If you have Internet access (and if you don't, uh, thanks for supporting Land-Grant Holy Land's once monthly paper bound zine), you've probably heard of a few big college football scandal stories dropping over the course of the last week. The folks at Yahoo! Sports reported that some kids in the SEC were taking money from agents, and SI has published a whopping five part report, with much fanfare, on a litany of goings on with Oklahoma State. Social media has been abuzz over both stories.
The buzz following the stories, especially the SI report, has been interesting, to say the least. A lot of very respectable names have cast doubt on the veracity of SI's reporting, and given how multiple people have doubled down on its accuracy ("our lawyers have lawyers", etc), it will certainly make this an interesting case study on the credibility of SI as an enterprise journalism outfit.
That makes interesting watercooler or inside baseball chatter, but that's not what's drawing the most ire from many Buckeye fans. It's the reaction to the allegations themselves, primarily from other sports commentators, that seem to confuse many of the Columbus faithful. Rather than pearl clutching and expressing outrage at the concept of players getting a few checks for their services, many are writing the allegations, even if true, as nothing. Who cares if players are getting paid under the table? Amateurism is bogus anyway. Writers from Jason Whitlock to Dennis Dodd have questioned the model, and the public good of this sort of reporting.
That's a far cry, from, you know, this.
So what changed? Why is it okay for there to be hundred dollar handshakes in Stillwater, or for a certain Mr. Football to sell his autograph for low four figures? Why is it when some SEC football players accept agent money, they're standing up against unjust laws, while getting a few cheaper tattoos and selling golden pants leads to a modern day gridiron Gomorrah? AM I RITE, BROS?
Well, there are lots of differences, for starters. Some probably relate to the players themselves and how they are perceived (if it takes Mr. Manziel's antics to teach sports fans about the concept of White Privilege, well, that's an okay trade off to me) None of the characters in the recent stories had an image of sterling goodness like The Senator did, so perhaps some took particular relish in tearing that down. None of the characters in the recent stories have lied to the NCAA (so far as the evidence suggests). And, as we've seen in other issues, sometimes people can change their minds quickly. Maybe it was Penn State. Maybe it was the botched Miami incident. Maybe it's Jay Bilas' Twitter account (Your stories I'm ripping/Mark Emmert be trippin'/I got to go to work). Who knows?
And more importantly, who cares?
Continuing to rave about the scandal and the associated sanctions would be one thing if they irrevocably damaged Ohio State's football program. Sure, the team went 6-7 in a season damaged by suspensions and a probably-out-of-his-league coach, but that team had deficiencies all over the field beyond missing Posey, Adams, Thomas, Pryor and Herron. After that embarrassing season, all Ohio State did was go out and get two-time national champion head caoch Urban Meyer, roll up a couple top 5 recruiting classes, and go undefeated. This was not an SMU situation, or even a USC situation. Ohio State is unquestionably in a stronger position, as a program, than they were pre-sanctions.
Why complain? We won.
Draping ourselves in the clock of martyrdom might feel nice, but it doesn't solve anything, and only perpetuates the worst negative stereotypes about Ohio State fans. These players were not innocent victims. We can thank them for their athletic service, cherish the positive memories, and regale the rest to our dustbin, where it can join Art Schlichter, Maurice Clarett and Reggie Germany's magical 0.0 GPA, only to be brought up again by rivals fans looking for cheap trolling opportunities.
If you want to debate the place of the NCAA and rip into the concept of amateur athletics, that's fine, but let's do that in June or July, when we're desperately trying to fill 1200 word scheduled blog posts. It's almost Week 3 of ACTUAL FOOTBALL, and spending that time playing armchair media critic or Juris Doctor degree recipient on the recommendation of the Twitter School of Law is not only a waste of time, but it detracts from the very thing that brings us all here in the first place: real, actual, football.
What's done is done. We can vilify the NCAA and a few major media outlets for events that transpired two Michigan wins ago , or we can be thankful that we had the good fortune of landing as softly as we did (see: UFM and some sweet, sweet elite level talent/speed) after but one mediocre season. The players from Tat-Gate have all moved on. I say it's about time we do as well.