It’s been said many times on this site before, but the offseason is dark and full of terrors. In the last week we’ve seen plenty of evidence of that.
Between articles doing everything but accusing Urban Meyer of being Aaron Hernandez’s accomplice in murder, and questionable internet personalities fingering Ohio State’s coach as a snitch for other schools’ already publicized wrongdoing — and making that seem somehow worse than actual, you know, violations — writers are going to the well in a time-tested method to generate pageviews: incite Buckeye fans.
I mean, it worked so well during that dark period from just before the 2011 Sugar Bowl through Jim Tressel’s expulsion from Columbus, it seems a sound plan. Pages are clicked. The stories are linked on various social media sites and blogs. We’re a ravenous audience, gobbling up every word. We’ve also grown defensive over the last few years and sometimes we just can’t help but click a link to see what’s been written about our program.
I’m not immune. I live in Orlando, home to some world-class Urban Meyer butthurt. I sometimes tune in just to see what stupidity is being propelled from the idiocy pulpit next. It’s the equivalent of eating those hard-looking, overcooked French fries with the blackened ends at the bottom of the bag. You know they’re going to suck but you can’t resist shoveling them in your mouth.
Clear-headed people of intellect realize that it makes no sense whatsoever to blame Meyer for anything Hernandez has done (allegedly; it will be some time before all the facts in the ongoing investigation come to light) as a member of the New England Patriots. Even if Meyer did coddle Hernandez in Gainesville…so what? Hundreds of athletes are coddled and don’t end up shooting people. You’ve watched many of them in Scarlet & Gray over the years on Saturday afternoons.
Urban Meyer’s tenure in Florida can’t be summarized by looking at Hernandez or the arrests of some of his players. His time in Gainesville similarly isn’t represented solely by Tim Tebow and his air of sainthood. As with most stories, the truth lies somewhere between the two extremes.
(As a brief aside, it’s not as if Meyer never kicked anyone off the team at Florida (even talented guys) — including a guy who would later win the Heisman Trophy.) Percy Harvin is widely regarded as one of the most coddled athletes Urban Meyer ever coached. As far as I know, he hasn’t killed anyone since being drafted by Minnesota. Meyer has at least one success story for every troubled-yet-talented athlete he has overseen.
Even when Meyer doesn’t want to talk about something, it gets painted in a negative light. And what is Meyer even supposed to say about Hernandez? First of all, we don’t even yet have a conviction here or even the completion of an ongoing investigation. Secondly, people tend to not enjoy talking about their failures and if Meyer couldn’t save Hernandez from himself, he likely views his time with the talented tight end as a mission that wasn’t accomplished.
Urban Meyer doesn’t owe the world an explanation for Aaron Hernandez, and the world shouldn’t expect or demand one from him.
Meyer acknowledged the discipline problems that occurred in Gainesville the day Ohio State introduced him as its head coach. Oh, by the way, Gator player arrests didn’t stop when he left. But even current arrests of players not even recruited by Meyer get linked back to him by some of the most trolly writers, because, pageviews and Ohio State outrage. Meanwhile, that enabler Meyer suspended a couple of his most talented guys from the team at Ohio State simply for peeing outside.
While I don’t believe in an anti-Ohio State bias in the media, the pragmatist in me says that agitating one of the most visible programs is worth a lot of clicks, which is always a good thing to show advertisers during the slowest part of the year. As one of the largest fan bases in the nation, Ohio State is an easy target for these tactics. As Michael Corleone said, “It’s not personal, Sonny. It’s strictly business.”
What can be done about it? Nothing, really. All one can reasonably do is to laugh it off and ignore it. By writing this, I have failed to do that. And no, I don’t want to talk about that right now.