Do They Really Get It?

Since I don’t live in the Columbus area, I don’t get to Old Columbus Town as often as I’d like for Buckeye games. Last year I decided, “Screw it! I’ve been graduated for a while. I haven’t been pestered for money by the school I paid tens of thousands of dollars in tuition to in a few years, I’ll join the alumni association! Plus, I’ll get football tickets!” And so I joined, and sure enough, two seats in the South Stands for the USC game. Jackpot!

Of course, we all know how that turned out.

As my wife and I wandered around the neighborhoods east of high street, one thing struck me as odd. People were still partying and drinking and burning things. They were laughing, damn it! As if Stupid Pete Carroll hadn’t just mocked all of us with his stupid grin and his stupid, yet awesome cheerleaders.

That realization made me start thinking about how much different expectations are around Columbus now than they were when I started at The Ohio State University (est. 1870)

In the fall of 1996 I moved into Alma Wacker Paterson Hall for my freshman year at Ohio State. The Buckeyes had beaten Michigan once since I was in fourth grade. They hadn’t won a national championship in almost 30 years. But that ’96 season, that was awesome. My first game in the ‘Shoe, the Buckeyes beat Pitt 72-0. They kicked ass and took initials (because they didn’t have time to take names.)  People kept mistaking me for Joe Germaine, the only time in my life being a scrawny, freckled redhead would ever pay off.

Then Michigan came to town and ripped our hearts out. Stupid Shawn Springs. It was one of the worst days I can recall experiencing as a sports fan. At least when they threw up all over themselves against Florida in 2007 I was really drunk and incoherent by the 2nd half.

The next year was similar although they didn’t whoop anyone like that Pitt game in ’96. Yeah, we lost to Penn State but that wasn’t that big a deal. It wasn’t like their fans were trying to start some kind of stupid rivalry with us or something. Then our boys went up to TSUN and Charles Woodson rained on our parade (also, I broke up with my girlfriend, my car got stolen, and I watched Mortal Kombat: Annihilation that day – the worst one is a toss up between the game or the movie.) Point is, I was 20 years old and those f—ers in their stupid blue and yellow helmets had ruined all but one of my football seasons since I was in elementary school.

At that time the Bengals and Reds had been more successful more recently than the Buckeyes. Ponder THAT.

Contrast that to today. The Reds haven’t made the playoffs since 1995, the Bengals haven’t won a playoff game since about 1991, and the Buckeyes have won 6 in a row against the weasels from up north and eight of their last nine. That’s right, an incoming freshman has seen Michigan beat our boys ONCE since they were in third grade. Not to mention a certain wondrous evening in January of 2003 when the football gods looked down on Arizona, saw a group of tough, bad-ass football players in white, and smiled upon them.

To make a long story short (too late) my question is, do they get it? Do they understand how big a deal the rivalry really is? Even as RichRod has sent the Wolverines into a downward spiral the last few years, not a minute has gone by where I didn’t feel a little sick to my stomach about the upcoming Michigan game. I’m nervous as hell for this year’s, and it pisses me off. Does the current student fan base even have the ability to comprehend that kind of hate fueled by history and bad memories? Or do they see Michigan as a speed bump on the way to bigger and better things, with USC or Florida or (heaven forbid) Penn State as a more worthy rival?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s a completely bad thing if they do. I’m certainly not trying to come off as some old man randomly ranting about iPods and iPads and Justin Bieber, whoever the hell that is. I’m just curious if the Vest’s successes over the last decade haven’t taken a bit of the edge off that raw hatred and stomach-churning dread I learned as a freshman and sophomore, lo, all those years ago.

My guess is that OSU fans now look at Michigan like they looked at us back in the 90’s, and vice versa. And if that’s the case, I have one bit of advice for the underclassmen at Ohio State:

Beware. College football is a very cyclical thing. Someday, hopefully many, many, many, many years from now, the shoe will be on the other foot. The Wolverines will beat the Buckeyes, and they’ll do it more than once. And it will suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck.

But at least then you (hopefully more like your grandkids) will understand my rage. And we’ll drink to it together, assuming I haven’t croaked from cirrhosis by then.

Comments

  1. Let me tell you (as a recent alumni) that the rage for Michigan is still there. You only based your guess on your observation of the USC game (which I’m certainly glad you were able to attend… that was the loudest game in the shoe, next to the ’06 Michigan game that I’ve seen). Here’s my concern though: The ‘edge’ you speak of really could be diminished now that the OSU vs. UofM game has been moved to Thanksgiving weekend. From most people’s point of view, Michigan Week is going to crumble. If that happens, I’m going to be very sad, but it’s up to the students to see what they make of it, and whether or not they can keep the historic hatred alive.

    Let me assure you though, from ’04 – ’08 I’ve taken full part of Michigan Week – and we wouldn’t have disappointed you! 🙂

  2. Well, the event that led me to really start thinking about the situation, in depth, was what I saw after the USC game. I was around campus before the 2006 Michigan game too, although I didn’t get to go to the game itself. I guess I should have said in the post that the aftermath of the USC game made me wonder if campus would be the same in it’s feel of collective mourning that it used to be if – heaven forbid – we lost to Michigan.

    Like I said, it wasn’t an attempt to be critical at all, although I can understand it having come off that way. I was thinking more along the lines of Sly Stallone in the first half of Rocky III. He was still awesome, but all the winning had tamed him a bit, if you know what I mean. By no real fault of his own he had lost the eye of the tiger, because he wasn’t fighting for survival anymore.

    Don’t take the comparison too far though. Michigan is by no means Clubber Lang. Mr. T is far too awesome to be representative of those d-bags. Michigan is Tommy “The Machine” Gunn.

  3. As a current student, I’ll reiterate what Dan said. I would like to say that on a whole, the student population that follows football consistently (85-95% oft ALL students) recognize the importance that is THE game. It might be my personal experience, but as an anecdote, the amount of TTUN hatred apparent on gameweek & day (through facebook posts and parties to watch the game (this past year, at least) is tantamount to all of the other games (in conference, including Iowa & PSU). While this is my personal observation, I think that the game and hatred of TTUN may not have lost its emotion/hatred from the students (evidenced from two years ago TTUN’s losses to Appy State, and then again to Oregon) – but The Game is viewed as less of a threat than it should be, the whole false sense of security.

    More importantly, I understand why you posted what you did, and I agree- if I was an undergraduate in the 90’s – I am SURE I would have held utter contempt for Michigan maybe not seen in today’s students, even moreso because it caused so much grief in the advancement to bigger & better games in many cases. Ideally I never have to see this happen, however.

  4. I think something that needs to be said is this…. scUM as a school has tougher than most admission standards for its athletes. This combined with the recent down years and having Rich Rod as a coach has made scUM’s bounce back harder to happen. Although I agree CFB as well as most everything is cyclical in nature. I personally can see where scUM has met a wall much like Notre Lame and can see where they go through a long period of insignificance. I know it isnt the popular belief but I honestly think it is just as likely that scUM will never be back as it is they will be back to an elite program.

    If you look at the 2 programs trends since 1919 when OSU beat scUM for the first time ever I think it will show a program that adapts and changes with the times (OSU) and stays consistently good. Then look at scUM and even though it is a storied program the trends say it has been in decline for many years and has nearly hit rock bottom. Records that once looked impossible to catch and pass for OSU and others are within reach and within our lifetime will be surpassed.

    Bottom line for me is in this cycle make sure to enjoy it as much as possible and to rub it in their faces as much as possible. When or IF it ever switches I will go back to going into a sports coma for weeks after losing to that dang team up north.

    O-H

  5. Well, let’s hope that never happens.

    I-O

  6. I hear you, Bacon Ninja. I know that familiar feeling of dread that comes with the approach of Michigan weekend. I still always think we’ll lose. To this day my doubt gets me in trouble with my husband. I seem to recall getting locked out of my own apartment one year on account of my pessimism…

    Anyway, I thought your blog was well put. I get what you’re saying. I, too, hope that the current students understand the fear that in my opinion should accompany every OSU-MI game, but that they also never forget to respect the rivalry for what it means to the fans, the school, and the game.

  7. First of all — you join the Alumni Assocation and the same year you get USC tickets? But I’ve been a member for years and I’ve had Youngstown twice and Ohio twice? Where’s the justice in that? Please tell me you paid more than the minimum (which I’ve been paying for years)!

    Second, this post needs to be referred to on a yearly basis around the end of November. It’s hard to express that doubt and sick feeling we all felt in the 90s, but you’ve done a bang-up job of putting it into words. I have no doubt that we will steamroll Michigan this year, but I will still have that nagging doubt (until we go up by three TDs) that it can all come crashing down.

    And it’s good to hear the next generation of fans is aware of and appreciates what the game means. Even if it’s diminished by the conference reorganization, this game will still be the greatest rivalry in all of sports.

  8. My daughter has never seen OSU lose to scUM since she was born…… she is 6 years old.

    I pray everyday for a few things…. 1.) my families health 2.)That my daughter will never fall in love with a dirtbag. 3.) That she will never have to feel the pain we did of losing to scUM.

    So far we are all healthy and she only loves me and Justin Bieber and she has never seen us lose to scUM. This is all proof Heavenly Father hears and answers our prayers and that he has a sick sense of humor with giving the world Justin Bieber.

  9. I’d listen to nothing but Justin Bieber for the rest of my life if it would guarantee me and my family freedom from feeling the pain of a loss to [unmentionable] ever again. The 90s were especially painful for gradeschoolers in Toledo…

    Also, not to nitpick Dan, but I thought it was BEAT Michigan Week;).

  10. @NMUSpidey

    Wow. Touché! haha

  11. Yep, I got USC tickets the first time I joined the Alumni Association and only paid the minimum. And then because I knew I wouldn’t be able to make it back to Ohio this fall I just let my membership expire. Roflcopter. Suckers!

    And Sarah, I remember getting locked out of an apartment by my brother-in-law during a Michigan game, but I was told it was because the Buckeyes only started scoring when I went outside with my sister to smoke. Weird.

  12. As an outsider of sorts, I would imagine that current OSU students get it on an intellectual plane, but not really in a visceral, unreasoning, deeply emotional sense. That sort of blind rage requires suffering for its creation.

    I’m a Longhorn, and although our most important rivalry lately is with the land-thieving Sooners (and apparently the bugeaters at Nebraska who need to be put in their place), the enemy that sets me off the most is still Texas A$M. The days leading up to that game every year see me irritable, nauseous, and by game time I am a complete basketcase. Even when aggy is no damn good (most seasons recently).

    It’s because I still vividly remember the stretch from 1984-1994 when we only beat those mfers ONCE, by ONE point (we had to stop a two-point conversion). While I was in college we never beat them–closest we came was an 18-9 loss in 1993 when we couldn’t convert a 4th and goal from about the two yard line–thank you John Mackovic and your “beautiful symphony” of an offense… NOT. I had to witness aggy invading Austin, sawing varsity’s horns off in our stadium (they did it literally, with chemical of some sort, to the field in 1992 or 1993), and generally being unbearably arrogant jerks. So yeah, I HATE them. I’d guess this is how the typical Michigan student feels about OSU.

    So, anyway, I would bet current OSU students get it… but they don’t get it. Lose at home 34-12, and they might start to get it. Fumble about eight million times against Michigan and get embarrassed 42-10… and it might start to sink in properly. I wouldn’t wish that on any OSU student, but odds are, it will happen sooner or later….

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