If Anzalone Wants In, Ohio State Should Welcome Him Back
By Brandon Castel
COMMENTARY — The strange and twisted tale of Alex Anzalone took another winding turn Sunday.
After briefly flying off the handle during an interview with his hometown newspaper on Friday, Anzalone’s father suddenly—or maybe not so suddenly—changed his tune Sunday.
It came just two days after announcing his son, one of the top linebacker prospect in the county, had de-committed from Ohio State and would no longer be considering the Buckeyes as a possible landing spot.
Dr. Sal Anzalone initially went as far as to say something is “just not right” at Ohio State after his son reportedly spent time in the company of convicted sex offender Charles Eric Waugh during his unofficial visit to Columbus last month.
Rated as the No. 10 outside linebacker in the country by Scout.com, and the No. 1 player in the state of Pennsylvania by Rivals.com, Anzalone was an important get for the Buckeyes. He verbally committed to Ohio State in April after visiting the University for Urban Meyer’s first spring game.
The Buckeyes also picked up a huge commitment from 5-star Joey Bosa, who connected with Anzalone on the trip. Anzalone’s de-commitment came on the heals of the unrelated de-commitment of linebacker Lewis Neal, but Anzalone’s father is now making it sound like his son could seriously consider the Buckeyes again once things calm down from threat level red.
“There's no reason we wouldn't consider the Buckeyes,” he said Sunday.
“We love Ohio State. The academic opportunities there are tremendous. My issue is not with Ohio State: It's a great institution, they have a phenomenal president, Urban Meyer is nothing but a class act to me.”
Those comments from Sal Anzalone are lot different than the ones from Friday, which not only caused a stir amongst Buckeye Nation, but also across the country. The story ended up on the front page of a number of national sports websites, and it gave detractors another bullet to fire at Ohio State.
So what should Meyer do if he gets another call from Anzalone between now and February?
Before Anzalone’s dad had time to assess his initial comments, many Ohio State fans had already changed their minds about his son becoming a Buckeye. There was bewilderment over the decision to pin the blame on Ohio State for the actions of one rogue fan, who just so happens to be a sex offender.
After so much bad press over the past year, the last thing OSU fans wanted was something like this to break up the positive momentum they had gained since the hiring of Urban Meyer back in November.
Should the comments of Sal Anzalone make Alex persona non grata at Ohio State?
It doesn’t seem fair.
Certainly it appears his father overreacted to the picture of his son with a convicted sex offender, but what father wouldn’t?
And who could blame any parent for thinking irrationally about the idea of his or her teenage son spending unsupervised time with a 31-year old man convicted of having child pornography on his computer.
Especially when that pornography featured 16-year-old boys.
It sounds like dramatization, but this isn’t television or the movies. For Dr. Anzalone and his family, this is real life. Who among us can say we know exactly how we might react under similar circumstances?
Based on the surrounding evidence, it doesn’t seem like Waugh’s interest in kids like Anzalone and Bosa has as much to do with his past sexual perversions as it does his obsession with all things Ohio State football, but who could possibly know for sure?
Who would want to? Or need to?
We can all agree it seems misguided to blame Coach Meyer or Ohio State for not knowing Waugh was a sexual offender, especially when he was previously engaged in communications with Anzalone and other like him on social networking websites like Twitter and Facebook.
If anything, it is much more the responsibility of parents to monitor who their kids are talking to online than it is the coaches, especially when that player doesn’t even attend a particular college or university yet.
Maybe Meyer and his staff should do a better job monitoring who the current players are communicating with on Twitter, but should they also be asked to keep tabs on the hundreds of potential recruits who are considering Ohio State?
We now know Waugh to be a convicted sex offender, but his interactions with the players online were hardly a cause for concern. A bit incessant, but hardly dangerous.
If we want to identify every rabid college football fan who has contacted a player through Twitter, we would all have to quit our day jobs.
It is an unfortunate reality, but these players become celebrities the moment they step foot on a college campus. Today, it often starts long before that. What sports fan didn’t know Terrelle Pryor’s name long before he ever put on a scarlet and gray uniform?
That is the world we live in, for better or worse, but let’s not blame one kid for having a momentary freak out because one of these ‘fanatics’ turned out to be more than just a fan. Maybe Anzalone was second-guessing his commitment to Ohio State for reasons other than Waugh, but he has every right to make sure Columbus is the right place for him.
If it is, Ohio State should welcome him back with open arms.
Even with the linebacker haul Meyer landed in the class of 2012, the Buckeyes are still thin at one of the most critical positions on the field. Anzalone would be a big help, especially if the Buckeyes lose Jaylon Smith to Notre Dame.
They already lost Courtney Love to Nebraska and let Mike McCray commit to Michigan without so much as an offer. Anzalone was clearly their top target at outside linebacker, along with Smith, and there is no reason they should give him the cold shoulder.
After all, this kid did not commit a crime or cheat on a test. This was a kid who had second thoughts about a potential college because one of the fans turned out to be pretty frightening.
If we can’t understand that, we have our priorities in the wrong place.
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