coaches shouldn’t have to worry about it. I can tell you better after we practice a couple of days, but yesterday was pretty good. I think our guys will be extremely focused as they should be."
Buckeye Blog: Why golly, I really think the Michigan players will be excited for it…won’t they?
You know why Ohio State players get their intensity up for The Game? It’s not because of some coach has a hope that they will get themselves up for it. It’s because from the minute they walk into the Ohio State locker room and dress for their very first practice, they are ingrained with the importance of this game. They are taught the importance of tradition. They know the words to Carmen Ohio before they know how to sign out equipment. They understand that those little gold pants represent the highest honor an Ohio State football player can earn.
If for a moment, an Ohio State play has a lapse of reason and forgets, the training center features a giant countdown clock counting the seconds to the kick off of The Game. And if that’s not enough, there is also a giant sign with the score of the last game we lost to Michigan.
And that about sums it up. Coach Tressel spent the better part of his press conference talking about how even though Michigan absolutely sucks, this will be a tough game, it is always a tough game and it will always be a tough game because like us, Michigan understands the intensity of this rivalry and they will always play better than their best.
Coach Rodriguez, however, spent the better part of his trying to convince everyone that sure, it’s an important game but not really that important.
You can tell when teams take a game seriously - they install a countdown clock. I'm very happy that Ohio State players know the words to Carmen Ohio [Michigan freshman are required to learn, and sing, Hail to the Victors before practice begins as well, but they do it in an "Ohio State isn't important" way]. I'm also very glad that Ohio State gets gold pants, which apparently is a higher honor than, say, a National Championship trophy.
Rodriguez prepares every game like it's the Ohio State game. He understands that the biggest factor to having a championship team is preparing and executing like every game is the championship game. He has expressly stated that this game IS important, and that he expects his team to prepare like it. He expects his team to be extremely focused this week and every week. He expects his team to work, prepare, and play like Champions EVERY DAY, not just for Ohio State. Maybe if Tressel had adopted that attitude recently, you wouldn't see lapses like Illinois last year, Penn State and USC this year, and some recent national title games.
But you've already got your mind made up about the guy. He doesn't "get it," as if that's something that leads to actual wins and losses. Nowhere in the above press conference was anything said that remotely diminishes the importance of the game if, you know, you actually read the quotes. The Buckeye Blog is really reaching at best, and really dumb as worst.
Right now, I'm leaning towards the latter.