Brittany Schock / Asst. photo editor
My favorite halftime show of the Ohio State men’s basketball games is undoubtedly when they bring in that guy who has all the Frisbee-catching dogs. It doesn’t get any better than that.
But Sunday’s halftime spectacle which included the basketball crowd cheering OSU defensive coordinator Luke Fickell and jeering athletic director Gene Smith gave the Frisbee guy a run for his money.
Here’s what was supposed to happen.
New OSU football coach Urban Meyer was supposed to come on the court and introduce his family and coaching staff to the fans. The eager crowd would snap some pictures and cheer excitedly. The staff would wave to some babies and walk off.
What actually transpired was much more interesting.
I don’t know whose bright idea it was, but I guess it wasn’t acceptable for Meyer to take the microphone and do the introductions himself. Someone had to introduce Meyer so he could get a nice little cheer.
There’s nothing wrong with that. It was the first time Meyer had been formally introduced to the fans in a setting other than a press conference.
But I will never understand the decision to have Smith introduce Meyer. John Schmo sitting in the nosebleeds would have been a better choice.
So before Meyer took the floor, Smith started his walk out to center court.
Before he got there, the boos started. It wasn’t just one or two knuckleheads who had a little bit too much fun before the game. It was a chorus, mostly of students, heckling Smith.
Not everyone participated and it certainly wasn’t a drowning noise, but people weren’t happy.
My question is who let Smith walk out there? The adverse reaction is hardly a surprise. The OSU football program has been riddled with controversy and scandal for more than a year and it’s no secret that more than a few people think Smith deserves the axe for his role in the debacle. There’s no way anyone affiliated with the university wanted something like fans booing to distract from the introduction of the new era of OSU football. It was something so obviously preventable that it baffles me no one threw themselves in front of the train wreck. I guess after the “I just hope he doesn’t dismiss me,” disaster from President E. Gordon Gee following the Jim Tressel-scandal and the litany of bone-head public relations moves that culminated in Tressel’s firing, nothing should surprise me.
I just don’t understand how it never occurred to anyone with any say in letting Smith walk to midcourt that “Hey, a lot of people don’t like this Gene Smith guy. Maybe he’ll get booed.”
Comically, Smith ignored the boos and tried to drown them out by baiting OSU fans into an “O-H” cheer.
Some fans responded, but most continued to steadfastly boo their villain.
It wasn’t until Smith finished his introduction that the boo-birds flew away and happily flocked around their newest trophy — Urban Meyer.
The cheer was loud and exuberant. Meyer introduced his family and all was back to the plan.
But there was one more surprise before the basketball Buckeyes took the floor again.
When Meyer introduced Fickell, who is now serving as Meyer’s defensive coordinator, the place went nuts. The positive reaction wasn’t surprising, but the level of it was.
Not only was the cheer louder than Meyer’s, but it was the loudest I have ever heard in the Schottenstein Center. People went crazy.
Just weeks before, when OSU lost to Michigan for the first time since 2003, people couldn’t wait to show Fickell the door and usher in Meyer to sit on the golden throne of OSU football.
Now, Fickell was being revered like he brought the team a national championship.
In reality, the fans were showing Fickell gratitude for his handling of an almost impossible situation. He took the OSU job at a time when many would have been afraid.
He led the team to a 6-7 record that quite frankly, isn’t good enough for a football program like OSU.
OSU fans have a reputation for being arrogant and ruthless, but their outpouring of affection for Fickell showed they have a heart.
Sunday’s halftime spectacle put both sides of the average OSU fan on display — the caustic critic and the appreciative spectator.
The essence of OSU fans was captured in less than 10 minutes.
And it was almost better than a dog catching a Frisbee.