IN HONOR OF THE BUCKEYES PLAYING IN THE FIRST-EVER NATIONAL TITLE GAME OF THE NCAA FOOTBALL PLAYOFF ERA, I POST THIS ROUGH DRAFT. A TRIBUTE TO THE GREATEST TEAM IN SPORTS. O-H…
I’ll never forget my first Ohio State-Michigan game. I was a freshman at OSU sitting in Block O, the student section directly behind the goal post in the closed end of Ohio Stadium. That was a few years ago, but it remains engrained in my mind. It was a cold Saturday in November, smack in the middle of a 9 year match-up between Earl Bruce and Bo Schembechler. “The Game,” as was usually the case, would determine the Big Ten title, and the team to progress to the Rose Bowl.
After a week of rallies and parades on campus, the crowd was exceptionally crazy. The band entered down the ramp in the closed end of the stadium just as tradition had determined since 1928. The crowd went wild as the Buckeyes barreled out of the locker room (loud boos for Michigan of course–It’s ok, Michigan was evil, and it really was a war). Then came the National Anthem. At a lauded game like this one there is a sense of tension and anticipation that, even though our hearts were bursting with the emotion of the event, we took a reverent moment to remove hats and fall silent as the drums began to roll. The singing began. It was enthusiastic and every note was sung by the fans clad in maize and blue as well as those in scarlet and gray. In this vibrant crowd of over 90 thousand people there was no denying the electricity.
As we reached the final stanza, “and the home of the brave…” the U.S. air force roared low over the stadium in a thunderous formation that deafened the crowd until all that we heard (or rather felt) was the thumping of our hearts inside our chests on that final note. The noise never dimmed as the fighters sped away, and I realized the crowd had picked up the roar and was keeping it going. It was one of those moments everyone was caught-up, enraptured may I say, in the moment and the anticipation of what was about to be. It was at that moment that I first realized what this rivalry meant to so many people. It was then that I went from being a fan to being a follower of Ohio State Football. Kyle Idleman would be proud (look that up).
I love the game! It’s like a religion (stay with me). I mean, there is so much tradition, everyone knowing what to say, to sing, to yell, to do and when to do it. It’s liturgical. Literally, being in Columbus on game day, especially on Michigan game day, you see a city come ALIVE. Around campus there are the usual vendors, food, drinks, drunks, souvenirs, but also the alumni in their scarlet and gray corduroys, fancy buckeye socks and yes, the buckeye necklaces! LOTS of Buckeye necklaces.
There is more to this religion: Just like in biblical times, we have prophets: Major prophets like Archie Griffin, Troy Smith, Eddie George, Howard Cassady, Vic Janowics, and Lee Horvath (our Heisman Trophy winners). The major Prophets have their names inscribed on Ohio Stadium. Check out this 2014 unveiling of Troy Smith’s name and number during the 2014 Michigan game:
And then there are minor prophets: Urban Meyer, Jim Tressel, and Earl Bruce (beloved former coaches). Of course, then there is THE prophet. The Messiah of Ohio State football: Woody Hayes. Seriously, he’s a legend. One of my former coworkers has a 4’x6′ shrine to Woody in her basement in a room dedicated completely to Ohio State (I am not kidding).
Then there’s the music. College football has nothing else like the incomparable Script Ohio. The (literal) signature of The Ohio State University Marching Band (TBDBITL), is performed before every home game and is considered one of the greatest traditions, if not the greatest tradition, in all of college football. One senior sousaphone gets to dot the ‘i’ at each home game. I know people who grew up playing the sousaphone who’s first goal in life was to “dot the i” someday.
The band is the heartbeat of Ohio State Football–the equivalent of a ‘worship team.’ If you think I’m just sounding off take a look at the lyrics to our alma mater ‘Carmen Ohio.’ Its a hymn sung by players and fans alike, and led by the worship team:
Oh! Come let’s sing Ohio’s praise,
And songs to Alma Mater raise;
While our hearts rebounding thrill,
With joy which death alone can still.
Summer’s heat or Winter’s cold,
The seasons pass, the years will roll;
Time and change will surely show
How firm thy friendship O-hi-o.
We have a rock song too: “Hang on Sloopy” (it’s legislated by the State of Ohio), two fight songs, a few (a-hem) drinking songs, and one Michigan-hating song (well, maybe two). Good taste or poor taste? I don’t know, but people know them, sing them, and live them.
“Re-li-gion:” a pursuit or interest to which someone ascribes supreme importance.
It’s true. I know lots of people who think about the Buckeyes year round. My Dad requested to have the OSU fight song played as his casket was wheeled out after his funeral (no kidding). My brother has plans to have his ashes spread on Ohio State’s football field (it’s ingenious, and I doubt he’s the first). Truly, there are some crazy, loyal, dedicated fans of Ohio State. The persona is larger than life. The fans even won a national ranking: http://ftw.usatoday.com/2014/12/ohio-state-finishes-no-1-in-the-first-ever-fan-index…Ohio State fans are into it from head to toe!
So…if you know me, you probably know where all this is heading. I love Ohio State football. My entire family does. All activities stop on Saturdays in the fall when the game plays. We wear the shirts, the hats, the buckeye necklaces-ha! We sing the songs, we spell OHIO with our arms, the whole ball of wax. I even have a patient who calls me “Ohio State.”
But it’s not my religion. I see the significance of being part of something big: the tradition, the emotion, and it’s all cool–and so much fun! But it’s only substitute for the One who deserves the true glory: Jesus Christ. He is the true Champion. His is the glory. HE IS THE REAL THING and everything else is but a shadow, making us think we are getting something of substance while in reality our hands are empty. Please. If you love sports, if you are drawn to an epic battle, if you love rivalries, consider the spiritual battle that takes place around us every day. Go looking for the substance behind the human experience. Go looking for the ultimate win. Read some of my other posts to learn more.
Meanwhile, I’ll be waiting for the second coming… of Woody Hayes!