When I was young, I took great pride in representing my city and school by participating in youth football. Playing on those teams in grade school was a great time and a valuable learning experience. Despite the wins and trophies, the thing my friends and I really looked forward to was getting into high school and being able to play for the varsity. We wore our game jersey's to school on Fridays, then to the game that night. It was foreshadowing, seeing all our coaches at the games watching players they coached at our age who had moved on to the "big time", knowing one day it'd be us they were watching. There is something really special about those Friday nights when you're at that age.
On the rarest of occasions, for various reasons that may come to me in my sleep one night but currently elude my memory, a few of us would get the honor of going into the varsity locker room. Seeing the red lockers, the shiny red helmets above them with all the battle scars nicked into the plastic. The smell of Sports Cream, tape, deodorant and sweat all blended into a beautiful aroma. It was quite a scene! And of course we would have to retell, in detail, to those who didn't get to go. Amidst the painted mascot pictures, championship years were the sayings on the walls. Ones like "WILDCAT POWER" or "STRENGTH OF STRUTHERS" and the ubiquitous "T.OGETHER E.VERYONE. A.CHIEVES M.ORE" Amongst them was one that stuck with me, and I used to ponder on my own during those times when kids daydream. Near the door leading up the steps to the field was painted "So, what are you going to do now?"
At first the saying was met with a bit of comedy amongst foolish kids. "So, what are you going to do now?" Well, I'm going to get the hell out of here before someone sees us and realizes we shouldn't be here! "So, what are you going to do now?" I don't know, maybe a snow cone or some Starburst, too many options.
Then one day, away from my friends, alone with my thoughts, out of the blue it hit me and I realized the purpose for its having been painted. Just blew out your cross town rivals? "So, what are you going to do now?" Down by 6 at halftime? "So, what are you going to do now?" Coach just crushed you for missing an assignment? "So, what are you going to do now?" It was there to keep the players grounded and motivated. To keep them never too high from the spoils of victory. Never too low from the agony of defeat. It was also a challenge. Especially since I always read it in Mick from Rocky's voice in my head. I was never more upset as it would pertain to interior design than when they painted the locker room after my sophomore year and covered up that slogan.
I realized yesterday that we are nearly an exact month away from from players reporting for fall camp and college football season to begin. If given the opportunity, amidst the spring/summer of turmoil in Columbus, upon their arrival at the Blackwell Hotel I'd ask one question to coach Luke Fickell and the Ohio State Buckeyes: So, what are you going to do now?
Now that what people say won't matter and you'll be judged on what happens between the white lines, what are you going to do now? Because the haters and doubters will have a picnic discussing your downfall and how far this program will sink, what are you going to do now?
As Buckeye fans, it's this test of resiliency that we are waiting for. It's, hopefully, the positive results of such test that will allow us to say "we're going to be just fine". And I think our boys are up to it. It repeats what I've said before, if you take highly skilled, near professional level athletes, coached by some of the most experienced and best in the business, spend 10 months discussing how their program is a sham and they are the laughing stock of the sport, it can only lead to a few results once the whistle blows. One result is a wilt and die approach. Take the criticism, take the problems that have happened since December of 2010 and use them as an excuse to allow failure. Some may also refer to that as "the easy way". Or, you can train harder, study longer, rally together as brothers and use those past indiscretions, add in all the negative energy from the doubters and prognosticators as a fuel to drive the machine and roll over anything in its path.
Hey coach, hey Buckeyes, "So, what are you going to do now?"
Naturally, one of the big topics this fall will be who the next head coach at Ohio State will be. I've thought of trying to put a list together, but for some reason I can't get past about four guys and have solid reasons why all of them will, but most likely won't, be the new head coach. So, I'm going to throw out a darkhorse candidate that I think you all should pay very close attention to (especially since my source on Oregon mentioned his name more than once in conversation). Follow along, we're going to go through this quick...
My four on the "wish list" are pretty obvious: Bob Stoops, Urban Meyer, John Gruden and Bo Pelini. We can sit here all night and discuss why one guy will or won't take the job, and that's another blog on another day. Who do I want the most? Stoops. Who do I think would drop everything he's doing at his current gig and take it in a heartbeat? Pelini. Who do I think is a darkhorse and not on the "wish list" but someone you better know the name of? Dan Mullen, head coach at Mississippi State.
Metallica track of the week
"Broken Beat and Scarred" Pretty blunt, show your scars. Be proud of who you are and where your from. Whether positive or negative, take control and use those experiences to your advantage. Like Papa Het says "WHAT DON'T KILL YA, MAKE YA MORE STRONG!"