The Deep Ohio State REVEALED: Anatomy of a Herbstreit Flip-Flop

The disappointments one feels in Chris Fowler as a play-by-play announcer are total. Somehow, one thought him to be an intellectual — at least by ESPN standards.

Fowler rides waves of college football like a geriatric on a coin-operated bull. He’s as ill-fitting in the role as cats wear clothing. He should be back at headquarters, organizing Saturday’s action into small bites for us plebes to comprehend.

Could it be Fowler IS as smart as he seems? Then to his orthogonal delivery would be added a tinge of tragedy…

At any rate: Either by design or luck, Fowler’s chowderheaded schtick obscures what should be the focus of our attention: the OBVIOUS The Deep Ohio State agenda promoted by Kirk Herbstreit.

(For those of you who have not been paying attention, The Deep Ohio State is the apparatus that 1] keeps Ohio State the preeminent sports franchise in Ohio, chiefly by sabotaging other college and professional teams in the Buckeye State (think the Indians, or the Browns), and 2] jockeys to maintain Ohio State’s position among the college football elite.)

Fortunately, Saturday’s rich home loss to Oklahoma provided INCONTROVERTIBLE VIDEO EVIDENCE of — not just a flip-flop — but an attempted COVER-UP by Herbstreit on a crucial play that wound up going AGAINST the Buckeyes.

A few thoughts, first, on Herbstreit: one can hardly fault the man for going full patsy to TDOS. It may be cliche to dredge up, but an analysis of Herbstreit’s character begins with the fact that he was winless against Michigan; worse, that the blowout loss to the Wolverines to which he contributed emblematized a dark and wounded era:

(One might say Herbstreit’s breath, knocked out on that play, has never been fully regained.)

Yes, with a resume so poor, Herbstreit, desperate to redeem himself, could pledge total obedience to the apparatus.

One wonders what they saw in such a scrawny pup. Yet TDOS has made a good bet on Herbie, for he’s become one of their most useful plants.

Plainly — in every sense of the word — Kirk Herbstreit is winning. (Again, by ESPN standards.) He is blandly, midwesternly good-looking, a kind of ESPN-ified Mike Nelson from MST3K. Dressed always in some titration of respectable alpha style, he is never flamboyant. He is trusted. He is there.

At the Gameday roundtable, he is even nimble. Most importantly, he handles the palliative project known as Lee Corso with the kind of probity by which wives fall in love with their husbands all over again, or so the experts claim…

Occasionally, he even ejects an original thought. Too bad it can barely be heard over the din of the fans who may screech, who may boo, but who never go so far as to question his intentions…certainly not, they’d prefer take a selfie with him…so random

With his beaucoup blonde children hanging from his arm, Herbstreit “tests well for a wide audience,” a term appropriated from the parlance of advertisers precisely because it is the only parlance by which a man like Herbstreit can be understood.

All of this serves to underscore his strength as broadcaster/shill for The Deep Ohio State’s agenda. If the best color commentators can be counted on to offer independent thought, Herbstreit is the worst you can do, for it is unquestionable that he will repeat whatever his overlords tell him to. Such a person is valuable when it comes time for a talking head to say, with a straight face, “You know, the refs have a tough job out there.”

In his never-be-wrong, wait-til-the-zebras-question-themselves approach, Herbstreit hems expertly, dodging truth and justice in equal measure. To him, the refs are right, until they overturn themselves…and then they were wrong all along.

But let’s let the facts speak for themselves. Observe this sequence:

At 2:09:21, Herbstreit interrupts the most softball criticism of Ohio State’s poor defensive performance by saying, “Very, very close to that left knee getting down for a reception…”

“But, Kirk” — anyone with a sentient brain says — “he doesn’t have to get his knee down for that to be a reception.”

Indeed, toe is in — I would argue clearly in on replay — catch is made.

It is too much to say color commentators should know every rule in college football. Yet even a bad has-been quarterback should know: foot goes down, catch is made; end of story.

“But Ira, it’s a trifling matter,” you say, “and anyway, he could have made a mistake.” Yet it is too big an admission to give up, since by such small advances, great contests have been decided.

I argue that it was Kirk Herbstreit’s job in that moment to be the first to say, “Wasn’t his foot down first?”

After all, wasn’t it? And wasn’t it abundantly clear from that first replay? So why does Kirk spread this false information? Why fabricate, why confabulate, and then why repeat the lie at 2:09:32, if he was not trying DELIBERATELY to suppress the truth?

It is too perfect, then, that Chris Chowder, showing precisely the lack of independent judgment that you might expect from play-by-play announcers (though he could do so much more!), agrees with Herbie’s call…”We’ll take another look but I agree with you…”

Clearly, TDOS has Fowler cowed.

As we continue watching the film, we hear…


“You know, the left foot may have touched before the knee.”

Well, this is embarrassing…I distinctly do NOT remember Herbstreit saying that in a previous viewing.

Could the audio on this file have been corrupted? Could Herbstreit’s exculpating remarks have been added ex post facto? The Deep Ohio State is capable of that and more…

Well…we shall pause this line of argument for now. But keep vigilant, readers, for other evidence in the future — and try to capture it in real time. After all, nothing on the internet is safe from the reach of TDOS…

Image via Michael Li/BY-NC 2.0.