Who is Toledo’s most hated sports figure?Written by Matt Sussman | | email@example.com
When former Cleveland Cavaliers cornerstone player LeBron James hoisted himself on a pedestal of his own hubris and announced he would graciously play for the Miami Heat — leaving behind a trail of sadness and burned jerseys — the state of Ohio, you could say, hated him.
Sports hate, when practiced perfectly, is a myopic dislike of a sports figure, but not the person. We don’t know these people; we just observe their handiwork on TV or in large stadiums.
I hate the Minnesota Twins. Why? Because somehow, some way, they always ruin the Detroit Tigers’ season. Personally, I don’t hate the Twins baseball players. They did nothing to me. I’m walking along the Maumee River, and suddenly I spot Twins MVP catcher Joe Mauer drowning, I probably try to save his life. Then when he’s on dry land, I tell him, “Now do me a favor: Demand a trade out of the division.”
Recently, the state of Michigan was rightfully vexed over the decision by ABC/ESPN to have former Detroit Lions president Matt Millen serve as the color commentator for the TV broadcast of the UM-MSU game. On the surface, I didn’t see a problem with this. Of all his talents, talking about football is actually one of them. But this was unacceptable for several devoted Lions souls. How could he thoughtfully analyze this anticipated rivalry game when he thought Marty Mornhinweg could lead the Lions to the Super Bowl?
As I was thinking about this, it hit me. Championships and great moments can unite sports fans of a city, but perhaps even more municipally binding is the hatred of a sports figure. All of Detroit stands in solidarity against Matt Millen. They may not agree on much, but at least they know a bad football president when they see one. And much like Millen, Cleveland has joined together in their hatred for LeBron.
Which brings us to Northwest Ohio. Who do we hate? The occasional athlete or broadcaster might take the occasional catty swipe at our region, but there isn’t that one pervasive figure who all Toledoans can point to and say, yeah, he’s our enemy.
Perhaps the figures involved in the UT point-shaving scandal are hated. Certainly the gamblers who allegedly masterminded the scheme are personae non grata in Toledo, but they’re mere criminals. As for the former athletes awaiting trial, are they really hated? Or did they just make young and dumb decisions?
What about former Toledo basketball coach Gene Cross? He woefully derailed the rebuilding of Rockets basketball, but his tenure was so brief and without comical folly that few of us had much of a chance to feel any emotion for the man. (Imagine Matt Millen lasting only two years for the Lions. He’d be but another notch on the franchise’s futility belt.)
Former Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz is a possibility. You might remember his line on ESPN a few years ago, regarding interstate football rivalries: “Only twice have states gone to war with one another. One of them was Ohio and Michigan, where they had a boundary dispute over Toledo. That history doesn’t record who won the war, but we have to assume Michigan did, because nobody would fight to keep Toledo.” This is a great candidate because Holtz is a northeast Ohio native
Nick Saban and Gary Pinkel are former Toledo coaches who spurned their home to take better jobs, but there hasn’t been much animosity toward Pinkel. Saban, however … there are plenty of other reasons to root against Saban and his current Alabama team. BGSU fans, however, might have their own reasons to pull against former coach Urban Meyer. Even though he revived that program in 2001, he left town for another job soon thereafter, mere weeks after telling the local media that he had unfinished business at BG.
I’m really struggling to find viable candidates for Toledo’s Most Hated Sports Figure. Send yours to firstname.lastname@example.org and make your case. We’ll figure this out together.