Football
Bently v. Walter Situation a Sordid Affair
By Tom Orr

Last week was certainly an exciting one if you're one of those blessed to be living on the left side of the bell curve.

On Monday, the Des Moines Register printed photos of Larry Eustachy doing his best imitation of "Party Boy in Japan," fraternizing with the enemy.

Then, Mike Price found out that you can blow through $10 million faster than you think at a strip club.

LeCharles Bentley

Finally, former OSU offensive lineman Tyson Walter finally received a verdict in his multi-million dollar lawsuit against former Buckeye teammate LeCharles Bentley. He got a whopping $6,000.

That might be enough to cover the bills from his lawyer, and perhaps a couple months of Rogaine. Hope it was worthwhile.

All three of these intellectual giants made incredibly stupid decisions, and because of it, all three are likely to be pariahs for a long time to come.

Price is out of a job, and all indications are that Eustachy will soon join him.

Walter's punishment is a little less obvious. He's just going to be persona non grata in Columbus for the rest of his life.

Fast-forward 30 years. When Jim Tressel announces his retirement and the athletic department brings back his first team to help celebrate the occasion, Bentley is going to be remembered as a Rimington Award-winning star lineman.

Walter will still be the little brat who sued a teammate.

Bentley will be cheered, and remembered as a hero. Walter (if he even bothers to show up) will be booed. What little legacy he had at Ohio State is tarnished forever.

It is Bentley, the man who delivered the surprisingly powerful punch, who is the sympathetic figure in all of this.

Tyson Walter

The lawsuit stemmed from an incident at practice on February 17, 2000. Walter and Bentley, never exactly the best of friends, argued during a conditioning drill. After practice, Bentley confronted Walter, the two had words, and Bentley hit him once, in the face.

The punch broke Walter's nose and eye socket and chipped some teeth.

Word of the fight didn't get out for 10 months. Then, in the week leading up to the Buckeyes' first Outback Bowl appearance against South Carolina, Walter filed a lawsuit.

The resulting distraction, coupled with the rest of that week's three-ring act, undoubtedly played a role in the team's 24-7 implosion in the game. John Cooper was fired one day later.

Cooper testified during the trial that he told Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones that Walter was "a cancer" on the team.

Bentley's attorney asked why Cooper felt that way. He explained, "Because he sued one of his teammates. I don't think that's very good, going back to the chemistry of your offensive line."

"I would not want to have a guy on my team that would sue a teammate simply because he got into a fight with him," Cooper continued. "And I would not want him to sue three days before the Super Bowl if he did sue."

The bottom line in all of this is that Walter probably had it coming. You can't call people "jungle bunnies" and worse (as numerous teammates testified that Walter often did) and expect to be loved, or even tolerated, by all.

The simple fact is that fights are commonplace on teams as large as a college football squad. You can't put 100 aggressive people in one place, in direct competition with each other, with so much on the line, and expect perpetual harmony.

This was, according to Cooper's testimony at the trial, far from the first fight in which Walter was involved.

I grew up with two brothers, and we fought from time to time, over everything from what TV show we were going to watch to, yes, football games. It happens, and I think just about every guy who grew up around other guys knows it's true.

Of course, even when we were kids, we knew that after you were done, you got up, shook hands and moved on. Who provokes a fight, then acts indignant when the altercation ensues?

More intriguing is the on-going countersuit. Bentley is suing Walter for having his attorney send a letter to Ohio State and the NCAA, alleging that Bentley had improper contact with an agent.

The letter was sent November 19, 2001, the Monday before the Michigan game. Tyson's amazing sense of timing continues.

According to Bentley's countersuit, OSU officials confronted Walter, who essentially admitted that he fabricated the allegations.

Bentley was cleared to play against the Wolverines just hours before kickoff.

Not only did Walter put himself before the team by filing the initial lawsuit three days before the Outback Bowl, but if Bentley's allegations are true, Walter also put the biggest game of the season on the line as part of a personal vendetta.

What a great guy. I can't believe anyone would want to turn his face inside out.

In the end, the case of Walter v. Bentley boils down to two things.

First, by almost all accounts at the trial, Walter made racist remarks and is generally a fairly miserable person to be around. And when he says something stupid, he's not willing to face the consequences.

Second, he should have ducked.

Tom Orr is an O-Zone columnist. E-mail him at tomorr@the-ozone.net

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