The Mailbox: Positive aspects of competition outweigh greed in college football

Ray Stein
Buckeye Xtra
Ohio State football players sing "Carmen Ohio" after the season-opening win against Nebraska.

Editor: As a sports editor, I would assume you’ve done your homework regarding the known deaths (one) and the number of high school, college and professional football players who have had serious or life-threatening complications from COVID. 

It goes without saying that I’m saddened by the one college player who died. But the facts are he had two issues that put him at an elevated risk. One is he was Black. If you don’t know of the decreased serum levels of vitamin D in the Black population and how it affects their immune system, there’s plenty of info out there that doesn’t require a tin foil hat to believe. The other factor for him was being morbidly obese. You don’t need to be a medical professional (I am) to garner that from his picture. So he was at high risk without ever donning pads. 

I’m not surprised you find it disturbing and greed-motivated that colleges want to play football (Mailbox, last Sunday). I’ve read enough of your replies to have a pretty good idea of your thoughts on this.

And it’s fine to have a dissenting opinion from others such as myself, but when you say it’s wrong to play because only greed and money are the reason colleges wanted to play, well, that’s just head-shakingly shortsighted. 

I would expect that being involved in sports that you have at least some idea of the intangibles gained from athletics and team competition. I could write pages on the positive benefits of working together and sacrificing to achieve a common goal. 

And the extraordinary sacrifices these players and coaches on all levels have made this year is unprecedented in sports history. The inner strength they have gained will carry over with most of them throughout their lives as they encounter difficulties. 

The positives of playing far outweigh the risks of this virus, which for the overwhelming majority of them due to their age and health, are minuscule.

And as far as universities wanting revenue incomes? How about the need for that to fund nonrevenue sports? Or in your opinion should everything just be shut down and damn the emotional and other fallout? 

I read that in the spring that OSU stated that one-quarter of the student population contemplated suicide. I don’t know how many have done so in pre-COVID years but there's no way it would approach those numbers. 

So go ahead and believe what you want. At least for now our thoughts are not censured even if our speech is under attack. 

Brad Pence, Columbus 

Brad: I wonder what the young men and women who went off to actual war over the past 80 years would make of your characterization of the “extraordinary sacrifices” football players are making. Of course there is great benefit to athletic competition, but my view is that perhaps resources such as daily testing could be reserved for the greater good.

Ray: While your response to Mickey Geslak (Mailbox, last Sunday) regarding his statement that Ryan Day testing positive for COVID-19 was “ironic and hilarious” was accurate, it was not strong enough. 

I understand that you must remain professional. I don’t, though. 

So: “Mickey, I understand that people hate our Buckeyes. Excellence brings jealousy, and ‘hate’ follows. It is really respect of excellence, and it is OK as long as it isn’t amplified by ignorance and becomes real. You finding that it is ‘hilarious’ that a person contacting a disease that not only kills but also is obviously easily spread reflects not only your lack of empathy, but of your basic intelligence. Perhaps Parler has a Sports section. Bye now!” 

Greg Ward, Dublin 

Greg: Ah, that wasn’t too rough. As for Mickey, he has nosed around this space for years. He enjoys wearing the black hat and disturbing the peace. 

Editor: “In fact, I find it disturbing that institutions of learning would insist on trying to play football during a pandemic. It reeks of greed and arrogance, and it’s wrong.” Your words from last Sunday’s column. 

Thank you, I was beginning to think I was the only one in Columbus to have that opinion. Last I looked, Ohio State is a university, and if students must become virtual, then extracurricular activities should be relegated to the back shelf until this mess is over. 

Thanks for allowing me to rant. 

Bob McGrath, Columbus 

Bob: Sure thing. Stop by any time. Next time I’ll put a pot of coffee on. 

Ray: Why did OSU build a hockey arena for the basketball teams, resulting in a nearly dead environment for most games, and then 20 years later build the Covelli Center for seven varsity sports, including hockey? 

Those smart folks at Ohio State must have finally realized college hockey doesn’t need 20,000-seat arenas. I’m still trying to figure out why “Columbus” is painted along both end lines, instead of “Ohio State” and/or “Buckeyes.” 

How many more games will be played in the Covelli Center during this COVID-19-stricken season before Panera Bread logos are plastered at least twice on the court? 

Steven H. Spring, South Charleston 

Steven: Keep in mind that they can’t play hockey in Covelli, but they do in the Schott – and four games there in a seven-day span prompted OSU to leave the ice. It costs money to convert, and these are cost-cutting times, you know.

Ray: I just read the letter from mental midget Mickey Geslak -- AKA the Village Idiot of Galena! How can any decent and intelligent human being find someone contacting COVID hilarious? 

What a lowlife he must be! I’m sorry for the good and decent people of Galena that he is a member of their community! 

Bruce Peterson, via email 

Ray: I read and reread your response to Mickey Geslak (Mailbox, last Sunday). You wrote: “I find it disturbing that institutions of learning would insist on trying to play football during a pandemic. It reeks of greed and arrogance, and it’s wrong.” 

Your words are powerful and succinct. I staunchly support your opinion, and I laud you for the courage it took to express your feelings. Regardless of what repercussions may come, you took a stance that is quite likely contrary to the beliefs of the majority of the inhabitants of Buckeye Nation, and you put it out there for the masses to see. 

To read what you wrote just one page after I tapped into Rob Oller’s “Blame the virus for OSU cancellation,” exemplified an enormous chasm between two conflicting schools of thought. 

Oller said to blame the virus. That's overly simplistic, starkly naive, and incredibly silly. Take it back a step. Where did the virus originate? It can only exist as a creation of God. To collapse the “logic,” we should blame God for the cancellation. 

You correctly see the cause as not the virus, but rather people’s chosen response to the virus. The Bible says, “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” Greed and arrogance can only lose in a battle against a force of nature. To believe that any sport can or should try to overshadow a gruesomely powerful, deadly pandemic is absurd, and the cost in human suffering is heartbreaking. 

Richard Zaborsky, Dublin 

Ray: As Ohio State “pauses” its football season during the worst pandemic in over a hundred years, perhaps it should pause to consider the harm that it is inflicting on its young student-athletes who test positive for COVID-19. 

The evidence is mounting that exposure to COVID could result in serious long-term health problems. To hamper a 19-year-old college football player for the rest of his life, just so he can play a football game that is here today and gone tomorrow, is morally reprehensible. 

What’s it gonna be, Ohio State? Money, or the health of your student-athletes? 

Thad Woodman, Westerville 

Mr. Stein: Beautiful answer to Mr. Geslak last Sunday: “It reeks of greed and arrogance and it’s wrong.” Who could argue? Certainly not the 260,000 dead, and probably not their families. 

Keep up the good work! 

George Lewandowski, via email 

Editor: Mickey Geslak said it’s “hilarious” that someone tests positive for COVID-19. I struggle to see the humor there. 

There are numerous front-line personnel working in our medical fields as well as others that have done the same thing for the sake of their families and the greater good as a whole. People who are willing to make sacrifices for the benefit of others. 

It is called collective responsibility/behavior, though that probably makes them communists. At 71, though, I have grown to expect those comments from “Buckeye fans” from time to time. Pure idiocy! 

Jimmy Ryan, Canal Winchester 

Editor: Kudos, Ray! Thank you for the virtuous and inciteful response to the first letter. I am so proud of you. Only sorry you have to wade through the incredibly ignorant opinions such as that first one. 

Please continue to speak your mind. It’s certainly worth listening to. 

Mike Dunham, Columbus 

Ray: I hope you and your family are COVID-free! 

Regarding OSU, Michigan, Maryland and other Big Ten teams, along with numerous others nationwide, testing positive for COVID and games being suspended, I may be spitballing here (hopefully not COVID spittle) but I have a theory on how and why it’s happening. 

Young college student-athletes being away from home for the first time and way down the roster in regards to playing time pure and simple are “stepping outside the bubble” -- High Street, Thirsty Thursdays and wine, women and song being the lure. Guys, too, for the girls who are on the prowl and thirsting for some beverages. 

Those universities with a clean or under the safe level of having too many positive test, good for them! They have bought in to the “team before I” mentality! 

Proof that the bubble works. The NHL players stated that “trying to get outside of the hotel they were locked down in was like trying to get out of prison.” No one left until they were eliminated. And, if my memory serves me correct, no NHL player tested positive during the tournament. 

Hockey is a brutal, fast-paced, lots of checking and scrums sport andyet they were all in the clear. Hmm! College’s talking of “being in a bubble” is a bunch of horse biscuits. 

Stay safe and thirsty, my friend! 

Rick Henne, Pataskala 

Editor: I am reaching out to inquire about coverage of the OSU women’s basketball team – or, more accurately, the lack of it. 

I’ve not seen any articles regarding the results of their game against Duquesne this past Sunday or their game against Kent State (on Wednesday). However, there have been several articles touting the men’s games. 

The men are ranked 23rd, the women are ranked 19th. We are very proud of both of our teams and believe that there should be more equal treatment for both. I sincerely hope that we will see greater coverage of the women’s games going forward as I believe it's going to be an exciting season. 

Lynn Powell, via email 

Editor: I have to say up front, this email is long overdue. But (Wednesday’s) sports page threw me over the edge regarding your sexist coverage of sports. You have the audacity to place a human-interest story on the front page of the Sports section, yet you give nothing, zero, zilch coverage, not even mention of the OSU women’s basketball game that is being played. 

Yup, the men are front and center. Yup, we know the football team has resumed practice and we know how Tom Matte pitched in back in 1965! Really! 

But there is no mention of the OSU women’s game in the entire sports section. Wait, there was a picture of a woman in the ad on the last page. 

I don’t know why I’m surprised by the coverage. You consistently disregard women’s sports in general. If you do cover a story, it is a small article or mention in some buried page of the sports section. 

I’d hope that you would at least get into the 1990s and realize that women do play sports and there are people who follow them and would like to see articles about their game. Then again, you have not lived up to that expectation, so why change now? 

When there is mention of systemic sexism, please remember this email and take a look in the mirror and see it looking back at you! 

Mary Ann Short, via email 

Ray: Did you really print a letter last Sunday making fun of someone who, despite observing protocols, got COVID-19? I know of 300,000 people who wish they could laugh at that joke. What ya got this week, laughing at vegans who get cancer?  Priests who get struck by lightning? 

Are these the only letters you get? Isn’t this paper supposed to have an editor? Let the cruel and stupid go where they belong: the internet. 

Paul Birken, Columbus 

Editor: “Riddle me this, Batman,” as Boy Wonder might ask: “How in the world can OSU be ranked No. 3 or 4?” 

Obviously, I question this because this week against Michigan State they will win by 35 points and then against Michigan they will win by 35 points and yet MSU and U of M can’t field a decent team! 

They have played who? Indiana, who then got beat by an unranked team? There are other teams, many with six or seven wins at minimum! 

No sour grapes! Just wondering how? 

Ron Miller, Blissfield, Mich. 

Editor: We have always received the early edition of The Dispatch since we moved to Powell eight years ago. I have complained about that just about every year to no avail. 

Just to set the record straight, we have been customers of The Dispatch since July 1967 when Paul Hornung and Kaye Kessler were the sports writers of the Dispatch. 

To me you always became a Buckeyes fan when you moved to Columbus. It didn’t matter where you had gone to school before, you are now a Buckeye. Oh, my wife and I went to 47 straight Michigan-Ohio State football games. Our last one was the 2016 double overtime winner. I told my wife this was the way to end it. And we did. 

So you can see how it gets a little annoying when The Dispatch no longer breaks down the stats for the football and basketball games. We like to see what the players have done. What gives with you guys? 

Do I have to look elsewhere and give up The Dispatch? It doesn’t matter that you have moved everything out of the state, you are still The Columbus Dispatch and home to the OSU Buckeyes. Act like it. 

Dan Stone, Powell 

Ray: Why couldn’t Big Ten teams make up any games on week nights like a Tuesday night? 

Cheri Rickert, Columbus