Wednesday, May 28, 2014
Just this past weekend, we Americans honored the true heroes of this great nation, the veterans that served and some who died fighting for freedoms that we tend to take for granted. Others classified as hero’s come in many shapes and sizes, such as first responders and some ordinary citizens who do extraordinary acts. They exemplify true heroism.
Sadly, society has, at times, convoluted the title hero. We tend to worship self-serving individuals, such as athletes and honor shallow gallantry. With that as a backdrop, we are treated to the presence of one of Ohio’s true false idols, former Ohio State running back, Maurice Clarett.
It was recently announced that on Thursday, May 29th, the local independent baseball team, the Lake Erie Crushers advertised the appearance of Clarett at that night’s game. No truth to the rumor that this was to be called “narcissism night at the ballpark”, but this promotion still demands exploration.
When contacted, the spokesman for the Crushers said there were several reasons for this invitation. First, it is the halfway point from last season to this year’s matchup with Michigan. Secondly, it was pointed out that, in the United States, everyone deserves a second chance. He went on to elaborate that the ESPN 30 on 30 segment also influenced their decision to invite him. He also expressed pride in how Clarett battled and overcame his mental illness.
On the first point, no one can argue. Michigan and Ohio State is a large rivalry and gets national media attention. I feel the same way as a Clemson Tigers fan, as on that same November night, they play their rival South Carolina. I admit to being a dedicated College Football fan!
Next was the claim that everyone deserves a second chance, to which I agree. As a mental health advocate and as one who suffered many indignities because of my own condition, I witness remarkably few receiving the opportunity to reestablish themselves. However, with second chances, Clarett has had more lives than a cat and has been the benefactor of numerous opportunities. Additionally, it would not be a stretch to believe that the boosters of “Buckeye Nation” have taken exceptional care of him.
Next, if they seek to exploit the 30 on 30 show featuring the scandal ridden Jim Tressel and Clarret, they are free to do just that. In that episode, I noticed little was made about the allegations of academic fraud, or the list of scandals that have plagued Tressel’s career. However, like most wealthy people, he failed upward by being named President of Youngstown State University.
Finally, we reach the crux of the remaking of Clarett. He claims he suffers from mental illness, and that has been the cause of all his maladaptive behavior. It is here that I take issue with his being both praised and worshipped by others, such as the Lake Erie Crushers for his personal battle. Speaking as both an advocate, and as one who has struggled with mental illness, I have serious doubts of his being sincere in this crusade.
It is here that the hypocrisy of Clarett and his gullible follower’s adulation of his recovery from mental illness warrants careful scrutiny,
Back in 2003, when the arrogance of this young man was first making its mark, he allegedly walked out of a class while taking a test. Those actions, reported by a teaching assistant, Norma McGil, should have resulted in a failed grade, which would have made him ineligible for the important game with Michigan, eventually won by Ohio State propelling them to a National Title. Instead, he was later permitted to take an oral exam to pass the class. Here again, preferential treatment and a second chance for Clarett.
It was then that this teaching assistant was to pay a high price for properly doing her job. Rather than be concerned with the behavior of Clarett, the school and its arrogant leaders turned their attention on this teaching assistant. Specifically, they went after her Achilles heel, her own battle with the same mental illness that Clarett claims to be suffering, major depression. The members of Buckeye Nation attacked her with a ferociousness of a pack of rabid dogs and dragged her through the mud. Her boss even got into the act. Professor Kenneth Goings was quoted as saying he had trouble believing her because of her illness. However, he never witnessed any odd behavior on her part. When pressed, he admitted he based his judgment on hearing rumors, not any logical reasoning. It must be added that this man, Goings, is a PHD.
Ironically, ESPN, which produced the 30 on 30 show featuring Clarett, once did a story on this teaching assistant. In this article, they placed her in a “whistleblower’s purgatory.” Miss McGil went on to describe that because of losing her job at Ohio State over this episode; “I’ve been rendered homeless, slept in cars, slept on the ground.” All because she told the truth about Clarett and was honest in her position. In time, the stress of this episode exacerbated her illness, and she herself has been in and out of trouble for years, which ended her dream of becoming a teacher. However, no one associated with Ohio State has attempted to assist her with a “second chance”.
It is in this setting that the duplicity of Ohio State and the credulous masses, such as those from the Lake Erie Crushers, fail to see the different way they viewed Norma McGil’s struggle with mental illness vs Clarett’s.
As Maurice travels the state on his quest to rehabilitate his image, many heap praise on him. One woman told me that she was proud of how he is battling his demons. At Ohio State he was given a standing ovation and treated as royalty. Not long ago, he spoke to the National Alliance on Mental illness (NAMI) of Ohio. He was given a standing ovation and praised for his courage. When questioned, one person described him as a “neat guy!”
Now contrast that with the treatment of the teaching assistant. She was harassed, and the subject of a verbal lynch mob. On campus and on the local radio station, she was known as “Norma the Mental freak!” Another classy comment from the Buckeye faithful was “get the crazy black bitch off campus!” These degenerates were spurred on by the silence of those protecting Clarett, who, as mentioned earlier, suffered from the same condition.
With the reference to Memorial Day, on a side note, I am quite certain that Clarett can receive the best treatment for any condition that money can buy. The same cannot be said of our military veterans whose desire for treatment for conditions such as post-traumatic stress syndrome, PTSD, can languish for months.
The final question I asked the spokesperson from the Crushers was simply” What about Norma McGil?” His response was the same as I receive from almost everyone I ask. He said, who is Norma McGil? No one remembers the victim of this scandal, only the perpetrators, Tressel and Clarett, and many continue to find ways to promote them both, and demonize the teaching assistant.
The Crushers did offer me the opportunity to speak with Clarett, and I would have taken them up on the offer if I did not have to work. However, it is important to point out that I have tried for many years to talk about these issues with both he and Tressel and have been met with the famous, click of the receiver or being told that “they would get back to me.” They never did return my call. However, if I did converse with him, I would ask about Norma McGil and his preferential treatment. I would explore that if his claims of being remorseful are accurate, has he ever reached out to her and if he asked Buckeye nation to assist her as a victim. I would hope he will one day answer honestly, but that remains to be seen.
Finally, as one who has fought the demons of mental illness, of suicidal ideation, I applaud all those who bravely confront their personal demons. Few recognized that this is a lifetime sentence of treatment. However, I am disgusted by this invitation and take it as a personal insult for those who do indeed suffer. If the Lake Erie Crushers wish to understand the harm these illnesses can do to those who deserve help, I can introduce them to hundreds of more deserving of praise and adulation than Clarett. However none of them can score touchdowns, nor are filled with self-promotion like he has displayed. They just want to be normal happy lives, like everyone aspires to do!