Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Ohio State, College Football, and Incivility
As a college football fan, I have become a listener of former Ohio State Quarterback turned broadcaster Kirk Herbstreit. He presents himself as a level-headed, objective journalist who is respected for unbiased reporting. On a recent twitter exchange, he replied to another fan with "...You're right about the debate culture, but debate is healthy and doesn't require ugliness".
I have never been shy about being a Clemson fan, which occurred by default because of family connections. I enjoy frequent trips to Death Valley and over the years, have witnessed some exciting games. This is in stark contrast to my complete lack of respect for Ohio State after the shameful way they treated a teaching assistant, Norma McGil. This transpired during the scandal plagued years of past coach Jim Tressel but more on that later. With all of that as a backdrop, now we learn that the wisdom of Kirk Herbstreit in illuminating the ugliness of debating in today's culture.
It all started on twitter, when I responded to a tweet of someone from Ohio State saying they could not understand what happened last Saturday in the Michigan State game. Sensing lively spirited banter, I answered, by saying, the better team won! No doubt, an argument or debate, could be made to the validity of my declaration, as they did score more points. A sign of old fashioned sportsmanship would be teams and fans, being gracious in both victory and defeat. Surprisingly, what ensued was more of a pack of rabid dogs smelling distress and the attack began.
However, I must admit, I did have a small amount of civil dialogue with some of the members of "Buckeye nation", which is how they refer to themselves. Some pointed out that the insults came from a "lunatic fringe" of fans that seem to overwhelm many sports programs. However, those belligerent ones, who most likely never attended college, much less a major university, eliminated any semblance of civility that existed. In these ugly exchanges, I felt like a bait dog at a pit bull fight. Sadly, this incivility is a microcosm of what exists within society today.
During these attacks, it was pointed out that I was a hater, an idiot, geezer and a few more colorful alternative words. It did not last long for the attacks to escape my football beliefs and move on to the mental health advocacy that I volunteer a great deal of time. This work is prominently displayed on my twitter homepage. With the words, mental health as a target, I understood more of what Norma McGil faced on that campus back in 2002-03
One classy fan said "Go p--s yourself old man". Another one was more blunt by telling me to "Go back to the nursing home!" A player even got in on the act by making another derogatory comment about my age. My reply was yes I am getting older, but I am far from being ready for nursing home. With a bit of luck, all of the people flinging those vile comments, including that player, will one day live to be my age or older. They may even be as active as I am even after numerous operations.
What I witnessed, besides ugly dialogue, was the psychology of mob mentality in social networking, which individuals associated with Ohio State seem to relish. Few were debating the merits of my benign statement, the better team won, they set their sights on me personally. It was as if I had attacked their mothers or shot their dogs as their demented hatred permeated this "dialogue".
During some speeches I have given, I have been asked when this school become so arrogant and begin to show utter contempt for others? Ohio States cheap arrogance has its origins in its Former President Gordon Gee living vicariously as a bully through his football team. His actions as a role model, and a pathetic one at that rubbed off on the people associated with the school. Specifically, his demeaning behavior towards other schools and some religious bigotry that Buckeye Nation finds acceptable.
I must admit that as the comments came in, I threw some gasoline on the fire, when I asked if other teams should hide their cheerleaders, in reference to Carlos Hydes inappropriate behavior this past summer. However, I clearly did not need to do that, as their depraved appetite to spew venom was on full display. All because I made an innocent comment after a game.
Over the years, many have asked me why do I hate Ohio State. I respond by reminding people I do not hate the school, but I do not respect what they did. I remind many that if we judge a society on how they treat their most vulnerable, then Ohio State should be ashamed and condemned for their treatment of the earlier mentioned Norma McGil.
To refresh everyone's memory, Miss McGil was a teaching assistant at Ohio State, who excelled academically, and was working on an advanced degree. She made allegations that some football players were given preferential treatment in class, and it created a firestorm of allegations, not against the player, but directed at her. Shortly thereafter, she came face to face with a modern day lynch mob and became a true victim of the same repugnant hatred many others have experienced or witnessed from this school.
A obvious example would be Columbus radio station WBNS, a flagship station of OSU, who once employed a sportscaster by the name of Ian Fitzsimmons. This person found entertainment by calling her "Norma the Mental Freak" and even cheered on a caller who referred to her as a "Crazy black bitch". Another member of "Buckeye Nation", called the Vanilla Gorilla, who claimed to be a graduate student at the school, at that time wrote, "Until Norma has her ugly insane ass circulating in public...". He went on to make even more offensive comments such as turning her into a transsexual. All of these narratives became comical fodder for members of Buckeye Nation. Shockingly, the school administration and Coach Tressel witnessed this persecution in chilling silence.
In reflection, Norma was just a hardworking woman, trying to get an education and become a role model for younger African American women. She had three strikes against her; She was female, African American and had a mental illness. The same illness that afflicted many prominent leaders such as Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill and many others. She lost her dreams and hopes because when she spoke up, Ohio State attacked her illness, not the merits of her claims.
It bears pointing out that though her illness was besieged by this lynch mob, no one on campus was ever able to point to any "bizarre behavior" of hers as evidence that she was unstable.
Where was Buckeye nation during all this? As many can ascertain, they were defending the actions of Maurice Clarret and mocking Norma Mcgil. They were also defending head coach Jim Tressel, who has proven to be a liar on the magnitude not seen since the dark days of Richard Nixon. During that Clarret scandal, nobody stood up for Norma, and few, if any, were concerned that Maurice had serious issues. Disgustingly, many found his actions okay simply because he could score touchdowns. Strangely, that opinion of Clarret lingers to this day, even after spending three years in prison for armed robbery.
We should all find disheartening that onslaughts from Buckeye Nation come with such viciousness, and stupidity, but when one of their fellow students came under a barrage, they stand back and laugh. That is nothing for any group to hold up with a sense of pride. If they simply do love their school, if they genuinely had the best interests of their classmates at heart, why did this school crucify Norma? To them, the football game became more valuable than the individual and best interests of her, and once again, that is not a source of self-glorification.
If there was ever an example of people losing their moral compass, Kirk Herbstreit's tweet spelled it out thoroughly. He was referring to the current disrespectful behavior of many sports fans. Sadly, that is just a microcosm on the values of society as people take stupid things like a football game and make them life or death. Ohio State thought it was okay to destroy the life of a defenseless woman, simply because she interfered with their ability to win some football games.
I have some advice for these members of buckeye nation. Start doing something productive with your lives. Go out and do volunteer work to witness firsthand how the less fortunate live and fight for an existence. Who knows, some may one day realize that there are more problems in the world then defending the loss of a football game. However, based on what I witnessed, I doubt that many of them can pull themselves from behind their masks of shallowness and ignorance to do anything truly valuable! That is nothing for Ohio State to wear as a badge of honor!