note: When Blogger lets me upload pictures, the illustrated version of this blog will be up for all to see
It’s hard to be a reader of this blog and not know about my affection for college football. However, you may be surprised to find out this was not always the case. If anything, I regret how I failed to appreciate the “Donovan McNabb era" at Syracuse when it was happening before my eyes as a student season ticket holder. Watch 100 yard touchdown passes from McNabb to Marvin Harrison or Kevin Johnson like I’d see it every year. I along with every Syracuse fan appreciates those days more than ever.
My obsession with college football has escalated since my brother enrolled at The Ohio State University. While my college experience was joined by maybe 50,000 (nowadays less than 40,000) people in an uninspired warehouse with a bubble roof stretching our creative rooting minds by chanting "Let's Go Orange!" fifty times, my brother went to school and today lives in one of the best college football towns in the country.
It's not really fair to compare Syracuse and Ohio State as far as football fandom. One is a private school filled with students mostly not from the local area and in fact, can't wait to leave whenever they get a chance. The other is a state university made of predominantly in-state students who have been raised to go to their state university their entire lives. Almost every one of the 100,000+ Season Ticket Holders (there is never a public sale of one-game tickets at Ohio State) has been a Buckeye fan since birth.
Fair or not, I always appreciate Columbus and The Ohio State University whenever I go, make the trip plans as soon as possible (even if missing out on JetBlue's new rates in the process) and am downright giddy the days before I leave. I also get to see my younger brother, who I love and am very proud of and is a gracious enabler of my college football addiction.
Get into Columbus safely around 10:30am, my brother has to work and his girlfriend AnnMarie is away for the weekend, meaning that the majority of day will be spent with her dog Bentley. I've never had a dog or non swimming pet of any kind, thanks to my family's allergies to pet hair and apartment lease restrictions, so Bentley is the next best thing. Friendly and well-trained, and willing to do whatever to entertain you as long as you have something to feed him with and of course I spoiled him rotten.
We watch a few episodes of "The Office" on my DVR and apparently Bentley and I agree on the substandard episodes this season as he runs back to his cage at the first sight of Phyllis. Afterwards I find myself watching a White House Press Briefing led by Tony "F*** You Press Corps" Snow. One hilarious moment was when a female journalist for some web news service with short spikey hair asks Snow to define President Bush's position on Civil Unions. The look on Snow's face can be deciphered by nothing other than "of course YOU'RE asking this question". I cracked up, I want Tony Snow to be permanent White House Press Spokesman regardless of the next administration's party.
After a nap, Daren comes home and it was time for dinner. Another thing about Columbus I enjoy is that it is seemingly the mecca for every 12 unit or less restaurant chain in the country. Last year I got to make my own plate at Mongolian Barbeque and almost put enough cayenne pepper on my shrimp, crawfish and pasta to kill a man. This year we went to a place called Quaker Steak and Lube, a NASCAR themed bistro known for its 25+ flavors of wings. The geniuses in their marketing department list the SHU (Seville Heat Units) of every flavor of wing on their menu and rank them from highest to lowest to appeal to the self-challenging, such as myself. I originally go with an order of regular hot wings (30,000 SHU) thinking that must be pretty hot. Realizing I've had hotter wings at a Ruby Tuesday I kick things up a notch and try the "Buckeye BBQ" Wings (100,000 SHU, 3rd highest). While these made my eyes water and sweat a little, I am tempted to try the Atomic Wings (250,000 SHU) Quaker Steak's hottest wing, even though my brother says they taste like acid reflex and I would have to sign a waiver, relinquishing Quaker Steak of responsibility for what happens to me.
Get home and the St. Louis Cardinals win the World Series because the American League team's pitchers couldn't throw to First Base! Great, I can go to bed now.
Once again, I have arrived in time for my brother's friends Annual Chili Cookoff! Ten chilis are entered into this year's competition with the names "Better than Last Year", "K-Mac", "Chili Buck", "It's Swicy",. First place went to "It's Swicy" which used pulled pork as it's meat. I did not vote for this one as using pulled pork when other's used ground beef just isn't fair. Pulled Pork is like the HGH of chili recipes. The real winner of course is my stomach. The REAL loser...my ass!
Weather for Saturday's game...WINDY! Very Very WINDY!! So windy that when my brother and I found out we were in the very last row of the mid-deck we were happy because that meant we had a wall to protect us. However the wind has found the back of our necks reminding us that it is almost November and this is still the North half of the country.
The Minnesota Golden Gophers are the week's doormat for the Buckeyes. The only issue even close to being in doubt is whether or not Troy Smith will have a good enough game to help his Heisman candidacy and have a play. In fact judging from my conversations with the Buckeye faithful they don't have much doubt about any games on their schedule...including this Saturday (MUCH more on this later).
One of the things I love about college football are the hokey traditions that come with every game no matter how big or small, or how good or bad the team is. Clemson could be 0-12 but they will still touch the same rock coming down the same aisleway through the crowd that every Clemson team has since Frank Howard. Fight songs and crowd chants are such fixtures to the college football commonplace that the differences between games ten years ago and games today are almost unrecognizable at first glance. At Ohio State, the Marching Band (appropriately named "The Best Damn Band In the Land") marches to formation of the word "Ohio" in cursive on the field in a ritual called "Script Ohio". It's one of those traditions that can't sound anything close to as cool as it is in a blog. This Saturday, Jack Nicklaus a former student (not graduate) of The Ohio State University was selected as only the fifth non-band member to end "Script Ohio" by dotting the i. At the time the word "Ohio" was done and The Golden Bear came out, I admit I got dust in my eyes. A tradition, so cool it moves you, Script Ohio.
44-0 Ohio State over lowly Minnesota. For Troy Smith pedestrian stats but a nice juke move rushing touchdown that could play on his highlight reel when he's in New York City being given the Heisman Trophy. Just another step on the road to November 18.
One note about the Ohio State Fan Experience that's been different than past years. At just about every television timeout, an announcement came on the big screen. Each time it was a different well known Buckeye (Jim Tressel, Archie Griffin, Women's Basketball star Sherri Hightower) urging fans to be the "Best Fans in the Land" to cheer on the Buckeyes but not AGAINST their opponents. If there was one of these Public Service Announcements, there were at least ten, to the point that when they were coming on a collective moan came over the crowd. I've never confused Ohio State Football with Iranian soccer. This seems like an overmade point about sportsmanship to a fanbase that is from what I can tell pretty well behaved.
Then after seeing a few t-shirts and hearing a really bad made up rap song called "Michigan Who", it hits me. While the football team and coaches can preach about the "one game at a time" approach, the entire city of Columbus and state of Ohio has looked past Minnesota, Illinois, and Northwestern. The Campus bookstores are ready for the marketing blitz and apparently the University is ready for the fan uprising and has taken steps to absolve itself from the responsibilty for it with it's "Best Fans in the Land" campaign. For Saturday, November 18 is Armageddon in Columbus. No day after it is even worth looking forward to. And I can tell you by my conversations with the people in Columbus. There is no thought of the Buckeyes losing this game worth thinking about. For the right to beat an undefeated Michigan team on route to a National Championship is the moment the people of Columbus and The Ohio State University have been waiting for for some time.
And that time will be Saturday at 3:30
Labels: The Ohio State