The composition of this column is occurring the morning after the 2016 national collegiate championship game. The dust is still settling from a victorious Alabama finally overcoming a previously undefeated Clemson.
The college football season has ended and NFL playoff dreams unceremoniously exited this state Saturday evening after the Bengals’ NFL wild-card debacle. This column includes a few parting words about football, which will end my sports commentary, at least for several months.
The one-year anniversary of the 2015 College Football National Championship was Jan. 12, with a coveted 42-20 domination by the Buckeyes of the Oregon Ducks. Monday evening’s game, which tumbled into the early hours of Tuesday, was excellent and far beyond what most sports analysts predicted.
Yet, an Ohio State rematch against Alabama would have been the pinnacle 2016 season-ending game. The marquee value alone of Meyer versus Saban, the two titans of college football, and Alabama’s grudge over their unexpected New Year’s Day 2015 defeat by the Buckeyes, could have blown Monday night’s TV ratings through the stratosphere.
Instead, the ESPN viewership was abysmal: 15.8 percent of American households, a decline of 15 percent from last year. Monday’s game became a Southern football rivalry clash. No one north of the Mason-Dixon Line or west of the Mississippi River cared. Oh, what could have been.
The reality of winter and the unceremonious end to Ohio football equate to a long, bleak three months. The Buckeyes are struggling in basketball with a near 20-point embarrassment against Indiana, while the Cincinnati Bengals were a national catastrophe Saturday evening, with a thug mentality that necessitates a roster lobotomy.
Clean house, Cincinnati. Your coach, players and some of the fans all need to be shown the door. When Coach Marvin Lewis justified Bengals’ linebacker Vontaze Burfict’s hit on the Steelers’ receiver Antonio Brown, with 22 seconds remaining, derailing a Bengals victory, Lewis should have been fired.
“Let’s not take things out of context, and understand it. Let’s judge his body of work,” quoted by ESPN columnist Coley Harvey, as to Lewis’ response in a Sunday morning press conference while players unceremoniously cleared out their lockers.
The actions of the Cincinnati fans were equally as appalling. As Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was carted off the field earlier in the game, Bengals spectators launched cups and other projectiles towards the injured player. The entire scene was reminiscent of surly, blood-thirsty fans portrayed in old Hollywood movies, which depicted scenes of Roman gladiators fighting until death.
The ugliness of the entire three-hour Saturday evening encounter between the Bengals and Steelers reminds me of why professional football is no longer of interest. The civility of the sport is gone. Accountability of the players by their coaches is severely lacking, as shown by the nonchalant respond of Lewis.
Adding to the “inmates running the prison” mentality, the pay of professional football players has ballooned far beyond reason. Despite the rigors of the game and the potential for life-long altering injuries or premature death, I continue to be astounded by the astronomical amount paid to many professional athletes. Monetary fines lack much impact when the NFL penalizes immature, testosterone-fueled bad behavior.
Burfict, a player who has already been fined $188,902 during the season, now will forfeit $502,941 more of his salary with a three-game suspension for the 2016 season. Considering Burfict received a four-year contract extension totaling $20 million, what he is accumulating in fines is only pocket change.
Obviously his previous penalties during Weeks 14 and 17 of the Bengals’ regular season had little influence on Burfict’s behavior Saturday. Both Burfict and Lewis deserve a one-way ticket out of Cincinnati.
The ongoing onslaught of poor role models for our youth is appalling in this counselor’s opinion, especially in professional sports. Add this to the debacle of many enabling parents, such as Tonya Couch, and I can only imagine the menagerie of mental health issues in upcoming decades for our youth. The reader feedback from my Jan. 6 column triggered many emails with tales of failed parenting and over-indulged, dysfunctional, now-adult offspring.
And to add insult to injury, Texas Judge Wayne Salvant has lowered Tonya Couch’s bail to $75,000 due to her paltry finances and incessant complaints about jail accommodations. What solace does that offer the four families who lost loved ones from her son’s underage drunken driving?
Tuesday morning, Tonya Couch was released from jail and fitted with a GPS-tracking ankle monitor. The “Couch Circus” seems to have no end.
Mariann Main is a Delaware native and undergraduate journalism major of The Ohio State University. She has a master’s degree in community counseling from Georgia State University and can be contacted via MariannMain@gmail.com