For me, the lasting image of Ohio State’s 2013 football season wasn’t the two disappointing defeats to end the season. No, it was when offensive lineman Marcus Hall decided to flip an obscene gesture to the Michigan crowd after being ejected following his role in an on field altercation in which he threw a punch at a Michigan player. While Hall has graduated, by the time Michigan week comes around you can bet ESPN and all the other sporting media outlets will run the video from the fight to the finger flip.
I understand Hall just had momentary lapse of judgment; it was THE rivalry game, he had just been ejected, and you can be sure the Michigan fans weren’t yelling, “good game!” to him as he went through the tunnel. But, as a representative of the university he can’t have that lapse in judgment.
The athletic department and coaching staff need to stress to players (and coaches and fans for that matter) the value of keeping composure. I think a fact that gets lost in the shuffle of the double middle finger salute is the fact that Hall was ejected for being in a fight during a game. He wasn’t walking to the training room for a tape job; he was forced to leave the field of play. Don’t let sportsmanship become a lost art of the game; since when has beating an opponent not been enough that you have to try and show them up? I know the Michigan game was an isolated incident, but every college football team has a rival and the game gets emotional. Without stats in front of me I would guess 99 percent of all college football games didn’t have a fight or ejection, and especially with the increased media attention on Ohio State football the program cannot let another mistake like this happen.
Go out, play your hardest, do everything within the rules you can to win the game. And then at the end — win or lose — walk out of the stadium. As an athlete (and fan) you want to destroy your opponent on the scoreboard, but that doesn’t mean you get to disrespect them.
With the start of the new season at the Spring game this Saturday, let’s hope Ohio State has another year of great success on the field, and that the only story the media has to report is about what happens on the field. The lasting impression from a season should never be an individual’s reckless decision; it should be the collective effort put forth by the team that reflects on the successes of the team as a whole.