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Oh, Gee

Posted by Lori Schmidt June 5, 2013
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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 Gee

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 if a real villain is about to get his comeuppance? The joke is on them.

So that's the national reaction. What are they saying at OSU?

Gene Smith, Ohio State Associate Vice President and Director of Athletics

"I want to thank Gordon for what he has done for me as a person and for his contributions to higher education and in particular to The Ohio State University," Gene Smith, Ohio State associate vice president and director of athletics, said. "I am appreciative for all his contributions as a president to intercollegiate athletics on a national level. I wish he and his family all the best." 

Urban  Meyer, Ohio State Head Football Coach

"It is hard to put into words the respect and love I have for President Gee," Urban Meyer, Ohio State head football coach, said. "His leadership brought me home to this great university and to this great state of Ohio. I will always be thankful and grateful to him for that. He has been a wonderful advocate for collegiate athletics and for The Ohio State University. It has been an honor to work for him. I wish him the best as he moves into retirement."

Thad Matta, Ohio State Head Men's Basketball Coach

“Dr. Gee has done so much for me personally and as a coach," Thad Matta, Ohio State head men's basketball coach, said. "He has always gone above and beyond the call of duty to help build our program. I have never met a person who loves this university more than Dr. Gee."