Only the Best for You, Honey

My wife–a Sooner by birth, but a San Diegan nearly all her life has cooked up these observations as good sport following me around to Buckeye events. Now she has gone to quite a few OSU football and basketball games with me, but hey, the glamour of wresting is hard to deny. I have not edited her draft one bit–except to correct the spelling of Stieber. So without further ado, here is Ms. Buffy:

A seat near Hawkeye fans--nice people but ok, what's a hawkeye

The wife of a wrestler + the wife of a sports writer + the wife of an Ohio State University fan = me. For forty years, I danced along through life without being any of those things. Then fate bounced the love of my life, Garth, into the middle of my very feminine world. He promised to fulfill all of my dreams at an old, iconic romantic hotel right in the San Francisco Bay Area where he was living at the time. In our room without a view, which he reserved with his AAA discount, he announced, “Only the best for you, Honey!!”

It was cute. The little tongue-in-cheek humor for which he is infamous. The romantic getaway was a trick; as was the Ritz in Lake Tahoe. So were the VIP Seats at the Warriors games and that cool trip to the only NFL championship game that I have ever attended. Little did I know that he was a man with skeletons in his closet. He stole my heart before I knew that he flirted insatiately with a sport that would take me to the tundra of the upper Midwest at least a couple of times each winter.

Yes, Big 10 Wrestling and Fan Numero Uno have provided me many nights in hotels with indoor pools and free breakfasts; places with whole milk, unlimited waffles and canned peaches. I now know that I am capable of judging a hotel by whether the free parking is also close enough to a satellite entrance so I don’t freeze my fanny off getting to and from the car at 3:00 in the afternoon. Since not one of these luxurious homes away from home has ever had room service, I am especially partial to the ones with a sundry shop; also incredibly surprised that there is no cashier in there – it’s sort of on one’s honor to take their items to the front desk to pay for them.

Fan Numero Uno brought me love and happiness. He also brought me wine tastings at Applebees. Sometimes, on a super stroke of good karma, earned for going without complaining, I get upgraded to The Outback Steakhouse. That’s only if my lucky stars align, though, and we end up staying at a fancier-than-usual Hampton Inn that shares its parking lot with The Outback. I have learned to order just “red wine.” Sometimes they’ll say they have a Merlot. I have learned to order club soda instead of Perrier, and not fret over the replacement of my little lime slice with a big, fat, seedy lemon chunk.

Fine dining in OKCFan Numero Uno showed me what it meant to be swept off my feet, then recently schlepped my fanny right into Hooters at NCAA Championships because that was the best late night dining that Oklahoma City had to offer. The romance of the evening is memorialized on Twitter – me standing right between two Hooters girls.

Fan Numero Uno has made me work out in multiple college gyms across the country. Now, they are always one of the highlights of our trips because there is nothing more fun than being a 43-year old woman lifting weights with cute little college co-eds. However, I always feel like the poor little boys are literally thanking God that I’m not their cougar mom, wearing lululemon shorts and a sports bra in the gym. I keep forgetting where I am going, and never bring (actually, don’t own) Midwestern workout attire.

Despite the trickery, and even though I thought I’d have a life of kissing my husband on a beach or going to the ballet, I love my wrestling life with my G. I wish the sport made it a little more wife- or fan-friendly. I certainly appreciate the physical and mental limitations that these young men and women overcome to achieve their dreams, but good God could someone please invoke a little FUN for the spectators? As a sport it’s the most dramatic event I have ever seen but it is almost devoid of personal connection and entertainment. I literally have to appreciate wrestling for how hard I know it is; and I’ve come to know that by my G putting me into a Chicken Wing every now and then just for the heck of it.

My good marriage-sportsmanship has tested my endurance. I have watched so many wrestlebacks that I actually have favorite wrestlers. I hug them when I see them and call them “sweetie,” and tell their parents how well they did (even when they lose). I wear special OSU outfits and have my finals gray dress and scarlet heels. I namedrop at parties; forgetting that wrestling has not achieved the popularity that it could with a little music, some decent seating, and a bar. Yep, I act like everyone should know Reece Humphrey and JD Bergman. Who’s so ignorant to not know the gift that The Ohio State University received when it got the Stieber Brothers? Who wouldn’t want to tweet about Jason Welch or Nick Heflin? Who doesn’t understand how great The Ohio State University is poised to be in the upcoming years? And why can’t anyone appreciate how excited I am that the Big 10 Championships are in Columbus this year? Or why I don’t like Tony Ramos because he was rude to my little guy, Logan Stieber, last year (who subsequently crushed Tony Ramos on the mat). It’s only fun, though, because I am either cheering for a team or a particular wrestler. Honestly, even during semi-finals, if I am without connection to the individual or team competing, I simply put my head in Garth’s lap and take a little nap.

Snoozing doesn’t equal disrespect. At some events, (usually the USA Wrestling—college wrestling actually tries a little harder) by the time I get to the semifinals, I have probably stood on my feet for at least eight hours per day, over a day or two or three, trying to figure out when and where the bouts are of which we have an interest. If there are seats, I can’t see anyway because the big walls of men block my view. There has been no music or other entertainment. There is nothing to eat but chips, hot dogs, and pizza. I BYO Fresh Fruits and Nuts so I don’t starve. I have often contemplated BYO Wine, but who wants to be the only person among thousands drinking alone? That would be unbecoming of a lady.

I understand that the sport has inherently difficult obstacles. There are many worthy babies, boys and girls, young men and women, and men and women who must compete. However, I would like to make just three simple fan- and wife-friendly suggestions. Each would contribute to the overall experience of the non-wrestler, and/or the non-wife-, mother- or girlfriend-of-a wrestler. Implementing these little tweaks to the experience would allow people who don’t know the sport to enjoy it enough to return for more, and therefore come to appreciate it as it deserves.

(a) USA Wrestling, don’t have everyone wrestle at the same time. The NFL doesn’t play its games alongside the flag football kids, Pop Warner players, high school and college teams, and Powder Puff athletes. Yes, kids’ parents love to have a competition at which the champions compete. However, the refs judge too many bouts and make mistakes when it really matters. I met Hunter Stieber’s dad last weekend. He was screaming at the ref because the ref didn’t notice that his opponent had been choking him for almost a minute. The only folks who called it were his current coach, dad-former coach and brother, Logan. Have the stars attend the tournaments of the Littles as representatives of the sport, but don’t run a dozen or more tournaments over four days.

(b) Let the spectators watch the wrestlers to the beat of a little music. The NBA has entertainment right. It may be a bit much for the old-school wrestling crew, but there are points in time at a tournament that Eye of the Tiger would even be welcome. They started to do this in Iowa or Illinois (can’t remember which), and it made the first two days so much more lively. Then the die-hard fans complained, and they muted the arena. I immediately fell asleep.

(c) Include a snack bar of food that represents healthy nutrition – just what the coaches of our beloved wrestlers profess. Currently, unless I fly into the relevant college town with enough time to make myself a sack lunch, I am given the choice of chips, soda pop, pizza and/or hot dogs; sometimes nachos with fake cheese. Simple request: please include three choices: whole fruit (think, apples and oranges), protein or energy bars, and string cheese (lowfat). I could sustain myself several extra hours if I were not starving. I will reserve the bar request (at least at the non-college tournaments) after I get my snacks. No need to get ahead of myself, be misinterpreted, and end up with beer to accompany pizza or hot dogs.

(d) And borrowing from Coach Tom—help us out with some of the rules, especially in freestyle where the refs go behind a screen and consult Ouija boards to determine some moves—is it really that hard to tell us how you are scoring these things?

This past weekend, I watched two young men win junior national wrestling championships with respect and awe. Next year, both will wrestle under Tom Ryan’s tutelage at THE Ohio State University; a program that I have only watched grow boys into men by an obvious emphasis of perseverance, strength, discipline and dedication.

This past weekend, I watched Jason Welch (who actually went to Northwestern but is a California boy whose frenetic style of wrestling we both have come to love) beat Hunter Stieber, but before the bout even started, I said, “I feel like we are cheering for one son against another (and one had already been choked a couple of hours earlier).”

This past weekend, I watched Logan Stieber clobber a great big strong kid to get to third, and I knew that that was a big deal because he had been wresting folkstyle (which is what they do in high school and college) all year before his launch back into international freestyle competition a few weeks ago.

This past weekend, I watched two favorites, Reece Humphrey and JD Bergman, not perform as they expected; although, I was impressed at their performance, and happy to see them place without harm.

This past weekend, I saw two juniors win the national championship, and the same proud look on the faces of Tom Ryan and my G when they did. Wrestling is a sport that challenges the heart, body and mind in a snapshot of time. These two men (who I still think of as babies) will follow champions I’ve grown to know and love. Their names are Nate Tomasello and Kyle Snyder.

OSU Coach Tom Ryan (right) with Iowa teammate, great Bill Zadick, and future Buckeye greats Kyle Snyder and Nate Tomasello

All of the wrestlers about whom Garth writes and for whom I cheer are our champions. May you all be blessed by the gifts wrestling offers; may you all understand your self-sacrifice and understand what it says for your character. Then, could you please ask the Powers that Be to consider how they could make the first couple of days of a tournament easier on a person like me?

Comments

  1. Josephine I think most wives of OSU fans can appreciate your post. I also think most wives like yourself become OSU fans through their husbands enthusiasm for the school/sport if they weren’t already before meeting them. I know my California wife converted fairly quickly for me into an OSU fan and for that I am eternally grateful. Kudos to you for not only accepting Garths love of OSU and wrestling and making it something you have become passionate about as well. Love the article and thanks for sharing your experiences.

    The family that OSUs together stays together 🙂

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