Troy Smith’s mostly charmed life

OSU FootballThere’s a great piece in the New York Times (reg’n usually required; h/t: Ohio State Online) about Troy Smith. Read the whole thing, of course, but here are a few thoughts I had while reading.

Class can mean a lot of thing, from playing fairly on the field to staying out of jail, but it’s largely a matter of perception and is most useful for its karmic quality. For example, if Ohio State beat archrival Michigan, but Ohio State’s quarterback was later found to have run afoul of the N.C.A.A. or the local Police Department, Michigan fans could take solace in the fact that Ohio State, while victorious, was “classless.” On Internet message boards, fans of Ohio State’s rivals tabulate Buckeye transgressions to measure the program’s collective depravity, and Smith in particular has provided them with a great deal of psychic satisfaction.

The writer, knowingly or not, distilled the grudge and competition between fan blogs in mere sentences. It’s as if the writer regularly reads the M-Zone and Deadspin or something. Stay classy, guys!

It’s also a great to read about the tutelage and iron-fist father-figure that Ted Ginn Sr. was in Troy’s (and Ted Ginn Jr.’s) lives. As a boy without a father, Troy definitely benefited from the tough love that Ted Ginn Sr. gave. He definitely seems like a no-nonsense kind of guy. I love that Ted Senior told Troy he hates sunglasses. You know why he hates them? I’ll venture a guess: they hide people’s eyes. And as someone who teaches character and integrity, Ted Senior can probably look you in the eyes and bore a hole into your soul. Sunglasses prevent him from soul-boring, so he doesn’t like them. I have a feeling that if you look him in the eye and you’ve got secrets, TGS will know it. And you will crumble under that gaze.

Ted Ginn, Sr.
Those eyes. They will haunt you

A few other tidbits that can be gleaned from the article – this is the Video Game Generation. These guys (by design) live pretty boring lives and video games provide a little escape from their celebrity status. And believe me, they are celebrities here. They have to constantly fight off special treatment and freebies you and I would gladly accept.

Last year, Matt Leinart, the Heisman-winning quarterback at the University of Southern California, used his senior season as a kind of public victory lap — dating starlets, becoming a fixture at Hollywood parties and soaking up the kind of sybaritic pleasures that only a 22-year-old would have the audacity to dream up. Smith’s life is comparatively monastic. He graduated in June with a communications degree, and his coursework for the fall could be minimal. Jim Tressel, Ohio State’s head coach, compares him to a medical resident: part intensive study (in the film room, with the coaches), part thrilling on-the-job training (in Ohio Stadium, in front of 100,000 scarlet-and-gray-clad fans).

That’s not to say Troy and company don’t have fun. They do. In fact, I love that when Troy does go out for a night on the town, he uses T.J. Downing and Roy Hall as body guards. Downing is an obvious choice, but Hall? Yeah, those guns could do some damage. But even though they are superstars in Columbus, they don’t exactly live like it:

The two pour themselves into the video game, saluting their virtual teammates for good plays (“Who got the pick-off? Nate-dog?”) and taking short breaks to discuss weighty matters like whether Ginn has any A.1. steak sauce back at his apartment. Playing with virtual likenesses of themselves and suspended in a kind of childlike animation, they seem happier than they’ve been all day. In Smith’s and Ginn’s stripped-down lives, football — the practices and the film study and the endless media interviews — is a thing to endure. Video games are a thing to do.

Smith is standing outside his garage door wearing an expression that looks like a mixture of sleepiness and bemusement and, I think, a little sadness, and he is saying, “I’m telling you, man, this is what we do all the time.”

“This” meaning winning football games beating down Michigan. I’m glad that’s what they do all the time.


  1. […] Overconfidence is my first fear. The players have been hearing the hype. They’ve seen the shows, they’ve seen the polls. How much is going to their head? On the outside, the Buckeyes, especially Troy Smith, have been saying all the right things. Coach Tressel has been training them well. They are keeping things very close to the vest (pun intended). Reading the article in the New York Times (discussed here earlier) painted a picture of low-key living by some of the Buckeyes, and hopefully they’ve been able to avoid the hype, to some extent. […]

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