THE Ohio State Fascination

Let me explain myself to yourselves. There's been a lot of discussion locally the past few months about Ohio State bandwagoners- those who have cheered the team only since Coach Tressel reinvigorated the program. I'm thinking it could be true because the Cincinnati media have covered the national championship game much more this year than the 2002 title and we saw a ton of OSU gear in Hyde Park this afternoon.

I have no academic affiliation with THE Ohio State University, but if I only followed my alma mater's programs my life would be pathetic [nothing impresses sports aficionados like an NCCAA Division 2 championship appearance . . . in soccer]. During my development years I assembled my sports loyalties and have stuck to them rather religiously. In case you're scoring at home:

  • MLB: Reds . . . from birth. In the late 1980's, as the Reds were acquiring their many second place division finishes, I developed an affinity for the Red Sox.
  • NFL: Bengals . . . likewise.
  • College Basketball: UC . . . late 1980's, coinciding with Huggins arrival. I'll admit I liked Xavier better, that is, until Huggs arrived.
  • NHL: NY Rangers . . . late 1980's, my neighbor took me to an exhibition where I became a fan. So this was a few years before the 1994 Stanley Cup.
  • Soccer: Manchester United- mid 1990's, after the US hosted World Cup, I thought Eric Cantona was awesome.
  • NBA: Except for loving to watch Jordan play, I've never had a favorite NBA team.

Which brings me to college football. I always liked the sport, but growing up in Cincinnati, there wasn't much to cheer for here. So it was in the late 1980's that I declared my allegiance to Ohio State; I figured I lived in the state of Ohio, so that's good enough. I would watch them play every Saturday on the black and white television in the basement; no one in the house wanted to watch it, so I was relegated to the dungeon.

In junior high I proudly purchased a Starter jacket [remember those] that was a shiny gray with the letters "O-H-I-O- S-T-A-T-E" stitched to the front. It was awesome. I would watch players like Carlos Snow, a local product who went to a Cincinnati Public School dedicated to athletes [how was that ever legal]. I cheered for Kirk Herbstreit, an average quarterback who became a great football analyst. I saw an endless supply of incredible players come through the program: Chris Spielman, Joey Galloway, Terry Glenn, Eddie George, David Boston.

Those teams were coached by a wonderful man named John Cooper. He could recruit football players better than anyone in the country. Unfortunately, he never figured out how to get them to win the big game. As many of you know, the last game of the regular season the Bucks always play Michigan. In thirteen games against the Wolverines, his teams won twice, lost ten times, and tied once. Coopers first victory against UM salvaged and average season. His second victory was on the cusp of a loss to Michigan State, costing them a national championship.

Being a Buckeye fan at the end of last century was brutal. Three times in the 1990's OSU was undefeated until the Michigan game, in line for a national championship, and lost. Every year while in college I would bet a guy in the dorm [a devout Michigan fan] a pizza on the game. I bought him a lot of pizza.

Then . . . came . . . Tressel.

He knew both how to recruit and how to win. After being hired he appeared at the OSU/Michigan basketball game at halftime and stated, "I can assure you that you will be proud of your young people in the classroom, in the community and most especially in 310 days in Ann Arbor, Michigan." And he's never looked back.

So tonight, as I'm preparing to celebrate a second national championship in five years, I'm confident that I've never been off the bandwagon, so there was never any need for me to hop back on. I know who Earl Bruce is. I hate Desmond Howard. I even lived a summer in Columbus. So there's no need to question my loyalty.

With the Reds, Bengals, and Bearcats struggling, at least I have the scarlet and gray to rely on.

Go Bucks.