On "Fake Buckeyes"

Kevin Jairaj-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

Kirk Herbstreit, Scott Torgerson and Mike Ricordati, three well known Columbus media personalities, are in an antennae-measuring contest. Why do we care?

Twitter is a funny thing, isn't it? I remember the day I first joined Twitter and thought it was literally the dumbest thing I have ever done; a complete waste of time and effort with little to no payoff for any effort in composing or reading others' tweets. To this day, I still thought I would last two weeks on the service before I dropped and ignored it. That was over four years ago. Now, it is as much a part of my life as it is the collective social media world's life. Twitter is the best way to experience horrible television, great sports, politics (if you're into that) and everything else. This service that I had all but left for dead four years ago is now a bigger part of my life than I ever thought possible. Nowhere else does 140 characters have that kind of an impact.

Which is why it isn't exactly surprising that in less than 140 characters, a local Columbus radio host can get himself suspended from his job and set off a flame war in his own radio station, and on popular Ohio State football blogs across the Internet.

Scott Torgerson, AKA "The Torg" is the local radio host in Columbus, and does the drive time sports talk show the flagship home of Ohio State athletics, 97.1 The Fan. On Saturday, he sent out a tweet saying, basically, that he wanted Michigan Man Desmond Howard to either be fired or die so that Scott could return to peacefully watching ESPN College Gameday. If you've ever listened Torgerson's show, you would know that this is entirely within his character, and that he was very obviously joking, as Torgerson has expressed vitriol over Howard on numerous occasions. The tweet in questions was RT'd and spread around (as is usually the case with horrible, horrible tweets) and was eventually deleted. That should do it, right?

On Monday, Kirk Herbstreit, who is employed by the same radio station and has a weekly show, came out tore the Torg a new one, without even saying his name. Deserved? Maybe. Herbstreit sticking up for a friend? Probably. A bit below board considering the forum? I say yes. But it was a brief segment on Herbstreit's show, nothing else. Story over, right?

After Herbstreit's comments, the Torgerson's partner, Mike Ricordati, used his own air to stick up for his partner, intimating that Herbstreit was a "fake Buckeye". Since then, most has been quiet on the air in Columbus. Torgerson apologized, but remains suspended indefinitely, but it seems like things have blown over. Whether or not we'll hear any more inside information about this remains to be seen. But the whole situation speaks loudly as to how and why we label those associated with Ohio State.

Being a Buckeye is very important in Columbus, and rightfully so. To this day, the best way to go about getting a job here in town is either A) nepotism; or B) have "Former Ohio State Buckeye" in front of your name. If you suited up for the scarlet and gray, there's a job as a spokesperson or one selling insurance waiting for you in the 614. That is the true power of Ohio State, and why I don't have any problem with Gordon Gee spending $60,000 on bow ties.

Kirk Herbstreit could have pursued such a job after his career, but he went into broadcasting, where he has been incredibly successful. He is part of ESPN's best show (outside of 30 for 30) and is their number one college football game analyst and a top studio analyst. He loves the Buckeyes, was a Buckeye and continues to rep the Buckeyes as best he can. What is important to know is that, in his public life, Herbstreit can rarely be a Buckeye fan. He is paid to give as unbiased an opinion as possible, and analyze games with passion and without bias. That is his job when he has an ESPN-branded microphone in his hand.

I don't envy his position, either. I love Ohio State so much that I devote (too) much of my time blogging about it. I watch each game like the world will end if I miss it, or if they lose. I'm one of those guys who refers to the team as "we". In a different circumstance, were he not under the purview of the World Wide Leader, I imagine Kirk Herbstreit would outwardly love Ohio State, too. But the fact is, he isn't allowed to, and he's too good at his job to go in any other direction. Given the chance, I'm sure he'd love to embrace his inner Hawk Harrelson. But that's not his job.

Quick story: a few years ago, I was working for the CBS affiliate down in Cincinnati, and we were rolling on a Buckeye game using ESPN's satellite feed. For those that don't know, this sat feed didn't take commercials, rather it stayed with the production, and we could hear what the personalities were saying to one another between commercials. Herbstreit was rehearsing for a highlight package at one of the commercial breaks, and he was gushing over the Buckeyes, speaking like we fans all do about how great the team was, gushing to the point that he was called out for it by Lee Corso. This promptly went away as soon as the broadcast went live, and professional Kirk Herbstreit returned to his job.

The Landgrantariat was phenomenal in the comments about the Torg twitter incident, but the phrase "fake Buckeye" came out quite a bit with reference to Herbstreit, and Ricordati used a much bigger forum to say basically the same thing. We care about that phrase because we all hold Ohio State so near and dear to us as fans, alums and followers. If someone has the audacity to pick against the Buckeyes on national television, the way Fat Urkel does, or Trev Alberts used to, we curse them to oblivion. But when Herbstreit does it, it hurts us because he is (or was) one of us, and some fans take him to task for it. And if you think that sounds melodramatic, you're completely wrong because it is important to fans, and entirely right because, really, what's the point?

It is Kirk Herbstreit's job to analyze and broadcast the sport of college football, with as little bias or lean as possible, especially toward his alma mater. He is much better at it than most ESPN'ers (and if you don't believe me, go back in time and watch Matt Millen stand by Paterno and Penn State as the Jerry Sandusky scandal broke). So when Herbstreit goes on the air and has fun with Desmond Howard, it isn't because he's fake or he forgot where his allegiance should be, it's because they work together and they're friends. When he goes on his show and rips a local radio guy, it's because he thought the tweet was tasteless, which it was.

Where it crosses a line for me is when we take something like defending a coworker and friend and turn that into the type of vitriol that can rile up an entire fan base. Should Mike Ricordati have gone on the air to protect his coworker? That is his prerogative, and there's nothing wrong with it at all - it's exactly what Herbstreit did. But bringing out a phrase like "fake Buckeye" is a good way to get listeners and page views, not make a cogent, believable point.

Herbstreit isn't a "fake Buckeye". Neither is Ricordati. Neither is Scott Torgerson, who made a dumb mistake on an all too public forum. Eventually, this whole thing will blow over, and we will eventually be forgotten.

When that happens, the phrase "fake Buckeye" needs to go with it.

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