OSU Fans Need to Get a Life

I don’t know or care whether my university has winning teams. I have a life, something that Ohio State University fans need to get. Too many lack a sense of reality over the resignation of football coach Jim Tressel. Among the remnant who read, many are

Jun 9, 2011 at 2:06 pm

Fanatic: “excessive or overweening devotion to a cause or belief; further implies unbalanced or obsessive behavior.” — (Dictionary.com)

Fan: popular American abbreviation for fanatic. — (Dictionary.com)

Reader: remnant of endangered species. — (Etaoin Shrdlu)

I don’t know or care whether my university has winning teams. I have a life, something that Ohio State University fans need to get.

Too many lack a sense of reality over the resignation of football coach Jim Tressel. Among the remnant who read, many are bombarding student journalists at OSU’s Daily Lantern with abuse and death threats.

Why? These fans blame the reporting rather than the rule-breaking by players and coach for suspensions of players, loss of the head coach, and giggles from Ann Arbor.

Where it only that, no big deal, but Poynter’s Jim Romenesko quotes ESPN.com about one aspect of this scary fan response: “One emailer threatened to track down Lantern editor-in-chief Zack Meisel and beat him up. Another said the 21-year-old journalist (Meisel) and reporter James Oldham were the most likely candidates to be found dead in the Olentangy River.”

(The two reported that ex-OSU player Ray Small profited off of memorabilia while at Ohio State. They posted audio from the interview after Small claimed the paper “flipped my words around.”)

Rule-breaking wasn’t enough. Lying and failed cover-ups went from top to bottom of this thuggish heap.

There’s more. Gene Wojciechowski, senior national columnist for ESPN.com, writes that “Jim Tressel's 10-year, disingenuous reign at Ohio State was undone by lots of people. By the FBI. By a Columbus, Ohio, tattoo parlor owner. By an OSU senior majoring in economics and journalism. By the so-called 'Senator' himself, whose clumsy, panicked and defiant cover-up contradicted the myth of Tressel as someone who — how did the 2010 Ohio State football media guide put it? — ‘emphasizes organization, planning and accountability as not just important in football, but as skills for life.’”

Wojciechowski continued: “ . . . Thursday's (Lantern) edition was only 12 pages, but it featured an interview with former Buckeyes wide receiver Ray Small that instantly made national news and further confirmed that Tressel and Ohio State had lost control of the football program. Small told Meisel and staff writer James Oldham that while playing for OSU, he sold a pair of Big Ten championship rings and assorted Buckeyes memorabilia for cash, received special players-only discounts on cars and that ‘everyone was doing it.’ This is what the NCAA calls an ‘improper benefit.’

“Small later accused Meisel and Oldham of twisting his words, but too late — The Lantern had the audio tapes of the interview and made them available online. Small didn't have a denial to stand on. Four days after the Small story appeared, Tressel's OSU coaching career disappeared. But not before an emailer wrote Meisel and predicted that The Lantern editor and Oldham were the most likely candidates to be found dead in the nearby Olentangy River.”

"I did read through most of them, if not all of them," says Meisel. "There were definitely more than 100. Some were, 'Thanks for trying to take down our program.' For all the fans who reacted negatively, half wanted me to move to Michigan, half wanted me to move to Nashville with Kirk Herbstreit. I wish there would have been a consensus."

ESPN's Herbstreit, a former Ohio State quarterback, moved from Columbus to Tennessee earlier this year.

Curmudgeon notes:

• It’s an old problem: Identify the mom in a sex story and you risk stigmatizing her unnamed, innocent child. It’s an even tougher call when the kid is the story.

Not so long ago, imputing immorality to a woman was the surest way to be the defendant in a libel suit.

That was then. Now the beautiful people pursue a serial monogamy without marriage, albeit overlap often leads to a new monogamous-for-now relationship.

Kids often are the fruit of these unions. It’s so common today that a press release is likelier than a libel writ when it’s time to announce that some hunk or fabulously rich crinkly has fathered another child by another woman to whom he isn’t married. Among these rich and famous, you can define panic as Father’s Day.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, god love him, brings it all together for our celebrity-obsessed nation. He’s a movie star, a successful politician, married into the closest thing modern Americans have to royalty and he screws the help? At least Eliot Spitzer left the conjugal home to wet his wick.

• Arnold’s philandering is a juicy story, although it amounts to “who cares” now that he’s out of office and isn’t running for anything else.

But the news media divided on whether to name his former household employee who bore his child and kept his paternity secret from her husband.

Some named her: Mildred Patty Baena. Photos of her with Arnold and his now-estranged wife, Maria Kennedy Shriver, are on the Internet. Some websites also have photos of Arnold’s “love child.” God, what an awful expression. About as reasonable as calling the former employee his “lover” or “mistress.” Talk about degrading the language.

Some news media didn't name the child’s mother, saying it would identify the child, although other details must have given away her identity to anyone familiar with the household.

Here’s the problem for any editor agonizing over this decision: Once the name is out in other media, what’s the point of withholding it? With the Internet, the information is available. Or put another way, is there any moral high ground left?

• TMZ.com, which loves celebrity screwups, named the mom. Gawker.com, which also tracks the rich and famous, didn’t fare so well. It had to run a major correction after it linked the wrong woman to Arnold and the child. Here’s part of its retraction:

“(I)n the wake of a report in The Los Angeles Times that Arnold Schwarzenegger had admitted fathering a child with a then-unnamed member of his household staff more than 10 years ago, we reprinted portions of a 2003 London Daily Mail story claiming that Schwarzenegger had fathered a child with a woman named Tammy Tousignant. Because some of the details from The Los Angeles Times story seemed to us to align with The Daily Mail's, we speculated that Tousignant was the woman that Schwarzenegger had acknowledged having affair with to The Times. 

“ . . . (W)e called and emailed Tousignant without success and reached her son — who is an adult and who denied that Schwarzenegger is his father — via Facebook message. We also noted prominently that Tousignant had denied the story to The Daily Mail when it was originally published.

“Our story was wrong. Tammy Tousignant was not the woman referred to in The Los Angeles Times story . . . Tousignant's attorney contacted us . . . claiming that Tousignant has a paternity test indicating that Schwarzenegger is not her son's father. We haven't seen the results of the test, and we have no idea who is right: Tousignant or (Daily Mail reporter) Wendy Leigh. But in light of the fact that we mistakenly identified Tousignant as the subject of The Los Angeles Times story, and have no direct reporting of our own to contradict Tousignant's claims or substantiate The Daily Mail's, we have decided to err on the side of caution and take the post down.”

I guess that’s what’s left of the moral high ground.

Now, what was the name of that maid who said former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn tried to rape her in the New York luxury hotel?

• British news media face “super injunctions” granted to the rich and famous who fear extracurricular sex will be exposed in the infamously aggressive “kiss and tell” tabloid press. They bar anyone from publishing the name of the politician, celebrity, athlete, TV presenter or whomever who obtained the injunction. It also forbids reporting even that there is a super injunction granted.

Also, it prohibits the hookers and others who provided the now-embarrassing services from naming their johns or companions, although they can offer details that would make Bill Clinton’s playmates blush. They’re often paid for their stories and flattering photo spreads.

I don’t know what British lawyers for injunction-seekers charge, but clients aren’t getting their money’s worth any longer. Members of Parliament can name anyone on the floor of the House of Commons, injunctions be damned, and they do. The news media can report what is said in the House without penalty. Poof. There goes that secret. Twitter is another way to spread the word of who is supposed to be protected by the injunction.

In short, the injunction is good for minutes at the most. After that, it’s an invitation to spread the story.

• Garrison Keillor remembered Bob Dylan’s start as a composer, singer and guitar player. It wasn’t in New York. It was in a tiny Minneapolis coffee shop, the Ten O’Clock Scholar, in Dinkytown near the University of Minnesota. Keeler and I were on campus then, probably working for the Minnesota Daily or its literary publication, Ivory Tower. I sometimes helped Scholar owner Clark Batho when the place filled.

Somehow, I don’t remember Bobby Zimmerman/Bob Dylan as distinct from others who played there, backs to the front window, on tall stools. Some were so awful we asked them to leave or not come back. Of the various photos I shot in the Scholar, none seem to be of him. Oh well, another 15 minutes of fame lost.

I don’t remember Keillor either. He might have come after me at the Daily. Many of the Dylan bios refer to Dinkytown as a four-block musical scene. I remember Al’s Diner, Bridgeman’s ice cream, Totino’s pizza, and McCosh’s bookstore (“First Annual 10th Anniversary Sale”) and Century Camera a lot more than any musical critical mass. Maybe that came later, too. Keillor’s recollection came on Dylan’s recent 70th birthday during Writer’s Almanac on public radio.

• For-profit colleges/universities are suspected of recruiting unqualified students to get their government tuition grants or loan money. What’s that line from Casablanca

Here’s where the news media fall down: What about public universities that recruit/admit certifiably unqualified students? Many leave after one year, in debt. Look at the freshman-to-sophomore retention rates. Look at programs meant to get unprepared and unqualified high school grads through their first year of college. Ask faculty members about students whose reading and writing skills are inadequate for traditional freshman comp courses. Ask why there is such a gap between high school achievement and college demands.

• Page one of The Enquirer’s Friday edition promoting Memorial Day weekend activities would be a finalist if there were a Pulitzer for sloth. The dominant four-column photo shows a young woman putting mustard on some sausage last year. Yup. Taste of Cincinnati 2010. Was there nothing to photograph among cooks preparing for Taste 2011, the event purportedly being promoted? Don’t blame the photographers. Individually and collectively, they’re talented. This lack of imagination could only exist higher up The Enquirer food chain.

• An Enquirer story said burglars broke into a Loveland business through a “secure” side door. Think about it. It obviously wasn’t secure. Which makes me wonder about “security guard” when the guard(s) obviously fail to provide security.

• Measles, once thought consigned to history in this country, is back. Federal authorities say it is being brought home by unvaccinated travelers, mostly from Europe, where a lethal epidemic exists. Especially at risk are infants deemed too young for vaccination. I’m waiting for someone to report the role of the campaign against vaccines, vaccination and the the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) shot that is leaving more and more Americans — and especially children — vulnerable to the imported infection.

• Have you noticed the speed with which the blame is shifting for the E.coli infection in Europe? Bad as it is, the news media are part of the problem. Lacking skepticism, they jump to blame anyone that an authoritative source suggests may be the source of the bacterium. Ruin the Spanish cuke crop? Tough. Destroy an organic farm that provides bean sprouts? Tough. Ask why the Germans can’t find the source or why antibiotics may be a lethal response to the infection? Priceless.

• The story was weird enough without NPR’s screwup. A disturbed man walks into deep, cold California water and stands neck-deep until he falls (probably hypothermia) and drowns at a public beach in Alameda. Police and firefighters watch from shore. NPR reports that none of the officers or firefighters were trained to enter the water to stop the tall, heavyset man from killing himself. The usual political shit storm and self-serving statements by public officials followed.

How difficult would it have been for NPR to report that going into the water to prevent a drowning is a last, dangerous and discretionary option? Reaching out with a stick, a rope, or something else can be a first step. Or throwing something to help a floundering victim stay afloat. Or using a boat to reach the person in the water. All three presume the imminent victim doesn’t want to drown.

A last option, for a trained rescuer, is to go to the person in the water. Panicking, struggling victims can drown themselves and rescuers. It’s even tougher when a violent, hostile response is likely. Instead, NPR left us with an image of bureaucratic stupidity and cowardice among police and firefighters untrained for this kind of work . . . in an island community.

• Major news media reports continue to trickle in about organizations turning away from the discredited Heimlich Maneuver as a first response to near-drowning. The latest is The Washington Post. It reported that Northern Virginia regional parks authority was teaching the Maneuver to life guards; the next day, park authorities changed their policy and practice.

Article 25, the new advocacy newspaper, came out as promised on June 1. It’s edited by Greg Flannery, former news editor at CityBeat and immediate past editor of Streetvibes. It’s $25/year by mail or $1/copy from a vendor.

It’s hard to characterize Article 25 beyond its “provocative news, independent views” promise. Flannery continues to urge readers to also buy Streetvibes. Article 25 is named for the entry by that title in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Typical of Flannery, he notes that the Declaration says people should be paid for their work; his contributors work for free. He’s not in competition with Streetvibes, but there is a great feature with photos by Jon Hughes of a local wedding of two homeless Cincinnatians.

And again, typical of Flannery, the story includes an account of the cold shoulder given to an uninvited homeless man who wandered into the ceremony.