Gold pants are treasured by Smiths

Staff Writer
The Columbus Dispatch

There's not enough frankincense, myrrh or even cold, hard cash to convince Marcy Smith to sell her growing collection of gold pants.

The fobs are the souvenirs an Ohio State player earns for being part of a team that beats Michigan. She is the wife of former OSU lineman Joe Smith (three wins) and the mother of two current Buckeyes players, fifth-year senior lineman Connor (five wins) and fourth-year junior tight end Spencer (four). Joe's mother was given the first pair of gold pants he won in 1979, but since then Marcy has strung the rest on a necklace, holding nine pairs with two more on the way as a result of this year's win.

She didn't buy any of those gold pants from the backroom of a tattoo parlor, and she's doesn't understand how anyone could part with a pair just for cash.

"There is no money in the world that is worth more than those gold pants," Marcy said. "They represent a lot of blood, a lot of sweat and a lot of tears. And I tell my boys I am the keeper of the pants in the family until a significant other comes along."

The family got together per tradition at the home of Joe's parents last night, in Colerain Township outside Cincinnati, to celebrate Christmas. There's no doubt one topic of discussion was the scandal that rocked Ohio State this week with the revelation that five players sold some of their memorabilia to a tattoo parlor owner and will be suspended the first five games of 2011. Two of those, quarterback Terrelle Pryor and defensive end Solomon Thomas, sold their 2008 gold pants.

But most of the banter likely was about family. That's what Christmases always have been about for the Smiths.

"Honestly, it's seeing everybody together, all four generations of the family, 30 or more people," Spencer said. "It's the only time the whole family is together every year. We're kind of crammed in there with about 30 people, but there is a lot of love in that house."

Then tonight at the Joe Smith house, the scene will be repeated, except in the place of some family members are friends from church and often those who just need a place to spend the holiday.

"We get a fire going in the fireplace and we have a big beef rib roast," Joe said. "It's a time when we'll say our blessings for the things we're so happy for that the Lord has provided us with, and we'll honor him in our house. Our Christmas wish is to strengthen our bond with Jesus and the Lord.

"I've always taught my kids it's better to give than receive. There's givers and there's getters in the world, and we try to be givers."

Back in the good old days, the Smith brothers and their sisters, 18-year-old MacKenzie and 14-year-old Cassidy, experienced the phenomena of two visits from Santa Claus each Christmas. The first came at their grandparents' home while they were all at an early Christmas Eve church service.

"But their house is about 2 miles away from us, and it was on the way to church, and we'd always make our dad slow the car down so we could maybe catch a glimpse of Santa in the front window as we drove by," Spencer said. "Somehow we grew up believing Santa came at 5 o'clock on Christmas Eve, too.

"The way it was explained to us, he had to work his way through the neighborhoods, and he was so busy he didn't get to our house until we'd gotten back home and gone to bed."

Not that Santa has quit coming, at least at their grandparents' home.

"He just keeps showing because there are so many younger kids," Connor said. "It's really cool to watch how they react to all of that now, because you know how you felt about it when you were younger. Christmas was just awesome."

Spencer agreed, pointing out how the holiday has evolved to be even better the older they become.

"When you were younger, it was all about the gifts," Spencer said. "Now, the gift is really that feeling you get when everybody is together."

Connor even grew philosophical about it.

"Life is really just a continual chain of memories, when you really get right down to it," he said. "When you look back, it's being around people you love and are the most important to you, those are the memories you really hold on to."

Just like preserving memories is really what the gold pants necklace is all about, Joe said."Each one of those pairs of pants represents a year's worth of work you or your sons put in with teammates toward a common goal, and ultimately you were successful," Joe said. "That's the big thing to me, that it reflects a lot of one-year histories there that get ingrained to a lifetime of memories."

He lettered four times for the Buckeyes. While his sons haven't risen to be regulars as he did, he said they have contributed to the cause and stand for all that's right about playing for Ohio State.

"Spencer was academic all-Big Ten this year, and they're both going to get good degrees," Joe said. Connor didn't play as much as either of them would have liked, "but the great thing is he is healthy. And he's still got all of his gold pants."

tmay@dispatch.com