One of the weirdest days of the year somehow got even more strange Monday at Ohio State.
In one part of Columbus — south of campus, just across the Olentangy River from downtown — what has become a yearly tradition took place as Buckeye football players trickled into their hotel for preseason camp.
That is normally an unofficial Christmas morning in August for many fans, whose habit of clicking any and all photos they can find from the day makes this a must-attend event for members of the Buckeyes beat.
Nobody quite gets it. It’s a little creepy even, but it’s tradition. A sign football is back if nothing else.
Thurgood Marshall graduate Derrick Malone and Springfield native Demetrius Knox was among the earliest arrivers.
Knox finished last season as a starter at guard and is a strong candidate to be there when this one begins in less than a month.
Wayne graduate Robert Landers came in a few minutes later with his trademark smile, and long snapper Liam McCullough expectedly stole the show when he continued his own tradition of wearing a shirt that pictured him checking into the hotel wearing a shirt that pictured him checking into the hotel.
Meanwhile about four miles to the north something else unusual was going on, but this scene was not familiar at all.
That would be a group of roughly 100-200 fans who gathered near the rotunda at Ohio Stadium to show their support for Urban Meyer, the coach of the Buckeyes who is on leave while the university investigates whether he mishandled allegations assistant coach Zach Smith abused his wife.
The scene at the Horseshoe was surreal, to say the least.
The 90-degree heat might have made it feel like a fever dream, but it was all too real for those hoping to put this situation in the rearview as quickly and quietly as possible.
Adding to the spectacle was the appearance of Stacy Elliott, the father of former Ohio State star Ezekiel Elliott, who spoke on camera wearing a replica of his son’s Buckeye jersey.
“Every institution you go to in America is going to have that saying — respect for women and whatever else it says — but the thing about Urban Meyer and his program, he teaches the respect. That’s the thing, he teaches the respect for these young women,” Elliott said.
Stacy Elliott’s appearance may not have been a coincidence. This time last year, Elliott’s son was battling a suspension handed down by the NFL for an alleged domestic violence incident that occurred in Columbus in 2016.
(The leader of the team investigating Meyer’s conduct, Mary Jo White, was also part of the investigation of Ezekiel Elliott, one of several high-profile investigations of sports figures she has been part of.)
Whether the spectacle has much effect on the outcome of the investigation of Meyer — which the university announced Sunday it hopes to wrap up within 14 days — remains to be seen (don’t bet on it), but it was not received well by those outside “Buckeye nation” if social media is any indication (sometimes it is not).
Ironically those who gathered at Ohio Stadium might have pushed their “cause” back more than they advanced it.
Rather than bringing Meyer’s reinstatement closer to reality — certainly everyone wants closure here, whether they believe he did anything wrong or not — they provided a distraction from a yearly even that might have let people feel like things were getting back to normal.
Who ever expected to wish for the standard weirdness of check-in day?
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