After months of trepidation and speculation about the ongoing investigation of tattoos, non-disclosures, and lack of institutional control in the Ohio State University football program, the NCAA dropped the hammer today.
The sanctions were more severe than was expected. The NCAA deprived the football program of scholarships, put the Buckeyes on probation for five years, and — most important to Ohio State fans — imposed a one-year bowl ban to take effect in 2012. The ban means that Ohio State won’t be able to play in next year’s Big Ten championship game even if, as fans fervently hope, the Buckeyes bounce back from this year’s disappointing season with a strong performance in 2012. Ohio State has decided not to appeal the ruling, because the institution has decided — correctly, I think — that we need to put this whole sorry episode behind us.
I don’t think Ohio State fans should be arguing about whether the NCAA sanctions were consistent with past sanctions and whether the media has it in for the Buckeyes. That kind of pathetic excuse-making and eel-wriggling is beneath our flagship state university. Instead, Ohio State alums and supporters should feel angry and embarrassed that our fine institution has had its reputation sullied by the thoughtless actions of a few players in the football program, and we should insist that the University do whatever it takes to make sure that it never happens again.
We are in NYC and decided to visit Liberty Island and Ellis Island today. I’ll post a photo of the Statue of Liberty later, and will have more on Ellis Island tomorrow — but for now I just wanted to put up a photo of the beautiful downtown Manhattan skyline as we pulled away from the Battery pier in the Miss Liberty and headed toward Liberty Island.
It was brisk day and was cold on the deck of the ferry, but I was warmed by the sight of the skyline and by the view of the Freedom Tower, which appears in the right part of the photo, being erected on the grounds of the fallen Twin Towers. The skyline, with the awful void now being filled, is a wonderful sight.
The Ohio Statehouse is decorated in its holiday best. Lit and ornamented Christmas trees are found at the corners of the lawn, and wreathes and swags, some complete with plastic apples and pears, have been placed on the Statehouse itself.
Anyone who has been to Pompeii knows that the ancient Romans were accomplished graffiti writers. So were many other ancient humans, from the cave-dwellers forward. More and more, bits of ancient graffiti are being translated, and the results are classic — and often hysterical. The writings tell us something meaningful about our ancestors.
For example, how can you not smile about the unknown Greek guy who wrote, 1,500 years ago, “Sydromachos has an ass as big as a cistern.” Who today hasn’t felt a similar urgent need to point out the reality of an acquaintance’s enormous rump? It reminds me of a co-worker who, years ago, saw a newly hired employee who formerly had been an intern and who, in the intervening period, has put on a few pounds in the posterior. With perfect timing, the co-worker scrutinized the colossal keister, turned to a friend, and said in an awed voice: “That’s not the ass we hired.”
The ancient graffiti writings confirm that there is something basic and immutable about the human condition that remains lurking below — temporarily hidden, perhaps, by the trappings of civilization and technology, but always ready to appear at an opportune moment. It’s reasonable to conclude that, for so long as human beings survive as a species, a big butt is always going to be worthy of a wry comment.