By MfaninAtl on 15:59:30 04/04/08
Before I say anything, I want you to know I HATE, LOATHE, DESPISE Ohio State Football. I am a lifelong Michigan fan and there is no other way for a Michigan fan to feel. Ohio State fans should (and do) feel the same way about Michigan.
However, I can recognize Ohio State's success and reasons for it, and I can carry on a civilized conversation with intelligent Ohio State fans (the "intelligent" part eliminates about 98% of Ohio State fans from said civilized conversations). There are just as many stupid Michigan fans. They embarrass me.
Two years ago, I was teaching 7th garde Language Arts and I had a student who moved to the Atlanta area from Cleveland, Ohio. His name was Philip Dickson and he was living with his aunt, LaToya because his parents were out of the picture (mom, a drug addict and dad in prison). His aunt was a nurse and she was working her tail off to make him responsible and accountable.
It was obvious to me Philip was an Ohio State fan. The first day he walked into my classroom, which was decked out in everything "Michigan Football," he talked about his distaste for the Maize and Blue. That was when he told me about how much he loved Ohio State Football. He and I didn't see eye-to-eye on Michigan & Ohio State, but I liked Philip and I knew he needed to be pushed to be the best he can be.
As time went by, Philip got in trouble in some of his classes and he wasn't putting forth the effort he should have been. Teachers met with his aunt, she disciplined him, we disciplined him (although he was never a discipline problem in my class), but he just wasn't responding. I had an idea.
Without telling anyone, I sent a note to Jim Tressel. I told him about Philip and that Philip wasn't working to his potential. I explained that Philip was a huge Buckeye Football fan and I asked Coach Tressel if he would be willing to send a note to Philip telling him to work harder. The NCAA, which has the some of the most idiotic rules, told me it would be ok for Coach Tressel to send such a letter because Philip was a 7th grader.
Mind you, this was in late September, so Coach Tressel had a few more pressing things on his mind than some kid in Atlanta, Georgia.
About 10 days later, in my mailbox at school, was an envelope from the Ohio State Football office (It was addressed to Philip Dickson in my care). I was shocked, but I couldn't wait for Philip to get to my class. I got out the letter opener for him, so he could open it neatly. This would be a "keeper"!
Second period rolled around and Philip's aunt was at school that day to check in with us teachers on his progress. I told her to stick around to see what I had for Philip. I asked another teacher to come to my door and announce "This came 'Special Delivery' for Philip Dickson." The class stopped and stared at the envelope as I walked it back to him. I handed him the letter opener,
and since he had never seen a letter opener before, I opened the letter for him (very carefully)!
It was on the OFFICIAL Ohio State Football greeting card. His eyes opened wide and he was stunned! He just sat silently. He read it once, turned it over, picked up the envelope again and looked at it, and read the card again. It said (paraphrasing), "Philip, I understand you are a very big Buckeye Football fan! We are glad you support us! I want you to give your very best in all your school work and in being the best person you can be. I will be in touch with your teacher to see how you are doing. Keep cheering for the Buckeyes! Go Bucks! -Jim Tressel"
WOW. I love Michigan Football, but I am pretty sure the coaches they have had there in my lifetime (Bo, Gary Moeller, Lloyd Carr) would not have taken time out of their schedule, especially DURING THE SEASON, to do that for a kid.
Let me add another example of what Jim Tressel has done. Recently a friend of mine, Joe Links, who played for Tressel's father Lee, at Baldwin-Wallace College in Berea (just outside of Cleveland) was diagnosed with colon cancer. I can't imagine what that is like. Joe is a very intense Ohio State fan and his two kids, Greg and Gretchen both graduated from there.
I wrote to Coach Tressel to tell him about Joe and that I thought it would be a nice lift for Joe's spirits and those of his family if Coach Tressel were to send along a "get well" note. I also mentioned that I am a Michigan fan, but that I respect him and what he has done at Ohio State (I don't have to like it, but how can you not respect it?). Tressel remembered Joe and a
week later, the letter arrived at the Links house in Hudson, (ahem) Michigan. Joe and his wife Barb were not only surprised, but touched by Coach Tressel's thoughtfulness.
So am I.
I see this guy with his sweatervest, dry answers to reporters' questions, constant beating of Michigan and I think, "Man, do I hate that guy!" Well, I hate that he keeps beating us. I hate that he basically called Michigan out on National TV the day Ohio State hired him (and then backed it up). I hate that his offensive play-calling keeps Michigan completely off balance. I hate
that he successfully changes his coaching style and strategies based on the personnel he has. I HATE IT!!!
But I can't help but like WHO Jim Tressel is and WHAT he is as a person. He sets himself aside for others. He lives by the "What Would Jesus Do?" bracelet he wears. Yep, Jim Tressel sure does aggravate me every Saturday when I cheer against Ohio State (no matter who they are playing - even in bowl games). But, I (and every Michigan fan with a working brain cell) would take him as our coach and the face of our football program in Ann Arbor in a heartbeat (and that is not a slight to the great coaches we have
had there and who we have there today).
Jim Tressel is just a good man.
Marietta, Georgia (Native of Toledo, Ohio)