There's a memorable scene in the 2009 business traveler cinematograph Up in the Air where George Clooney's character explains to the therapist from 50/50 how to quickly navigate through airport security on the fly.
"Never get behind old people," he tells her. "Their bodies are littered with hidden metal and they never seem to appreciate how little time they have left. Asians? They pack light, travel efficiently and they have a thing for slip-on shoes. God love 'em."
The 50/50 therapist can't believe what she's hearing. "That's racist," she firmly says in response, glaring at him.
"I'm like my mother," he replies, unaffected. "I stereotype. It's faster."
It's an exquisite double entendre that anyone who has ever tried to accelerate the TSA's routinely sluggish operation has silently undertaken: Avoid the security lines with slow-looking people.
It doesn't necessarily make you a bad person; you're just trying to make it to your gate before your plane leaves. Even if it did make you a bad person, it's your private inner monologue which is mercifully (for you, you creep) insulated from everyone else.
Last week when Jason linked the story to Cleveland Scene's investigation into "why Buckeye fans are such myopic assholes" I clicked in earnest. Growing up and having lived in Ohio - twice - has left me intimately familiar with the perpetual fervor and general loathsomeness that non-fans often find...beleaguering.
We're all acutely aware of that visible moiety of the Buckeye fan base. That's all our vocal antagonizers are, really - a piece, a portion, a component, an element. There is no uniformity among fan bases. It's like race and age, only dressed with common transferrable identifiers like replica jerseys, hounds tooth hats or denim shorts.
I've always concluded this unwashed faction was simply the product of Ohio State's huge, passionate fan base but was intrigued to see what better underlying justification the author's analysis would produce. Socioeconomic factors? Historical antecedents? Selective breeding?
Unfortunately, instead of delivering a methodical takedown of the least sophisticated constituent of the Ohio State fan base, the author sourced his salvo exclusively through his own pre-existing and deep-seeded hatred of Buckeye fans (!) a Bleacher Report slideshow (!!) and a sampling of sports talk radio trolls like Bruce Hooley (!!!). Essentially, he went hunting for game on the world's smallest animal preserve.
I don't think anyone debates the existence of a mongrel horde in scarlet jerseys. I kind of like knowing it exists, at an arm's length. Those fans can crap in and abandon coolers, shout obscenities at opposing fans and generally be stupid in public to their clogged hearts' content. Sure it's unsavory, but some wild horses just can't be tamed.
As long as they don't commit real crimes that harm innocent bystanders, like using your and you're interchangeably or adding apostrophes to plural words, I just cannot hope for their demise. In that same vein, it's hard to allow a convenient caricature to define the largest college football fan base in America.
We can't all be civilized, cordial and handsome: Then no one would be left to be memorable or cautionary.
The true identity of a fan base occurs at the intersection of exposure and self-awareness. Anyone who has dared to venture further than 100 miles from where they are from has this all figured out: For example, not all Penn State fans buy into the insidious conspiracy that the university Board of Trustees used Jerry Sandusky as a convenient excuse to remove Joe Paterno. They realize there was more to it than that.
Not all Notre Dame fans are from third-generation Fighting Irish families who, like their parents and grandparents before them, never filled out a college application, let alone finished high school.
Similarly, not all Michigan fans are boorish non-alumni who latch onto the school's academic reputation to boost their own self-worth. They're not all Internet tough guys who quickly transform into meek little weenies in person.
And not all Michigan fans from Ohio became that way out of petulant childhood rebellion in a desperate attempt to be unique. Nor do they all call Ohio State "Ohio" because some of them actually realize doing so is far less condescending (to Ohio State, anyway) than it is grossly inaccurate.
But we compartmentalize because it's comforting. We stereotype. It's faster.
Not all Michigan alumni are titans of industry, Wall Street shot-callers, partners of boutique law firms or Gerald Ford. And as fun as it is to imagine, they're also not all Wal-Mart Wolverines either. Don't pretend you're not disappointed.
And I cannot pretend I'm not disappointed by the false promise of a 3,300-word circle jerk teasing some insight into the Ohio State fan base before using sports talk radio as its meat and potatoes. It wasn't the dumbest article I've started to read in a very long time, but it was definitely the dumbest one I actually finished.
Sports radio is a medium, not too dissimilar from modern-day cable news, that is deliberately constructed to prey on one's vulnerabilities and biases with the hopes that it will anchor the consumer to the broadcast regularly, which in turn drives advertising rates. ESPN's "news" division operates like this as well.
Perceived hate and portrayed love are disingenous partners in increasing audience reach. Simply being newsworthy hasn't been required for airtime this century. The unexcitable yet passionate fans that comprise the fat part of the bell curve don't ever call into sports talk radio shows. The reasonable ones who actually do get run off the air before they're finished. They're uninteresting and lose audiences.
The unwashed faction is only interrupted by a hard commercial break. They have free reign over the airwaves. If this is how you judge any fan base, let alone Ohio State's, then the myopic asshole you're looking for lives in the nearest mirror.
While Bleacher Report is attempting a transformation from an oafish slideshow-based content farm to credible sports outlet staffed by actual writers, it's not exactly a peer-reviewed journal. "Ohio State fans are the worst because Bleacher Report says so" is hardly a conclusive addition to the evidence pile.
What was most disappointing was the number of Michigan friends who sent me the link. Sure, this is an incredibly stupid article, but hurrrrrrrrrr I agree with it LOL obviously you're not like that. I guess that either makes me less of a Buckeye fan or not one at all. Most of my life has been a big lie.
And that's your intersection of exposure and self-awareness. What separates Ohio State from many other rabid fan bases is the understanding of itself. Having an alumni base of considerable size and diversity does that; we know what we are. We don't pretend to be a homogenous blob free of imperfections.
The university knows it too; hell, there's been a school-sponsored sportsmanship council for years that has carried a charter of subtle encouragement to the horde that they have to share the valuable brand they often vomit all over, even if that hurling occurs in the vapid basin of sports talk radio.
The easiest thing to do to avoid being mistaken for this caricature is to simply not be one.
If you're somehow unsure of what this stereotype looks like, here are some tips: Look out for young and old people. Their bodies are littered with school colors regardless of age and they never seem to acknowledge when a given sports season comes to an end, because for them it never really does.
Buckeye fans? They pack stadiums, travel inefficiently and they have a thing for replica jerseys. God love 'em.