Friday, March 25, 2011


tresseled (v.) (1) To create a façade of integrity that hides fraudulent ethics (2) cloaked in a sweater vest (3) the feeling of soul-crushing defeat created in a Michigan football player after losing another game to Ohio State

Jimmy Two-Face

Can you use it in a sentence, please?
I told my mom that I found a home for the orphan kittens – she was so proud of me -but really I drowned them in a tub, to the amusement of my imaginary friends, to loosen their skin so I could turn their skulls into bongs. I tresseled my mom. Go OSU!

If you haven’t heard of him, Jim Tressel is a successful University of Ohio State college football coach. Outside the state of Ohio, he’s been officially exposed as a liar and rule breaker with a win at all costs attitude. He’s the “Pete Carroll of the Midwest”. However, within Ohio, like Garmin itself, he is still considered infallible. There is no sense arguing with an Ohioan on this matter. It would be the same as telling me Hilary Swank is not hot.* Until recently the rest of the world, which may not have been paying close attention here, here, here, here, and here, thought he was a fine upstanding professional operating at the top of his craft. In fact, if you wanted a college coach to write an inspirational book filled with Bible stories and motivational thoughts for #winning, then he might have been the go to guy. Hey, looky here, Go To.

Now, of course, the sweater vest has been ripped off revealing the seedy underbelly of deceit and pecksniffery.

I was pondering this hypocritical public image vs. self-serving guile the other day. Barry Bonds is still on the run with his fancy lawyers fighting steroid allegations. Lance Armstrong, let’s face it, has been backpedaling for years now under a cloud of unproven allegations. Heroes once lauded for their athletic accomplishments seem to be spending an inordinate amount of time in court rooms these days. I don’t want to start unsubstantiated rumors but I might have seen Michael Jordan travel with the ball every now and then too.

A few months back, Runner’s World had an interesting article about Eddy Hellebuyck, an American marathon champion and confessed performance enhancing doper. It was shocking because we simply don’t hear that too often in the running community. Doping? That’s for huge-headed baseball sluggers and rubber-legged cyclists. Cheating? That’s for Senatorial college coaches with little to no fashion sense.

We cheer on our marathon champions like the hyper-trained, well-coached, perfectly tuned runners we know they are. They have abnormal dedication to the sport. Maybe their genes are better suited to distance running than the rest of us. Perhaps their internal balance and biomechanics are simply superior. In short, they are a perfect cocktail of physical and mental preparedness. They train extraordinarily hard and we both envy and applaud them for their accomplishments. And not one of them wears a sweater vest.

But are we being deceived? What if you woke up tomorrow and discovered that world’s great marathon champions failed tests for performance enhancing drugs? Their victories were unearned. Their times were drug-aided. As a runner, would it matter to you that the sport you love has been tarnished?

Running makes such a strong, natural connection with the amateur athlete in part because the elite of the sport aren’t pampered, multi-million dollar athletes. They aren’t in rap videos pointing at gyrating booty. They normally aren’t on our boxes of Wheaties (even though they probably should be). In fact, if you participate in a popular marathon, there’s a good chance one of the elite runners will be participating in the very same race at the very same time. When’s the last time Kobe Bryant was in your pick-up basketball game? Elite runners seem just like the rest of us…just better at running.

There’s something pure and natural about the sport as well. Of course, all runners joke and laugh about the hidden costs (race & travel fees, shoes aren’t getting any cheaper) but, at its core, running is still just about you and your movement. Nothing more. You don’t need others to play a game. You don’t require pads or helmets or fancy uniforms (though I would suggest most of you need to wear a shirt, please.) It’s about how your body moves and what you can make it do with applied training. Running is the foundation of almost every sport. It’s the link that ties them together (except for you, bowling, but no one really considers you a sport.)

I’m not naïve to think that there aren’t, or won’ t be, elite runners willing to obtain their goals by cutting some corners. It would be tremendously disappointing. It’d rock the sport the same way cycling and the 100 meter sprint have become clouded. Like it or not, when the new 100 meter Olympic champion is crowned, how long does it take you to wonder if he/she's on steroids? I’d hate to have the dramatic climax of an epic marathon be the drug test administered thirty minutes later. Ryan Hall steps out of the port-a- potty with a cup of deep yellow, dehydrated urine waving to the crowd while a group of men in white lab coats signal “it’s good” with upraised arms. And the the crowd erupts! Folks, it’s official, he has won the marathon…pending second test in a week….

I hope our elite runners are making the correct choices. It’s not just about them and their race. It’s about all of us. When the marathon gun bangs, the elites, the near elites, the BQ aspirants, the ‘just finishers’ and the first timers are all taking off together as one community. I hope the elites are running to win…and not away from a secret.

Run, Tressel, Run...they are gaining on you.

Is there a wolf in sheep’s sweater vest in our midst? Are we all being tresseled?

Happy trails.

*I love outlandishly large teeth disproportionate to the rest of the face. Also, The Next Karate Kid? Awesome.

Want to see shame in action? Look, the man can’t even look at his fans – or camera – in the face. Seriously, flip through every page. The shame. The subtitle to this series of photos is: "Strangers caress OSU coach Jim Tressel's back while he's busy writing his next novel about ethics across the face of many footballs."


Jamoosh said...

Well said. It's interesting the difference between Sprinters and Marathoners. Sprinters are pampered rock stars, while elite marathoners are known only in the running community (for the most part).

Word Verification = pulne (because I know you care so much...)

John at Hella Sound said...

Damn son, another great write-up. Are you sure you're not secretly writing for a major news outlet, and Nitmos is just your Clark Kent-like disguise?
What kind of doping would be most conducive to distance running? Steroids, for sure, with their quick recovery and regeneration aspect. Blood doping? I don't know, would increased O2 in the blood last a full 26.2? Is there something that can unnaturally sustain glycogen stores? That'd be the winner.
I saw the elites fly by at the NYC Half last weekend, and it was a sight to behold. Let's hope the sport stays clean.

The Sean said...

There are plenty of cheaters... all aboard the Usain Train... but you can't let a few bad (genetically modified) apples spoil the whole orchard.

Jess said...

First I love how you mock the sweater vest.

And second, I thought this was a really great post.

Watching the elites is seriously amazing and I hope marathon running never has to deal with that whole drug testing mess.

Al's CL Reviews said...

Garmin is may be infallible but it is not McMenamin proof.

As for Tressel...if he does get fired (I haven't been listening to my husband so I don't know), maybe he'll get hired at Tennessee. They seem to be a class act!

Ironman By Thirty said...

This was a great post. It deserves a place in SI or Runners World. I bet each of the magazines has a staff member from Ohio though.

Have you gone to the store to buy a box of Chris McCormack Wheaties yet?

Elizabeth said...

Darn it. Now you are on to me. There goes my 4:45 Marathon PR. Guess I am not in the record books anymore.

Jill said...

Mr Mirace Worker Nazi PT man is a HUGE NCAA guy and everytime I go in he says, "How's your bracket's doing, Jill?" I told him yesterday, "If your cheating sweater vest guy's team wins tomorrow, I'm done." (and PT man's out if they lose...not that I want them to lose or I'd probably get an entire box of needles in my calf!). The running vest pic made me laugh!

I'd be pretty sad if I found out one of my marathon idols were found cheating...but I guess I wouldn't be surprised. Unfortunately.

Drea said...

It would matter- a lot.

Anonymous said...

I don't know about your premise.

Do I have a passion for my sport because of some bloke who can do a 2:20 without training?

The elite runners are pulling in 7-8 figures. Paula Radcliffe, Kara Goucher, Meb all have their own Alter-g treadmills in their OWN homes! Altitude simulating bedrooms!

The bad-asses in running are the folks who make crazy contributions to society and smoke the rest of the field. Remember that Japanese dude who smoked the field, gave his prize money to his mother, and then went back to work at some fast food joint? (that was last year)

Part of me wants to go back to the true amateur years of the Olympics - before athletes were allowed to earn a salary. Being an athlete is like being a teacher - its a privilege to have the opportunity. If you don't like the life then get out. But I'm just old school, sorry.

Ainsley Drew said...

My question to you is this: Is it worse to have a Tressel tressel your team, or a Donald Sterling to unabashedly, shamelessly run it into the ground without any veneer of ethics...or decency, morals, dignity, humanity, etc?

I agree with you though, Nitmos. For shame. There's cheating in every sport to varying degrees, but he's as dangerous and phony as the flax seed oil Bonds inadvertently used. The 'V' in Tressel's sweatervest stands for violation. He violated the players, the organization, the fans, and the game.

"The mission I've always had is we make sure we help young people change their lives." If there's a Hell, I can't wait to see its definition of "some sanctions" for the fucker.

Laura said...

I am SURE there are elites out there who cheat, particularly with all the prize money at stake. I also don't think the cheating is necessarily an American thing - for example, a Kenyan who is running to support his family back home has even MORE to lose if he can't get that prize money. I think it is just a reality of sports today - people will always try to game the system. I just hope it is not ever someone I know or admire. To be sure about cheating, I would welcome drug testing for all elites - everyone should have a fair shot.

Danielle in Iowa in Seattle said...

All I know is that I have been taking this useless performance enhancing drugs for AGES and I still can't run a 2 hr half. Damn you Flintstone Kids.

Beth said...

I agree that marathoners seem so relatable. Not so sure about Hillary... :)

Adam said...

Great post. I agree that I'd be VERY frustrated if there was a doping scandal in running. I'm sure there is cheating though - but i try to ignore it.

I remember watching a real sports on HBO about the drug testing after races. It isn't too far away from your portrayal.

Spike said...

I may have lost an Olympic gold for something similar...oh the shame.

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