During last week’s Ohio State-Michigan game, a brawl broke out after a kickoff return. Senior OSU offensive lineman Marcus Hall participated in the melee and was ejected.
Frustrated because he wouldn’t be able to play in his last game against Ohio State’s arch-rival, Hall threw his helmet, kicked the Ohio State bench, and was escorted to the locker room. While still on camera as he entered the tunnel — and no doubt being booed and razzed by Michigan fans — Hall suddenly flashed the middle finger from both hands.
The reaction to the double-barreled gesture has been interesting. The next day Hall apologized to “The Ohio State University, The University of Michigan, my teammates, my family, the fans and the TV viewing audience for my behavior during yesterday’s game.” Hall said “I let my emotions get the best of me and didn’t conduct myself properly in the heat of the moment” and added: “From the bottom of my heart, I am truly sorry and hope everyone can accept my sincere apology.”
Hall properly recognized that making an obscene gesture on national TV doesn’t reflect well on him as a person; to his credit, he apologized and took the blame. Other Ohio State fans, however, seem to be celebrating Hall’s obscene gesture. You see some fans chuckling about it, saying it captures their feelings about Ohio State’s great rival, and people have even made Hall’s gesture into their computer screensavers and, apparently, shirts where Hall’s upraised arms and fingers as he left the field form the “H” in the familiar “O-H-I-O” Buckeye salute.
This sort of crass fan reaction is embarrassing to me and should be embarrassing to other members of Buckeye Nation. Hall’s actions were improper, but they were the impulsive act of a young man whose emotions were running high. There’s no similar excuse for fans who are acting like Hall’s gesture was a great moment in Ohio State history. I was taught that obscene gestures — whether flashed from a driver’s seat or on the football field — reflect ignorance, lack of self-control, and inability to express oneself in an acceptable way. The right way to root against Michigan is to cheer like crazy for the Buckeyes and boo the Wolverines — not get into fights or launch obscenities or obscene gestures.
I believe in sportsmanship. The one-fingered salute is not funny, or “edgy.” It’s pathetic, and the positive reaction to Hall’s conduct by some Ohio State fans makes them look like ill-educated jerks. I’d like to think that the Buckeye Nation is better than that.