If you get upset over missed field goals, if you suffer from the outrage that comes with expectation, you might want to consider how serious an outcome has become to you…and why?
First, I generally think people in Ohio are too expectant of Ohio State football. It simply means too much to them, the part about winning and losing.
Even while we say…winning isn’t everything. But deep down we obsess over it. It’s the only thing!
The proof of this is the now-known social media viciousness directed at kicker Tyler Durbin over the two missed kicks in the first half of last week’s Fiesta Bowl. I’m convinced that those kicks didn’t cost the Buckeyes the game, but I’m also sure that they didn’t do much to bolster confidence, either; and at a time of the game where OSU was clearly measuring itself against a champion-caliber opponent.
To be sure, Tyler Durbin is just a young adult, an amateur (albeit a senior), whose life’s journey does not include the National Football League. He’s no Justin Tucker, the robo-kicker of the Baltimore Ravens who converted 37 of 38 attempts this season, and hit four from beyond 50 yards in an earlier game this season against the Bengals. Few are THAT good, at anything!
But performance under pressure is an expected thing at that level of competition. It’s what Durbin signed up for when he came to Ohio State. Success there isn’t just expected, it’s anticipated. Kickers have one thing to do for the average beer-swilling fan who watches from Westerville, smart phone in hand. Twitter is the only outlet for his frustration. And as I wrote about Durbin in my Sunday blog following the game, there were too many such fans, like Durbin, that were no match for the moment.
I don’t know Tyler Durbin. Met him once at an August media day. He’s a nice guy, respectful, and proud to be a Buckeye. He’s the kind you really want to make that kick because it’s in our core that nice guys really should finish first. It just didn’t happen.
It is nice to see the outpouring of support for him, from people who really do realize that it’s just a game, and a game played by human beings – by human beings that fail. We actually say we believe that people get stronger from a brush with failure; but not if it means the Buckeyes losing.
You see, there’s a double standard regarding failure. We empathize now for Tyler Durbin, while demanding that he be replaced by something better, a sure thing, insurance against a future letdown. Five days after Clemson, empathy has been replaced by that same anticipation of the next championship, while refusing to appreciate that championships aren’t as automatic as they seem to be at Alabama.
To a degree, that’s fine. The expectation of winning is always good. It’s formative, a worthy goal. You should play to win the game, as Dennis Green used to say. Except we forget – that more often than not you win, and lose, with kids just like Tyler Durbin. They’re not all like Ezekiel Elliott, and the process wasn’t perfect with him, either. Remember Michigan State?
As difficult as it was to watch, I had to smile at the end over the irony of all that expectation, all that hype, and all those lords of twitter fuming over the inexplicable. Ohio State’s not supposed to lose, and by God…someone’s head has to roll.
It used to be Woody’s head, I remember it well.
Then it was Earle Bruce.
Then John Cooper.
Even Tressel proved to be less than we could trust.
And remember Cornelius Greene from the 1976 Rose Bowl game?
So thanks to Urban Meyer. He raised the standard, for better or worse. He’s just what that guy in Westerville has always wanted. The nearest thing to a “sure” thing.
Sorry, Tyler Durbin – it was just your time for the guillotine.