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Sunday, November 9, 2008

Nightmare along the Olentangy

This is the story of a word -- nightmare.

I'm a Buckeye. I've been one since I was four years old. That was the year my dad took my grandfather to the OSU/Michigan game known as the Snow Bowl.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Buckeyes, the buckeye tree is a tree that grows primarily in Ohio. It's fruit -- the buckeye -- resembles a horse chestnut, only smaller, harder, and shinier. It has absolutely no commercial value, and is actually poisonous. In other words, buckeyes are a bunch of worthless nuts.

Buckeyes is also the nickname for The Ohio State University athletic teams and their fans. (Again, a bunch of useless nuts -- the fans, not the teams.) For the last few years, Ohio State football fans have been living a nightmare.

It started January 8, 2007. That's when Ohio State was supposed to steamroll the University of Florida to win its 8th overall national championship and its second in four years. Instead, the mighty Buckeyes got leveled 41 to 14. Embarrassing but a fluke, we told ourselves. Ohio State was over confident and had simply under estimated the Florida Gators. They had their guard down, failed to prepare properly, and let Florida get in a lucky punch.

Then came January 7, 2008. The Buckeyes are in the National Championship Game again. This time, they prepared. They were set to show the world that they deserved to be the champs:

LSU Routs Ohio State In Championship Game Buckeyes
Stumble Again As Tigers Win 38-24 For Second BCS Crown In Five Seasons




It was a better game, but still embarrassing. The whole nation was screaming in our ears--"Buckeyes over rated. Buckeyes are losers." We got no respect. It was almost too much to bear.

Then came August 30. Opening day. Ohio State with 20 returning starters, the most sought after freshman recruit in the country, and a highly favored Heisman Trophy candidate was a sure bet to make it to the National Championship game for the third year in a row. And because included among those starters was a cadre of seniors who could have turned pro but chose to return, this was the year that Ohio State was going to silence its critics. All it needed to do was get past USC in the third game of the season. And once again, in front of a prime time National audience, OSU was embarrassed.

Thirty-five to three.

But that wasn't what had made the nightmare so horrible. While OSU won the first two games by large margins, their play was sluggish and unimpressive against what was supposed to be significantly inferior teams. Had we been deluding ourselves all along? Are the Buckeyes over rated? Well it wasn't even a debate any more as far as the rest of the country was concerned.

And it didn't stop there. Sluggish, inexplicable play, consecutive games without an offensive touchdown. We knew what lay ahead was nothing but doom, but we couldn't wake up. And then it happened. we walked right into it. All of our hopes were pinned on one game. Penn State came to town. Ranked number 3 in the country. Undefeated. If we beat them, we get respect back. We don't go to the National Championship, but we win the Big 10. We go to the Rose Bowl and get another shot at USC and redemption. It's the 4th quarter, and we're winning -- 6 to 3. And then we fumble. . .

When you are having a nightmare, you are supposed to wake up. Your heart is supposed to be pounding in your chest, but you're awake, and you can calm yourself. You're not supposed to just keep dreaming the same horrible scene over and over. . .

That was October 25. Less than two weeks before the election, part of another bad dream that had started eight years before with a stolen election. A dream we couldn't wake ourselves out of.
A dream that just kept piling calamity on top of calamity. . .

But we did. We woke up. November 4, the real nightmare ended. And for me, and I hope other Buckeyes, it put things in perspective. This was real. This nightmare mattered. That other nightmare, the one about a football game, it's just a game.

14 comments:

  1. I met my wife at the University of Steubenville - in Steubenville, Ohio. I can promise you that Ohio is NOT the nuttiest place that I have ever been.

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  2. Amen!
    I can finaly breathe after 8 years. . . .Sports are fun (and as a Univ of Hawaii/Manoa alumna you have my sympathies especially after last years ascent to the Sugar Bowl defeat).
    You are wise, Grandpa; a wise Buckeye, which is to say a wise-nut. Aloha from Waikiki-

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  3. Marty, I was born just up the river from Steubenville, in East Liverpool. My dad used to say a lot of smart people came from that area, and the smarter they were, the sooner they came.

    Thanks, Cloudia. I actually had high hopes for Hawaii last year.

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  4. Loved the post Grandpa. Sport means a lot to Aussies but it really hit home to me that we have nothing on the British. I lived in Scotland and went to all their football games. To see hundreds of thousands of people turn up to games and hear all the abuse at the losing sides was eye opening to me. I think they would rather starve than not be at the football. I think when the world is topsy turvy people cling to their sports more than ever. In fact I think there would be some reserch which says that during the depression etc is when sports matters most to people. People also like to be proud of where they come from and like to do well in comparison to others. Its just the way we are. While its not important in a global sense its still important for people. And you are most definitely a tough and wise nut. Great post!

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  5. Thanks, Lilly. I used to go to Ohio State games all the time when I was growing up. After I moved away from Ohio, I got to games less and less. Then there was a long spell where I couldn't get to any games. I finally was able to get back to Ohio Stadium the season after they won the National Championship in 2002. As soon as I stepped through the portal and looked out over the field, I had this overwhelming feeling of being home.

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  6. "..buckeyes are a bunch of worthless nuts."

    I'm with you, Grandpa. Football is a game (a serious game to many people, it's true), but a living nightmare ended November 4.

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  7. I'm so glad we all heard the alarm, Gran.

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  8. I know absolutely nothing about football, even though our BC Lions may (just may!) win the Grey Cup this year. I have heard of the Buckeyes however. Thanks for the lesson. I always thought Buckeye was a sort of porridge made out of ... Buckeye.

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  9. Go Bucks! Hey, I didn't realize you live in Ohio, too!

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  10. Enjoyed visiting your blog. I came over from Johanna's - A Majority of Two.

    She contacted me and said I should take a look at your blog as you had written about what I often call THE GAME - OSU / Michigan!

    I live in Iowa and we got two years without OSU or Michigan on the schedule - and we still have lost 4 games! Oh well... that's why they play the game.

    I will stop back. You have a very nice blog!

    Take care.

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  11. Thanks for the comment, Jo. It's good to know that the Buckeye's reputation extends so far. And the way they've managed to fall apart in the three or four really big games over the last couple of years, well, it's like those teams are making porridge out of them.

    Hi, Willow. Glad to know you're a Buckeye fan. I grew up in Ohio and lived there until I was in my mid thirties and moved to New England. I'm now in Georgia, but I manage to get back to Ohio from time to time. I enjoy reading your posts about beautiful Ohio, they're like dreams in which I see, vision of what used to be. :)

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  12. Hi, Russell. Glad you came by. The Hawkeyes did a job on Penn State Saturday. Way to go.

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  13. We've some Buckeyes in our family too :-)

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  14. Worthless nuts or Ohio State fans?

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