The Curse Of Overconfidence

On September 7, the much-anticipated 2015 version of the Ohio State University Buckeyes will take the field for the first time — in Blacksburg, Virginia, against Virginia Tech.  The Hokies handed the Buckeyes their only loss last year, beating the Men of the Scarlet and Gray soundly here in Columbus.  Of course, the Buckeyes rebounded and went on to have a legendary season that ended with a glorious and dominating three-game run that produced a National Championship.

Buckeyes fans are eager for the new season, but the hyperbole surrounding the team is making me queasy.  You regularly see articles asking whether Ohio State will have the greatest offense in the history of college football, or have one of the best teams ever.  The overwhelming self-confidence — hubris, really — among many members of Buckeye Nation and even some members of the news media is like nothing I’ve ever seen.

Fortunately for Ohio State diehards, fans and reporters don’t play the games.  Perhaps the biggest challenge for head coach Urban Meyer and his assistants this year — aside from figuring out who will be the starting quarterback — is to keep the players from reading their own press clippings and getting swelled heads.  Of course, you want players who are hungry, highly motivated, and working as hard as they possibly can for themselves and their teammates; those who are convinced that they are already among the greatest probably aren’t going to give the necessary extra effort to get the most out of every drill.

Urban Meyer, who got his bachelor’s degree in psychology, is a master motivator who seems to have an almost intuitive grasp of how young athletes think and a deep sense of how to appeal to their competitive instincts.  If anyone can keep Ohio State’s talented players on task and on point, it’s Coach Meyer — and the fact that the Buckeye roster seems very deep, with lots of gifted athletes competing relentlessly for starting positions, has to help.  Even if you’ve read article after article about your own greatness, it’s not easy to slack off when you know firsthand that the guy behind you also has enormous skills and would be perfectly happy to step in and take your place while you revel in the hype.

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