November 19, 2019

Never Disparage The Competition

Ohio State University President Gordon Gee

“Never disparage the competition” is a phrase that stands out in my days as a business professional while at IBM Corporation. It was something a manager told me many years ago as I prepared to dive into inside sales with the computer giant. It’s something that a few people in the sports world could use.

First came the news out of Ann Arbor, home to the mighty University of Michigan Wolverines, that its head football coach, Brady Hoke, allegedly made. U-M and Hoke apparently are miffed because the University of Notre Dame, a Catholic institution, decided to forgo the final two years – 2013 and 2014 – in a multi-year contract to schedule pigskin games against each other.

Hoke didn’t take kindly to the move by Notre Dame even though the Fighting Irish had the legal right to void the final two games scheduled and thus end the current series.

“Notre Dame – that rivalry which they’re chickening out of…they’re still going to play Michigan State, they’ll play Purdue, they don’t want to play Michigan,” Hoke joked earlier in May.

Well, head coach Brian Kelly does not feel like a chicken and he will not fall into the trap of disparaging the competition.

At the 89th Annual Universal Notre Dame Celebration May 30 at the Detroit Athletic Club, Kelly admitted he held “no ill toward” Hoke and the Michigan athletic department.

“Brady (Hoke) and I go way back. There’s no ill will. It’s really about complications with scheduling. With conferences re-aligning, the scorecards (schedules) are full.”

Kelly handled the mindless chatter like a professional more than one can say about Hoke.

Next came the senseless remarks by the president of Ohio State University, another member of the Big Ten Conference.

Gordon Gee said Notre Dame never was invited to join the Big Ten because the University’s priests are not good partners, joking that “those damn Catholics” can’t be trusted, according to the recording of Gee speaking at a December 5th meeting of Ohio State’s Athletic Council.

What? Is this man off his rocker or what?  But hold on – there’s more.

“The fathers are holy on Sunday, and they’re holy hell on the rest of the week,” Gee said to laughter at the meeting attended by athletic director Gene Smith and several other athletic department members, along with professors and students. “You just can’t trust those damn Catholics on a Thursday or a Friday, and so, literally, I can say that,” said Gee, a Mormon.

This insensitive behavior by a person in higher education was only made public recently and the backlash has been swift and fair. One doesn’t expect backward comments like this from a person in his position.

Gee apologized in a written statement May 30 in Columbus, Ohio, and again on Twitter the same day. “I am truly sorry for my comments; such attempts at humor do not reflect Ohio State values, nor my role as its president,” the tweet said.

Catholic bashing is nothing new in sports or in real-life yet these incidents perpetuate a bias by a minority of folks against those who represent our religion and those who practice their faith by living a life of love, hope and charity.

We forgive those who offend us and we forgive Brady Hoke and Gordon Gee. We find these remarks insensitive yet we move on.  Just as Jesus taught us to forgive, we likewise forgive. We never disparage – on the playing field or in the board room – because Jesus wouldn’t want it any other way.


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Written by
George Eichorn

GEORGE EICHORN is the long-time executive director of the Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association and sports editor and columnist for a Detroit weekly newspaper. For more than three decades, he has covered the Olympics, Super Bowls, World Series, NBA Championships, and Stanley Cup finals. His articles have been published in the Detroit News, Basketball Times, Basketball Digest, Red Wings Magazine, Baseball Bulletin, Sports Fans Journal, Soccer World, and Bowler’s Digest. During the 1980 Winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid, New York, he proudly covered the historic “Miracle on Ice” hockey game when the United States shocked the Soviet Union. Through the years, he has won numerous broadcasting and writing awards, and most recently received the National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame’s Special Recognition Award. In 2003, he authored a book about the rich history of Michigan sports broadcasting, Detroit Sports Broadcasters: On the Air, for which the late Detroit Tigers broadcast legend, Ernie Harwell, wrote the forward. He is the married father of two daughters and a graduate of Wayne State University.

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Written by George Eichorn
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