Ohio State pomposity, a cheering sportwriter and racist comments in F1

Ohio State pomposity, a cheering sportwriter and racist comments in F1

Ohio State fans get ready for the Buckeyes’ Rose Bowl game against Utah in January.

Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Things are bugging me. That’s not good for anybody.

— Ohio State University recently received a trademark for the word “the” so that it can call itself The Ohio State University. This is important to the school, its students and its alums because … because … because everyone involved has an enormous inferiority complex?

It’s not enough that 67,000 students attend the school, that its football program is iconic or that the university boasts five Nobel Prize laureates. Putting the word “the’’ in front of Ohio State University apparently classes up the joint. But you don’t always get to decide who and what you are. You can put a tuxedo on a ring announcer, but it doesn’t change the fact that boxing is a brutal sport inhabited by a shady person or 200.  You can dye your hair jet black, but I still know that somewhere underneath there, you’re still Biff from the accounting department and you’re still 65.

You can call it The Ohio State University all you want, but if someone were to ask me the first thing I think of about the school, it’s still that lunatic Woody Hayes. 

And when I think of “the,’’ the first thing I think of is a “SpongeBob SquarePants’’ episode in which a procrastinating SpongeBob writes one word — the — to begin an 800-word school essay and then deals with distractions of his own making for hours on end.

Note that the creator of the cartoon could have called it “THE SpongeBob SquarePants.’’ But didn’t. Wait, did I just compare The Ohio State University with a kid’s show?

On an unrelated note, I’d like to be referred to as “Your Eminence’’ from now on. Thank you.

— The Colorado Avalanche recently won the Stanley Cup, beating the Tampa Bay Lightning in six games. Yay.

That’s not me saying, “yay,’’ by the way. That’s Mike Chambers, who covers the team for the Denver Post. After the deciding game, Chambers tweeted a photo of himself smoking a cigar and holding the Cup over his head, with this message: “Probably the most memorable experience of my career #StanleyCup.”

There’s so much wrong with this that it’s hard to know where to start. Newspapers assign writers to cover teams. Those writers work for newspapers, not for teams. It’s a very important distinction. Readers need to know that the people bringing them information aren’t beholden to the players, coaches, general managers and owners in any way.

The inference in Chambers’ tweet is that he either works for the Avalanche or that he openly roots for the team. What he meant by it might be entirely different. Maybe he was simply excited at reaching some sort of milestone in his career. What it looked like was a guy who didn’t know whom he was supposed to be serving. It looked like a fanboy in rapture. I don’t know how a writer recovers from that in the eyes of readers.

Some of this might not be easy for people outside the sportswriting community to understand, though if you look at the replies to his Twitter post, you’ll notice that a lot of fans were appalled, too.

I’ve covered titles by the Cubs, White Sox, Bulls and Blackhawks. I was thankful to be able to write those stories, to tell those tales, especially in my hometown. The only thing I wanted to lift afterward was a beer in celebration of a job done and the opportunity to reacquaint myself with my family after a long playoff run. And 99% of the writers I know would say the same thing.

— Formula One is enjoying a growth spurt in the United States, helped along by the Netflix reality show “Formula 1: Drive to Survive.’’ The lure of F1 is fast machines and daring drivers who are handsome and rich and pretty much all the things most of us aren’t.

But shiny cars and gleaming white teeth weren’t enough to hide a bit of ugliness that crawled into the light recently. During a podcast, former driver Nelson Piquet, a three-time world champion, called F1 star Lewis Hamilton a slur which in Brazilian Portuguese means “little Black guy.’’ Piquet used the word while blaming Hamilton for a collision last year with Max Verstappen, the boyfriend of Piquet’s daughter, Kelly. Hamilton, the only Black driver in Formula One, tweeted that “these archaic mindsets need to change,”

The epithet is bad enough. The explanation for it is worse. Piquet used the rarely played mistranslation defense, claiming that the word in English doesn’t have the same meaning in Portuguese, his native language.

“What I said was ill thought out, and I make no defense for it, but I will clarify that the term used is one that has widely and historically been used in Brazilian Portuguese for a synonym for ‘guy’ or ‘person’ and was never intended to offend,’’ he said in a statement. “I would never use the word I have been accused of in some translations.

“I strongly condemn any suggestion that the word was used by me with the aim of belittling a driver because of his skin color.’’

Racing has taken Piquet, 69, all over the world. It’s next to impossible to believe he didn’t know that the word, even if he felt it were accepted among some in Brazil, would be offensive to many English-speaking people and to some Blacks in his native country.

What we have here, as usual, is someone not taking responsibility for his actions and comments. A defensive lineman uses steroids, then blames tainted food or supplements when he fails a drug test. A third baseman has too much to drink, gets into a car accident and says “mistakes were made,’’ as if the car were self-driving

I’d respect Piquet a lot more if he had said, “It’s dawning on me that I might have some racist leanings. I’m going to work on that.’’

Something tells me that’s not going to happen, in any language.

Formula One has banned Piquet from its paddock.

 

 

      

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