Headwinds of Bloviation Convince Gee It's Time to Retire
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — When OSU president E. Gordon Gee announced his retirement (effective July 1) on Tuesday, the celebration by some was swift and slobbery.
"Ding, dong, the bow tie is gone," ESPN's Gene Wojciechowski tweeted. Adding, "Good riddance" for good measure.
Good riddance? Exactly what for? How has Gee affected Wojciechowski's life at all, other than to give him the fodder that we writers need. Like a hamster poking at a water bottle, how can you hate the very thing that sustains you?
It was exactly the type of reaction that was expected, because it's been the type of reaction that Gee has faced for years from sportswriters.
It was Gee who made "intolerant" jokes last December, but for some, Gee has never been tolerable.
I'm not here to tell you that criticism is unfair, because it's not. Criticism comes with every important job that has people who have to write about it for a living.
But writing about something and celebrating it are two very different things.
ESPN's Ivan Maisel writes that Gee was too talkative and points to his wardrobe as a reason to question Gee's motives.
"No university president has taken a lap around more football press boxes than Gee. He wanted the media to see him. He wanted to chat. And that should tell you all you need to know to understand why Gee needed to retire Tuesday as the boss at Ohio State. Gee loved attention. Show me a man who wears a bow tie in this day and age and I'll show you a man who wants to be noticed."
He wanted to chat? That monster. That polite, talkative monster!
A sportswriter complaining about somebody who enjoys talking to sportswriters is like a child complaining about the Ice Cream Man constantly giving him freebies.
"Every day with these Drumsticks. Is this guy trying to kill me?"
Giving the stink eye to somebody who likes to chat? Are we next going to fault a man for opening a door for a woman?
"That sexist pig doesn't think a woman can open her own door? Or pay for my meal? Or provide me with a monthly stipend? Mother will hear about this!"
And we're really going to analyze neckwear? Is this a real thing? What do his glasses mean? That he's vulnerable to the occasional swirlie, and should be the last pick out at recess?
Matt Hayes of the Sporting News wrote that Ohio State was "the most blindly loyal, recklessly protective culture of any college campus in America."
The only thing that should have to be said here is, "Uh, Penn State?" However, that implies that OSU and Penn State are comparable in their recklessness, and clearly that is not the case.
After all, this is the same recklessly protective culture that forced Jim Tressel into retirement. And the same university that many believe has done the same to its most popular president of the modern era.
This is blind loyalty?
Remind me not to do a "trust fall" with these people.
Gee recently came back from a family vacation on a Disney Cruise, which gave him an opportunity to reflect on where he stood with the University, as well as spend loads of time with his seven-month old twin grand-daughters.
It was that period of reflection which Gee insists was the impetus for his retirement. Although, when he spoke to reporters via phone on Tuesday, he stated that while the blowback that he received from his December comments didn't force him into retirement, they certainly made the decision easier.
"I live in turbulent times, and I've had a lot of headwinds, and in almost every occasion I have just moved on. But remember, I am 69 years of age, and I have been thinking about a transition for some time. So, in fairness, turbulence does bring about focused conversation with family."
Gee's flubs have chummed many a laptop. Hungry fingers tearing at the keyboard blindly, hoping for one last bite before the final morsel of flesh is snatched by somebody else.
Sports Illustrated's Andy Staples tweeted on Tuesday that "If he never had to talk about sports, Gordon Gee probably wouldn't be stepping down at Ohio State."
He's absolutely right, and how sad is that?
Yet when asked if he was a cautionary tale, Gee answered as you would expect him to.
"I've been at this for 33 years, so the cautionary tale is that humor is a sustaining force."
In classic Gordon Gee fashion, Gee clowns for a laugh.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Well, it's a sustaining force until a couple of jokes later and the outrageous are outraged.
But even in the interview where he was discussing his demise, he was still joking, because that's who he is.
"You guys are bothering me by making me have this damn telephone call," he said. "I've only got a month to ruin the university, I mean I've gotta get on it."
Fortunately, nobody actually thinks he hates Ohio State or actually plans to ruin the university. This time, they were able to recognize a harmless joke.
Dr. Gee has four weeks left on the job. He'll do plenty of reflecting over the next month, but he'll be working much more than he'll be reflecting. He'll also throw in a joke or two, and he'll do it without regret.
"I have regrets when I have said things that I shouldn't have said, but I have no regrets about having a sense of humor and having a thick skin and enjoying life," he said.
And for some reason that drives people nuts.
"I'm quirky as hell," he also said of himself.
"I don't do anything the way anyone else does it."
Which is why so many are so eager to attack him.
And here I thought the insensitive Gee was the intolerant one.
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