We’ve become a society that not only rejoices in others misfortune, but actually congratulates itself when someone is brought low.
Maybe that’s not surprising. After all, celebrities aren’t just famous anymore. They go “viral.”
CEOs aren’t just compensated in gold, but given golden parachutes.
And it isn’t enough to be a talented actor or athlete, somehow that ability makes you a hero, too.
“It is by distortedly exalting some men, that others are distortedly debased, till the whole is out of nature.” -Thomas Paine
So it shouldn’t be surprising that when someone soars to such inexplicable heights, there’s someone there to celebrate the almost inevitable fall.
Even so, some of the dancing that’s taking place in the wake of E. Gordon Gee announcing his retirement seems over the top.
The Ohio State University president did indeed make some bad, probably even inappropriate, jokes. As Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated points out, “He was a lousy comedian. That didn’t make him a lousy university president.”
And I would add, certainly not a lousy person.
Still you have Matt Hayes calling Gee, “what’s wrong with the world today.”
You have ESPN’s Ivan Maisel confusing Gee’s being a people-pleaser with being a diva. (Maisel doesn’t seem to grasp the contradiction of claiming Gee’s flaw was that he loved attention too much with the fact that Gee apparently didn’t realize how much attention his comments would receive.)
You even have Pat Forde saying that, “The Little Sisters of the Poor are probably smiling.” In fairness, Forde is arguing that others are gloating over Gee’s departure.
Forde also does a great job of shining a light on a bigger issue: College athletics have become so huge, so powerful that presidential involvement, while well intentioned, has not always been beneficial.
However, Forde is guilty of ignoring what actually happened after Gee joked about the Little Sisters of the Poor. The bow-tied administrator apologized, made multiple donations to the Sisters, and the nuns were subsequently guests at OSU football games. (I should know. I rode the elevator with them. Have fun with that image.)
That story pretty much sums up the Gee that Ohio State fans know: A decent fellow whose sense of humor occasionally outstripped his common sense.
That’s why the best piece written today has been Staples’ column for SI. Staples better than anyone else, shows the outsized needs of the “docs and jocks” and the outsized attention that can bring to a bad joke.
As for those acting as is a real villain if about to get his comeuppance? The joke is on them.