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Bellisari paints a sorry picture



Published: Sun, November 18, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Perhaps the funniest banner to come out of the NBA in the '70s was courtesy of a fan in the old Buffalo Auditorium, and concerned a player from the Braves' bitter rival, the Boston Celtics.

It read, simply:

"Nobody's worst-ski than Steve Kuberski."

(Considering Kuberski averaged less than 6 points per game over a nine-year NBA career, our esteemed poet -- whoever he was -- may have been on to something. But we digress.)

Take your pick: That little ditty brings us to the case of one Steve Bellisari, who:

U Is the worst quarterback in the history of Ohio State football;

U Has the worst timing of any quarterback in the history of Ohio State football (and we don't necessarily mean when it comes to drinking and driving) and,

U Has the best (or worst, depending on your perspective) name of any bad quarterback in the history of Ohio State football.

There are Buckeyes' fans who haven't written his last name "Belli-sorry," denoting their opinion of his under-center skills. However, those people were either missing a writing utensil or been on an around-the-world tour the last three years.

We know of two Ohio State season ticket holders who sold their allotment to every game, and refused to watch any of the Buckeyes' games on television as long as Bellisorry, uh, Bellisari continued to play.

His continued presence in the starting lineup, despite less-than-glittering statistics (including the won-loss percentage), bore many, varied opinions. Among the most exotic was that his family were big-money contributors to the OSU athletic department, and thus bought their son's way into the starting lineup.

Another was that the Bellisaris had something incriminating on former coach John Cooper, and were blackmailing him. That theory was rejected out of hand, though, because no one who sat through a Cooper press conference the last 14 years believed the 'ol coach was bright enough to conjure up anything illegal or illicit anyhow.

The alternatives: No, the proof of the real story came in the opening game this season, a 28-14 victory over Akron that wasn't as close as the final score indicated but still wasn't lopsided enough to satisfy the Buckeye faithful.

Bellisari didn't play especially well in that game -- he threw for almost 250 yards and a pair of touchdowns, but he also got lucky with a tipped pass that went for a score and he fumbled the ball away on a couple occasions.

The question almost everyone wanted answered -- Why is he playing? -- was answered when backup Scott McMullen entered the game and threw his only completion to an Akron defensive back, which was returned for a touchdown.

It became apparent that the only alternative to "Belli-sorry" was "Nobody's McWorsen than McMullen."

So Buckeye fans have lived and died (and cussed) with Bellisari's victories and defeats, his good decisions and bad ones, his touchdown passes and interceptions, his big plays and fumbles.

Only this week, the senior co-captain suffered the biggest fumbles of his young life. He made two poor decisions: He drank too much alcohol, then he got behind the wheel.

Bellisari's college career is probably over -- although there is a chance he'll be reinstated for a bowl game -- and an already precarious professional life is tainted as well.

Face the music: Give the young man credit: He's never backed down from the criticism of his on-field performances. With rare exceptions, he's attended every post-game press conference in his star-crossed career.

Hopefully, he'll attack this setback with the same approach -- head-on.

The alternative is a reincarnation of another troubled Buckeye signal-caller -- Art "Wanna Bet" Schlichter.

XRob Todor is sports editor of The Vindicator. Write him at todor@vindy.com.




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