When Penn State plays Ohio State on Saturday, it will be 21 days since the last game in Ohio Stadium. A rejuvenated Nittany Lion squad is preparing for a trip to Columbus this week frothing at the mouth at being 17 point underdogs. If I had to guess, the oddsmakers know JoePa’s team averages about one touchdown per game against us over the last eight years. But, nevermind that for today, we’re back home which got me thinking about the Stadium which got me thinking about Chic Harley which got me thinking about the Big Ten Icon rankings.
The Big Ten Icons countdown has me mesmerized if for no other reason Keith Jackson’s beautiful timbre narrates the show. He may be retired and might have called Bam Childress “Barn Childress” more than we care to remember but the legend has a way about him. Right about now, in the background of my home, he’s gracefully outlining John Wooden’s place on the Icon list. It’s informative with bundles of information packed tightly inside the thirty minute capsule.
But, the list and the selections have problems. I certainly can’t argue about Wooden although a healthy debate could erupt that Wooden is more well known for his work at UCLA than his playing days at Purdue. I also can’t find much fault with having 15 different Ohio State athletes make the Top 100 list from which the final 50 selections are placed. However, I do have a problem with Chic Harley not being a candidate for inclusion. Or Bill Hoskett. Or Marcus Marek. Or Gary Bradds. But, my beef isn't really an Ohio State thing but rather more about the overall process and glaring desire to make pockets of fans happy at the expense of more deserving athletes.
Here's my three main issues:
Poor Selection Pool - I alluded to this above but the Top 100 list, while chock full of Buckeyes, lacks some players one would think would be automatic shoe-ins. On the flip side, the final 100 includes players which have absolutely no business even being in the discussion much less part of the final tally. Greg Oden, for one comes to mind. Make no mistake, I still carry a solid man crush for GO but his 20 some odd games doesn't constitute icon status. In the same vein but even worse is the shocking revelation that Illinois' Cory Bradford made the final 100. Todd Blackledge? Please. Dave Winfield? He committed felonious assault during in the worst act of unsportsmanlike conduct in the history of collegiate athletics. This alone overshadows and any his athletic achievements.
Never Played in Big Ten - Color me as confused how anyone can be a Big Ten icon when they never played in the Big Ten conference. They rarely if ever played against Big Ten opposition. They have no association with the Big Ten other than their team was added a few moons ago and the ultimate of grandfather rules was enacted. Yes, I'm talking about your beloved icons Penn State fans.
Too Political - One needs to look no further than the several people on the list that no one has heard of outside of their hometown. I'll leave the specific names out but you can figure them out pretty easily by just starting from the top and stopping each time when you say "Who?". One prerequisite of being an icon should be general acceptance that, yes, this person is well known in most general sports circles and doesn't require a Google or Wikipedia search. Let's be honest, the list should be dominated by a couple schools and a couple sports and, if you happen to dominate in a sport that isn't football or basketball, you did so in such fashion that transcends decades and demographics. Mark Spitz comes to mind, who checks in at No. 11.
Then again, maybe this is my own personal Ohio State thing. Perhaps I do think we are getting the proverbial shaft so far with only three selections in the first 39 placements. And now that only the final 10 have yet to be revealed, it's hard to imagine how it couldn't be dominated by Buckeyes. Remaining on the list are locks like Archie, Jesse and Jerry Lucus. One has to also include Magic, Dick Butkus and Red Grange in the same category. Beyond that, you have the likes of Isiah Thomas, John Havlichek, Orlando Pace and Tom Harmon. If nothing else, the Big Ten Network has generated discussion even if the lists are flawed.
Let me know your Top 10.