Ohio State Head Coach Ryan Day is set to welcome his players back to campus on June 8th. This is the best sports news I’ve heard in a while! For me, not having hardly any live sports has driven me absolutely crazy! The days cooped up here in the apartment are starting to blend together, and it’s wearing on my sanity. And even though I think there will be college football on a normal schedule starting in very late August or early September, if I don’t get to watch the Buckeyes play, that would absolutely break my heart as a fan.
Some of you are probably chuckling reading this. “It’s just a game. He’ll be fine.” True. It is a game. And I won’t keel over and die if there isn’t any football. But Ohio State football has been a fixture in my life since I was five years old in 1996. A happy thing that always has brought me joy no matter how life is going. To not have that would just be odd, extremely sad, and just plain WEIRD. Every new Ohio State football season is like Christmas in August or September. I don’t need the Coronavirus giving me a lump of coal!
Some of my earliest and happiest memories in life were tied to watching the Buckeyes on Saturday afternoons. The memory has faded a little bit, but I do remember as a 4-5 year old kid, my dad Larry screaming and cheering when Ohio State ripped off a big play, or scored a touchdown. That kind of enthusiasm has a profound effect on a little boy who idolizes his dad. At first I probably thought he was crazy and a tad scary. But it wasn’t long before I was bitten severely buy the Buckeye Bug. I’d scream just as loud as he did if not louder! I picked up my love for, and understanding of the game of football from watching the Buckeyes with him too.
A humorous little tidbit my mom told me sticks with me to this day: Apparently as I was learning the game from Dad, when he cheered, I cheered with him…and then I often asked him what happened afterward. He’d chuckle and explain things, and I would learn that way. My early childhood was a happy one thanks to my parents, and in part because of the boys in the Scarlet and Gray.
But now that I am a grown man, what is it about Ohio State football that gets me wound up waiting for each new season, or for every Saturday kickoff? I can’t quite put my finger on it. It’s hard to put into words, but I am going to try.
I think I get excited about Ohio State football for many reasons. Watching and following it gives me so many good things: Time to spend with my family if I’m visiting them, good food to eat if we grill out or eat chili since it’s in cooler weather, and a shared sense of community with them, my friends, and MILLIONS of other Buckeyes everywhere. I could be anywhere in the world, and I bet if I holler “O-H!” in the right place, I would hear an “I-O!” in response from somebody. Being a small part of a community that’s so big, and spanning far and wide is a special feeling. It’s like, “They love Ohio State football too? Well I’ve most likely made a new friend. At least for that Saturday!” Pretty much the whole state of Ohio goes BONKERS whenever there’s a game in Ohio Stadium, or as true Buckeyes call it, “The Horseshoe.”
Not to mention it’s obviously fun to watch a team that wins. A LOT. Ohio State is second in all-time wins in college football history with 924 wins since 1890. Winning has become so synonymous with, and expected at Ohio State, that fans are disappointed and even angry if the team isn’t at least competing for the National Championship every year, if not winning it fairly regularly!
As a natural history buff, I also love the the history and lore of the program. Buckeye football has been shaped by some extremely successful men, such as Paul Brown, (the namesake of the Cleveland Browns and NFL/College Football Hall of Famer), Woody Hayes, Earle Bruce, John Cooper, Jim Tressel, (all College Football Hall of Famers) Urban Meyer and now Ryan Day. And even if someone is not from Ohio or even the Midwest, chances are, they’ve also heard of The Game, the annual battle the Buckeyes have with their fiercest rivals, the Michigan Wolverines.
What’s so big about this game? Everything! Many editions of The Game have influenced the outcome of who would go to the Rose Bowl, one of the classic bowl games in college football. The battle between Ohio State and Michigan has also influenced who would win the National Championship on many occasions in the past. But I think what makes it so big to me is the mutual respect, yet hardcore, ancient HATRED between the two schools! How would you feel, and what would you do, if someone smacked your little old grandma in the face? You’d want to jump all over them for it and knock them around! That kind of hatred and personal vendetta is just a glimpse into what goes on in the last Saturday in November. Take a look at this video from ESPN and you’ll see what I mean.
Ohio State and Michigan seem to take their annual late November battle like that. 100 percent personal. With a healthy dose of superstition mixed in. Former Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer will not even allow students to wear, or bring anything blue into his classroom. If they do, they have to drop and do 20 push-ups before entering. And Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh routinely cracks open buckeye nuts with a hammer on the gravestone of his legendary predecessor, Glenn “Bo” Schembechler, the night before The Game for good luck.
Early happy childhood memories created with my father. A sense of community with countless other Buckeye fans. Elite level college football. And history and passion created and nurtured by Buckeyes of the past, and present for those of the future. That’s why I love Ohio State football so passionately! Being a Buckeye isn’t just fanhood. It’s a way of life! GO BUCKS!