My father looked at me strangely when I pounded my fists on the family room floor, upset about something I saw on the television during an Ohio State game. I was just a little kid, and my father wondered aloud why I would be so upset about something I knew so little about.
His words stung a bit, probably because the reason I took my anger out of the floor was because I knew how much he liked the Buckeyes. But the words did not dampen my enthusiasm for Ohio State and likely only made me more determined to call them my own. I have been infatuated with them ever since.
There was a time when sports ruled my life, and if there was a game on TV— pretty much a game of anything — I was likely watching. It’s not that way anymore. In fact, most evenings of late I have been settling for my wife’s preferences, like “The Voice” or another one of those of Hallmark Christmas movies. At least they’re better than LMN.
But if the Buckeyes are playing football, you can bet I’m watching, unless something really important is happening. In fact, I plan my autumn Saturdays around OSU football, and my wife seems to pretty much understand, at least most of the time.
There was the year one of my brothers and I ended up hanging out and watching Ohio State football the first eight weeks of the season in a row. We didn’t plan it that way, it just kind of happened. So let’s just say the look in my wife’s eyes that eighth week made me decide it was time for the streak to end. Or maybe it was the loss to Illinois that week that did the trick — I’ll let you decide.
This has been an exceptionally good year for the Buckeyes. I have wanted to write a column about them for several weeks, but something always got in the way.
I could have wrote about them after the second game, when it first became obvious they might be really good. I thought about writing about them a few weeks ago, when a reporter said they might drop 100 points on Rutgers and should go for it if the opportunity was there. I wanted to tell the guy he needed to find a new line of work because no coach with any class would score 100 points on an overmatched opponent. I considered writing about them last week as they headed to Ann Arbor because of my trip there long ago, but a more important topic came along.
More than three decades ago, in the early 1980s when a friend and I went to our first Ohio State/Michigan game, we made a wishful young mens’ agreement that we would attend the Ohio State/Michigan every year. And sure enough, we made the trip to Ann Arbor the next year.
There were four us on that trip. My buddy, who made the agreement, and I had tickets, and the other two did not (I should mention my wife bought mine). Somehow the other two bought scalper tickets in Ann Arbor for less than what my buddy and I paid, and they landed seats smack in the middle of the small Ohio State section (it’s not such a small section anymore, in case you were watching last week). My buddy and I were not so fortunate.
It was the largest crowd ever in Michigan Stadium at the time and when we found where our seats were supposed to be, there were no seats there. Actually, there were, but people were squeezed so close together that we literally had wiggle back and forth between them as we sat down to find a piece of bleacher.
We were in the middle of a faithful Michigan section, we were both decked out from head to toe in scarlet and gray, and it was obvious from that first wiggle that we were not real welcome.
Michigan jumped out to an early lead, which was probably good for the two of us. Somewhere along the line someone snatched my Ohio State ball cap and stuck a Michigan toboggan on my head. That move was pretty good-natured, but we were taking some pretty decent ribbing, especially from a guy wearing no shirt and drinking Schnapps on a 3o-something degree day.When Ohio State finally scored, my buddy and I stayed seated and clapped mildly, trying not to draw anymore attention than necessary.
But Michigan had a comfortable lead, some people noticed we were still seated, and they said that if we were proud of our team, we should stand up. So we did. That got us a standing ovation from 200 or so UM fans surrounding us.
As the game progressed, we watched other OSU fans a distance away take some pretty good verbal abuse — enough to keep my buddy and I pretty subdued.
But toward end of the game Ohio State mounted a comeback. The Buckeyes scored, then recovered on onside kick. When that happened I came out of my seat with a leap and thrust an arm toward the sky. I came off that bleacher so quick that I was barely able to halt my momentum before falling on top of the people in front of us.
Things got a little testy there for a bit, but Michigan ended up winning, and we made it out of the stadium unscathed.
My buddy and I went to the Ohio State/Michigan again the next year, but then other commitments came along and we have not been back to one together since.
He has entered my thoughts often this season though. For instance, he does not know that a ceramic Indian his wife once made for me looks down on me from a perch above my head each time I watch a Buckeyes game in my man cave.
I am certain though that he, like me, knows this year’s team is special. I am certain we’ll be both be watching Saturday night as the Buckeyes lay claim to the Big Ten Conference crown. I’m certain we both know the only way this Ohio State team is going to get beat is by its own mistakes or an unfortunate injury.
And if that happens I’ll be pounding my fists like when I was little kid.
Jeff Gilliland is the editor of The Times-Gazette. He can be reached at [email protected] or 937-402-2522.