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Gordon Gee, crimes against comedy, and the backlash to the backlash

E. Gordon Gee's done it again – acted exactly like himself. While platitudes get retweeted like recycled @prodigalsam jokes, we look at why this is just business as usual.

E. Gordon Gee, Episode 1.
E. Gordon Gee, Episode 1.
Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE

Did you hear the one about Ohio State's oft-maligned president, E. Gordon Gee? You know, the one that spent $64,000 a year on bow ties? In case you didn't, he should be fired, forcibly tattooed, exiled to Rutgers, or if you do the right Twitter search, killed for off hand, mildly off-color comments he made at an event over six months ago. But let's take a step back to look at the backlash about the backlash for a second.

It probably goes without saying, but the Internet faux outrage machine is beyond nauseating. Whether you feel the value of your degree was insulted, whether your religious persecution radar was sounded, whether your school's US News & World Report Top Colleges ranking was besmirched, it's time to collect the pitchforks.

Or maybe you're outraged about the outrage. Or maybe you're put off that other people are being "opportunistic" about the story and writing about it. Or maybe you're put off by the people that are put off by that. If there's something to get outraged about, no matter to what degree and no matter how sincere in nature, the Internet won't just find an avenue for that to occur – they'll find an avenue for you to share in your indignation with someone even more so.

Land-Grant Holy Land's staff come from an extremely diverse background wrapped around a single entity (Ohio State). Amongst us we have Catholics, Mormons (of which Gordon Gee is a practicing one), southerners, and basically every demographic that could've possibly been offended (which is, to be totally honest, unsurprising Gordon Gee Gordon Gee-ry as usual in most Ohio State's observers mind's eyes) other than those in and around the University of Louisville (good people, fine school, fun city; let's Louisville it up soon, Looavul). But that wasn't as much what made us collectively slap our heads after hearing the news.

While it's beyond accepted that comedy is subjective, I think more than anything the common consensus is that we weren't so much as put off or worried about the potential for offense, mock offense, or mock offense about the offense so much as we were put off by the general unfunny nature of the comments. For better or worse, Catholicism jokes have kept the wheel of comedy greased for 1700 years. Crimes against comedy, however, are judged far less graciously by the annals of history.

The thing about Gordon Gee is that by the time you've moved on to your next Bill Simmons-MLK outrage, or come up with some new academic persecution complex patient zero to make the target of your ire, he'll have raised a ridiculous amount of money for Ohio State.

This isn't a blank check for him to act un-presidential certainly; his comments today, whether you're more offended as someone singled out by his comments or someone prone to being offended about people being offended by things, are not becoming of his stature, and he'll be rebuked by those in OSU's power structure accordingly. But it's also not grounds, no matter how many blowhard-y 1200 word columns powered by nothing more than low hanging fruit and hot air because the guy's made a hobby of letting his shtick become synonymous with his vocation, for anything remotely resembling termination.

Besides winning pocketbooks, Gee's beyond accomplished in doing the same with domestic hearts and minds. From showing up at 1 a.m. to off-campus keggers to take pictures and hobnob, to personally intervening in securing transcripts for students trying to get teacher's licenses to work in low-performing school districts to the tempered version of the same bad jokes he makes at everything from convocation to commencement, Gee's affability is every bit as synonymous with the lofty spending and wrath drawing to those in the Ohio State community. When your inappropriate uncle acts like your inappropriate uncle, you shake your head and roll your eyes. But he's still your inappropriate uncle, and you're still inviting him over for Thanksgiving. He's no cartoonish super-villain.

Basically, Gordon Gee is a businessman. Gordon Gee is probably an aspiring Twitter skill-level comedian, but no matter how badly you may want him to be, Gordon Gee isn't a bad university president. It's fitting to call for his head after another Joe Biden-like verbal miscue, but comedic styling isn't part of his job description. Fundraising is, and Gee can make it rain with the best of them in academia.

For every seven-month-old bootleg copy of E. Gordon Gee's "Live & Smokin'" that sees the light of day, there's a nine-figure hand shake Gee's securing that will keep his status amongst teflon dons as secure as they come. Does it entitle him to lower the bar for would-be amateur comedians everywhere, both behind closed doors and not? Most assuredly not. Our only plea is the next time you pick up a pitchfork that weighs no more than a mouse just because you can, maybe stop and think if your time couldn't be spent better elsewhere.

We're not exclusively tired of the backlash to the backlash to the backlash, nor are we in anyway advocating a defense of Gordon Gee's foot-in-mouth disease. We'd just sort of like to talk about fake 40-yard dash times again, is all.

Matt Brown contributed to this report.