Time To Order THE TOSU Sweatshirt

Time To Order THE TOSU Sweatshirt

Bitter Buckeyes are reeling.  

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has denied Ohio State University’s petition to trademark the word “The” as in, “The Ohio State University” (pronounced Thee Ohio State University) , contending that the word” the” is critical to much of the university’s merchandising all sorts of athletic gear and commemorative souvenirs.  Unwary shoppers, the Patent Office was told, could mistake a sweatshirt from Ohio University or Miami University of Ohio for the genuine and more celebrated Ohio State brand, which does cast some shade on Buckeye Nation as one might assume that a fan knows the difference between teams even if their names contain many similar letters.  Michigan/Michigan State, Colorado/Colorado State … not a lot of their fans out there proudly flying the wrong flag.

 There are some interesting questions raised by the university’s claim to ownership, however, and those conversations may bring us to a higher plane of linguistic sensitivity.  And, it should be noted, there may be opportunities to suggest that although there may be method in Ohio State’s application, yet there is madness in’t. So, let’s press on.

We’ll get terribly confused in trying to speak about the not-yet-trademarked word and the word we have been tossing around for centuries, primarily because t-h-e  means different things to differing people. Henceforth, in order to avoid confusion, the word as used by the university will be emboldened (THE) to identify its distance from its more commonly used, and apparently, commonly owned cousin, the functional word.

The is a good word, a darned good word.  We use it all the time, hardly noticing its graceful utility, just tossing it around as if we owned it.   Maybe we’ve taken it for granted, assumed it would always be there when we needed it. Without it, we seem impetuous, imperious, reductive.  Declaration of Independence. Gettysburg Address. 

The (see?) evolution of Ohio State’s fixation on the word, its determination to achieve exclusive ownership of the word THE,  begins with its position in the state’s birth order.  Ohio University in Athens was founded in 1804. The two landmark liberal arts colleges in the State of Ohio, Kenyon and Oberlin, were founded in 1824 and 1833 respectively.  THE Ohio State University was founded in 1870 as Ohio Agricultural and Mechanical College, taking the name The Ohio State University in 1870 when then Governor Rutheford B. Hayes, a graduate of Kenyon, authorized the development of a comprehensive university.

THE University of Michigan, founded in 1817, THE University of Virginia, founded in 1819, and THE University of Pennsylvania, founded in 1740, might have jumped into the fray, were the fray not an exercise in absurdity.  Virginia is secure enough to hang around without assuring its celebrants that it is the University of Virginia even though THE College of William and Mary, equally funded by the Commonwealth of Virginia  is conspicuously older, founded in 1693. In tribute to THE Ohio State University’s initiative, THE University of Michigan has offered to trademark the word OF.

Lest a wary Buckeye dither over other attributes claimed by the university, be assured that applications for trademark protection of the names URBAN MEYER and WOODY HAYES are also under consideration.  The resources of a gigantic enterprise such as THE Ohio State University demands specialized sets of skill, so it should come as no surprise that the Urban Meyer registration was handled by Ohio State’s Director of Trademark and Licensing Services, Rick Van Brimmer.  Van Brimmer is not simply keeping an eye on names and articles; he’s currently working on trademarking The Oval, The Shoe, and OSU.  Already trademarked are Brutus Buckeye, Script Ohio, Gold Pants, and Block O, the Buckeye Stripe, the helmet leaf, and their home and away uniforms, 

The OSU issue is a bit tricky in that Oklahoma State University and Oregon State University suggest that their claim on the initials is as legitimate as Ohio State’s.  At the moment, the trademark is licensed on a state by state, i.e. regional, basis. The greater complication, an innocent observer might note, is that by registering THE, Ohio’s state university should actually be represented as TOSU.  Please call Van Brimmer at home to raise that point.

Trademarking and licensing belong in the nether reaches of marketing and finance, areas not commonly discussed in polite society.  TOSU is not alone in having grasped the importance of keeping a stranglehold on an asset that might become commercially viable.  Verizon holds a trademark on the scent they pump into their retail stores. “Flowery Musk Scent” sets the Verizon experience apart from others and must be protected.  Tiffany Blue is a protected color, as is T-Mobile Magenta, Barbie Pink, and Wiffleball Bat Yellow.  

As Kurt Vonnegut, a Midwesterner with an eye for the absurd might have said in encountering the trademark that UPS holds on its shade of brown, “So it goes.”

And Now … From The Sideline

And Now … From The Sideline

Welcome to Premier Sideline and Post Game Sports Academy, the number one institution preparing paying students to break into the exciting world of sideline and post game sports reporting. Right now you’re thinking, ” Heck, I can’t think of anything to ask elite athletes in the few moments they have outside of the mortal combat that is professional sports.” No worries. Before we’re done today, you’ll be slicker than an eel in Vaporub.

The key to effective sideline work is remembering that an athlete or coach gets a huge kick out of being questioned before, during, and after a game. They’ll pretend to be harried or dismissive, but that’s simply their way of inviting a second or third version of the same question asked with increasing urgency. Try to get as physically close to your interview as possible. If you can actually get a microphone to touch the subject’s face, you’ll find rapport almost immediately. Finally, remember that there are four surefire types of questions that never fail to bring a television audience to a deeper understanding of the game.

I, “How does/did you feel …”

There is simply no way the average viewer can imagine the emotion that follows victory or defeat. The more significant the challenge (World Series, Superbowl, Stanley Cup, US Open), the more unexpected the response is likely to be. Who can begin to guess how an athlete feels in the aftermath of being trounced? What might be in a coach’s mind after an expected underdog has blown his team off the field? Viewers need our help in accessing the deepest emotions so that they can more completely understand what motivates players and coaches at the highest level of competition. If you can get to a coach in the first seconds after the final whistle, you’ll be the one to capture the illuminating insights he or she has to share with a disappointed public.

II. “How do you explain…?”

Let’s say you’ve broken into the lucrative ice skating field. A young Olympic hopeful has caught an edge in her final performance, sprawling across the ice at high speed. She’s sustained a nasty abrasion across her face and upper body, her spangled costume is shredded, and her coach has stormed out of the building. The viewer at home is puzzled. Why has she dynamited her chances of reaching fame and fortune? It’s up to you to ask the question, probing beyond whatever response she gives to a more profound admission of her tangled aberrations of personality. Once you’ve opened the floodgates, perhaps suggesting some form of abuse at home, who knows what magical insights might spill past the tears?

III. “Why did you/don’t you …”

Once again, you can’t go wrong in helping the viewer understand the fine points of the game or contest. Coaches are paid enormous sums of money to conceptualize and execute performances that bring victory. Win or lose, they enjoy sharing the thought processes that have resulted in their team’s performance. Don’t be timid. You’re an expert too. Go ahead and ask the question any viewer would ask in your position. For example, a professional basketball game often ends with a final play that decides the outcome of the contest. Go ahead, ask the coach: “Why don’t you guys shoot like the Warriors?” “Why doesn’t your player hauling down eighteen million dollars a year make the open shot” “Why do you always lose the close games?” You are bound to find a warm response and a wealth of information.

IV. “Do you think …”

We have a responsibility to take on the most significant issues of our time, recognizing that athletes in particular have much to say about the world beyond the field or court. Ask a player what he thinks about the professional athlete’s lifestyle in comparison to the experience of a homeless mother camping in an abandoned trailer with her five children. Ask about gender reassignment. Ask about the impact of a jump in interest rate by the Federal Reserve. Almost all professional football players have attended colleges and universities of national repute; they are certainly prepared to contend with the thorniest of questions, and they’ll appreciate your confidence in their intellectual acumen.

Sure, there may be missteps along the way, awkward misunderstandings, but the viewer understands that your intention are good and will easily forgive the occasional gaffe. So you asked Doug Williams how long he’d been a Black quarterback, you asked Shaun Phillips if the Super Bowl was a “must win” game, so you asked Richard Sherman how to stop football players from going to strip clubs, so you congratulated Nicholas Mahut on winning a match he had lost, so you asked Shaquille O’Neal if he would suck snake venom from his mom’s chest in order to win a championship?

Come on! The public has a right to know!

Fortunately they can count on the next generation of sideline and postgame pundits to keep the fans in the game. Here at Premiere Sideline and Post Game Sports Academy, you’ll get the training you need to take your place in the pantheon of great pundits, the next to ask Bill Belichick if he maps out routines for Patriot cheerleaders or Nick Saban if Alabama players can actually read and write. Your future lies ahead and for a mere thousand dollars a week more, you can couple your PSPGSA degree with the certification program offered through the Premiere PGA Hole Description Academy or the Premiere ABA Whispered Bowling PLay-By-Play Academy.

Meanwhile, remember defense wins championships, you can’t coach height, and there is no “I” in team.