The Loop

Zoom incompetence brings Ohio State hoops coach to brink of existential crisis

January 15, 2021

At first glance, what you see in the following might seem banal; just a minor technical frustration as a reporter named Rob attempts to ask Ohio State basketball coach Chris Holtmann a question on Zoom (note: it may be Microsoft Teams, who can say?) following his team's 81-71 win over Northwestern. But I urge you to look closer. Look at the man's eyes.

The full transcription:

"I can't seem to...there's Rob, Rob..Rob looks like it's muted now, Rob, you had it not muted. Now it's not muted. Now it's muted. Now it's not muted. Rob, just yell it over to Adam or Nicole there, and they can just, relay it that way."

Again, this may not seem especially profound, but Holtmann is a Kentuckian by birth and a Midwestern by current locale, and as an expert in geographical psychology, I can tell you that this is how it starts. COVID has put us at the mercy of video software, and while that software is very good and mostly intuitive, there will always be people of a certain disposition who don't get it and can't make it work. Holtmann, by virtue of his position, must encounter these people on a near-daily basis, and along with the stressors of his job at the helm of a major college program, you can clearly see that it's wearing him down and fraying his last nerves.

Holtmann is a problem solver, and he didn't intend to make a slightly less annoying version of the "Can you hear me now?" commercials—he wanted to help this Rob character, who can't work a damn mute button—but that's just what happened, and whether you know it or not, you're looking at a portrait of a man on the edge. Too many problems, not enough bandwidth. Just watch the halting way he reaches for his glasses and then decides against it at the 15-second mark; he's moments away from standing up and tearing down the backdrop behind him while screaming bloody murder.

This is all very relatable. We all have a Rob in our lives, someone who isn't a bad guy, but who comes dithering around at the exact wrong moment, adding a tedious frustration to our already burdened days, and it's poor bumbling Rob who sends us off on the big spiral.

Lucky for Holtmann, his team actually won the game and are 9-3 on the season, so he was just able to maintain composure and keep up a sane facade. If they had lost, well...I'm reasonably sure he would have turned into Will Ferrell's character at the end of this sketch. In short, please root for Ohio State the rest of this basketball season.