Sunday, September 06, 2009

We're Buckeyes.

Last night, someone assured Lucia that her team won. I asked what team might that be. The dude replied, "Well, Mizzou of course."

While I'm pretty sure that Lucia has no idea what a team, football, or a Mizzou are, I'm also pretty sure she won't be a Tiger even if she did know what these things are. Yes, she was born here. Yes, there's a good chance she'll attend the school where her mother teaches. Yes, my paycheck comes from that very same university. However, I'm a Buckeye and by proxy she too will be a Buckeye. Even R, who claims no allegiance to any athletic team, holds two degrees from The Ohio State University. We're Buckeyes. Sorry to disappoint.

So, when people give me a hard time for wearing a block "O" on my hat at the farmer's market or proclaiming my allegiance on Facebook, I have to remember why I'm a Buckeye fan. I want people to understand that one does not just switch allegiances with a 9-hour move west. There are good reasons for sticking with my team and to promote that team to my own child.

I was born in 1975. Archie Griffin had just won the first of his two Heisman Trophies. No one else has ever won two. Archie was also in the midst of leading Ohio State to four consecutive Big Ten titles. Somewhere there is a picture of me as an infant wearing a number 45 jersey, Archie's number.

Ohio State at that point had a long and storied history. Woody Hayes was their coach. He was responsible for five of Ohio State's national championship seasons. They are one of only three schools with seven Heisman Trophy winners. The Buckeyes have a long list of All-Americans and national award winners. Last year, they became only the seventh team in college football history to win 800 games. Their rivalry with the University of Michigan is widely considered the greatest rivalry in sports. So, there's some history with the football program.

As I grew up, we watched Ohio State every Saturday in the fall. My dad is also a lifelong Buckeye fan. He'd explain the nuances of the game and would provide the history of the program long before one could simply Google the information. I grew up watching such greats as Chris Spielman, Chris Carter, and Keith Byars.

It was only natural that I would stick with my team as I grew older. I've witnessed Ohio State's last two Heisman winners (Troy Smith and Eddie George), multiple Big Ten championships, the frustrating Cooper years, the triumphant Tressel years, and their last national championship (2002). This has always been my team and will forever be my team.

For comparison, let's look at the local Missouri Tigers. They've had some success in recent years, but not on Ohio State's level. Last year's 10-4 team was considered a great success while Ohio State is unfairly remembered only for losing in national championship games. My bet is that Gary Pinkel would have loved to have just been considered for one of those games or at least a BCS bowl game. The Missouri program has 200 fewer wins than Ohio State, no Heisman winners, and no national champions. Their stadium seats about 35,000 fewer people than Ohio Stadium. It's not the same thing.

And it's not just the success that makes me a Buckeye. There were years during John Cooper's tenure when they couldn't beat Michigan or would come one game away from earning a shot at a national championship. There were some lean years. There was Maurice Clarrett. Through all of that, I stuck with my team.

Football, in particular Ohio State football, is in our blood. It's cultural. It's not personal. It just is.

Mizzou played a great game yesterday against an overrated Illinois team. Ohio State narrowly escaped a better-than-advertised Navy squad. None of that will change my allegiance. I will still cheer for Ohio State next week when they get trounced by USC once again.

If anyone should understand supporting your team no matter what it's the Mizzou fan. What other program has suffered as much as Missouri's? There were the countless years of finishing eighth in the Big-8. There was the fifth down. There was the foot of God play against Nebraska. Still, folks in central MO turn out to cheer on their Tigers. Good for them, but don't expect me to abandon my team for yours.

It's not as if we're wearing these t-shirts or anything. Mizzou can enjoy their success, but temper your expectations a bit. Nine or ten wins should make you really content. You don't have to win over every fan. I don't have to love Gary Pinkel. We work for the same institution, but we don't actually work together. I'm allowed to cheer for Ohio State (even when they play Mizzou). You're allowed to cheer for Mizzou. It's OK.

Anyway, here are Ohio State's highlights. The night of Lucia's big celebration is the USC game. You can count on my to watch and cheer on my they get whooped by four touchdowns. Ugh.

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