While some associated with Ohio State want to drive Jim Tressel out of Columbus, the pitchforkers will have to settle for ESPN analyst and OSU alum Kirk Herbstreit for now. In this instance, however, it’s an entirely different bent of the pitchfork crowd acting out – those blind loyalists who feel there is no place in this world for criticism of Ohio State and its football team.
Herbie is moving away from his beloved home state to Nashville, Tennessee. He said he has been considering the move for a few years now, the primary reason being the incessant criticism he receives from a loud minority of OSU fans in Columbus.
“From a sports perspective, this is rough,” he said. “I love Ohio State. Love the Blue Jackets. Love the Reds. Those are my hobbies. I don’t like moving. I love living here. I don’t want to leave. But I just can’t do this anymore. I really can’t keep going like this.
“Eighty to ninety percent of the Ohio State fans are great. It’s the vocal minority that make it rough. They probably represent only 5 to 10 percent of the fan base, but they are relentless.”
Relentless or overzealous may be a soft and kind way to describe these people. I’d probably call them losers with no grasp on reality and no perspective. I realize he is a public figure on both a state and national level and that opens him up to criticism. But, he has a job to do and I think most of us would rather him keep doing it the way he’s been doing it than go the way of colleague Lou Holtz, who proclaims Notre Dame the national champions every August. Such blind loyalty and bias marginalizes everything else you have to say, including what should be legitimate moments of praise.
ESPN covers so many college games and they employ so many analysts who truly offer nothing but vacuous cliches and opinions. Few actually do the legwork and research that Herbie does and even fewer are actually tolerable. Jay Bilas is Herbstreit’s counterpart on the college basketball side at ESPN. I shudder to think of a championship week or Selection Sunday without his redeeming analysis amid a storm of Digger Phelps mispronunciations and Dick Vitale ramblings on Charlie Sheen.
If anyone in the ESPN College Football group should be driven from their home state for ruffling feathers and being an insufferable oaf, it’s Craig James. Most Texans are aligned with the rest of the country and have grown weary of his act.
As with Bilas and Duke, Herbstreit takes incoming fire from all sides. OSU haters love to point to the picture of him jumping on Eddie George’s back during the championship game against Miami in between objective analysis on ESPN pre and post game shows. It’s unsurprising, given his background, that he has to defend himself against claims of Big Ten and OSU bias.
On the other side of that coin, if the reasons he gives for the move are indeed accurate, Herbie having to sustain “relentless” attacks questioning his OSU loyalty is pathetic and sad. Terrelle Pryor tweeted that Kirk was a “fake Buckeye” last fall when Herbie was critical of an OSU performance. I’m not sure what a real Buckeye is, but I would think it’s someone like Herbstreit:
“Nobody loves Ohio State more than me. I still have a picture of Woody Hayes and my dad in my office, and nobody will do more than I do for the university behind the scenes. But I’ve got a job to do, and I’m going to continue to be fair and objective. To continue to have to defend myself and my family in regards to my love and devotion to Ohio State is unfair.”
He clearly loves OSU and he is the best objective college football analyst out there. Those should be reconcilable. For an irrational but forceful minority in Columbus, apparently they’re not.
Brendan is a weekend editor at WaitingForNextYear. He has been writing for the site since March of 2009. He went to college in Boston during a run of insufferable Beantown championships that only served to reinforce his Cleveland allegiance and fandom which he transcribes to you here at WFNY.