Former Ohio State basketball player and author of Club Trillion Mark Titus is the latest Buckeye to come under “friendly fire” for sharing his opinion on the ongoing saga surrounding the Ohio State football program. Titus became a viral sensation when he launched “Club Trillion,” which featured his quirky musings on life at the end of the bench for a major college team. Yesterday, Titus offered a rambling take on the allegations facing the football program in which he stated:
“All I’m saying is that I won’t be surprised in the slightest if the NCAA digs up some serious dirt on the Ohio State football team (especially the stuff surrounding the discounted and/or free cars) because it’s something I’ve been scratching my head over for years. So if you’re an OSU football fan, I’d suggest not getting your hopes up. There’s a solid chance that this won’t end well.”
Titus’ honest and admittedly uninformed, save for his own observations, analysis earned him the immediate ire of a legion of Buckeye fans. This segment of OSU fandom, rather than honestly look at some potentially major problems within their beloved program, have chosen to dig in and fire out at anyone who dares to suggest what is increasingly likely to occur: Ohio State will suffer some pretty serious sanctions when all this is said and done.
Titus is in good company in this regard. He joins former Buckeye captains and ESPN commentators Kirk Herbstreit and Chris Spielman who been on the receiving end of these fans’ ire for their “anti-Buckeye” comments. Sadly, this “bunker mentality” among myopic sports fans is all too common. We invest so much emotional capital in our team that to entertain any criticisms, or worse, allegations of impropriety, is tantamount to treason. Ironically, Titus tweeted last night that “now I know what Herbstreit feels like.”
I can understand the fans in this case. I remember two instances in my early 20s in which I was “dug in” as well. When my boyhood hero, Pete Rose, was accused of gambling on baseball and faced a ban from the game, I was among many who insisted a widespread conspiracy within Major League Baseball to topple the “Hit King.” Bart Giamatti was a Red Sox fan, after all, who’d had his heart torn out by Rose and the Reds in 1975. This was retribution! There was simply no way the Rose I knew, who lived and breathed the game, would ever commit its cardinal sin and risk banishment. The evidence was trumped-up. It was based on the testimony of known mob figures who were double-crossing Rose because he owed them money. I supported any number of implausible scenarios rather than to admit my idol had fallen.
Similarly, at the same time, my favorite basketball team, the Kentucky Wildcats, were being accused of paying Chris Mills to bring his talents to UK. Sports Illustrated, with the assistance of the Lexington Herald Leader, exposed “Kentucky’s Shame” and nearly brought the storied program to its ruin. Again, conspiracies ruled the day rather than reason. How did that Emery air freight package just “pop open” to be discovered? UCLA wanted Mills to stay home and play there. They must have set up UK. The writers at SI and the Herald-Leader surely had it out to get UK!
In both these cases, what I feared most ended up being true. Pete Rose did gamble on baseball and the Kentucky basketball program was rife with corruption. It was painful to admit these truths which shattered some of my most sacred predispositions, but in the end, necessary, for me and those whom I cheered.
Rose needed to come clean and admit his gambling problem to move on in his own life. I doubt he’ll ever get back into baseball or even live to see his own induction into the Hall of Fame (though he still deserves that honor as a player). By all accounts though, he’s a better person now that he’s openly recognized the sins of his past. Similarly, UK, though they struggled through some hard times on probation, emerged better than ever, able to resume their place among college basketball’s elite. In the process, they rid the program of much of the incestuous corruption propagated by Cliff Hagen and his cronies.
For me, I learned a valuable lesson about idol worship and self-honesty. I had placed a lot of hope and emotional trust in these sports figures, only to be let down. I learned it’s not good to idolize those with feet of clay (that’s everyone). I also learned that no amount of denial will change the truth. Eventually, the evidence becomes all too clear and cannot be ignored. Better to approach each situation honestly and openly and save the embarrassment and pain that comes with self-deception.
I’m still not sure how all this will play out at Ohio State. But like Herbstreit, Spielman, and now Titus, at the risk of being known as a “fake Buckeye,” I simply can’t see this turning out well. The evidence is still unclear as to exactly what has happened and exactly who knew what and when. It is becoming crystal clear, however, that something is seriously wrong on the banks of the Olentangy. True Buckeye fans will hope that the root of these problems are discovered and that the program is righted, no matter how painful the process might be.