Oh, Gee

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.)

President GeeYou 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.

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3 Responses to Oh, Gee

  1. ben_m_berry says:

    My only issue, is that his line about a specific religion has no real cover as a joke so far as I can tell. How he could have so poorly chosen those words that demean 1/4 of the population of the united states is mind boggling. Ive met the man once after a Blue Jackets game, and he seemed nice enough. And Im willing to take him at his word it was a joke, but you and I both have strong inklings as to the levels of politicking and backroom deals that occur in D 1 college athletic administration and I wouldnt at all be shocked that perhaps these werent intended as jokes, but as jabs at a university (notre dame) that takes itself very seriously, in regards to a league (the Big 10) that thinks no one is too good to be a member.

    • Lori Schmidt says:

      As a matter of fact, Ben, I believe the context of Gee’s remarks were that he couldn’t trust the “darn Catholics” he was negotiating with regarding league membership. (During his first tenure at Ohio State, it should be noted.) I certainly don’t believe he meant all Catholics, everywhere.

  2. pete goegan says:

    Much has been made about the Notre Dame, Louisville, and SEC comments (and rightly so, I believe), but I find the Wisconsin/Avarez line just as desturbing. By saying that the Badgers’ AD thought the former coach was a “thug,” not only did Gee defame Bielsma, but he apparently betrayed a confidence from a fellow Big Ten administrator. I wonder if we may find that Dr. Gee is suffering from some form of early dementia? This kind of “loose lips” goes beyond attempts at humor and become troubling questions of judgement and self-control. He’s always been too free with comments regarding football, but these most recent issues are much more destructive. There’s no question he’s much loved on campus, among donors, and around the Statehouse, but his inability to maintain his composure in public has serious repercussions for the image of OSU. And today, image is reality.

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