The 110th edition of The Game was one for the ages. It had everything, from flashy offense, to clutch defense, to nervous tension, to flaring tempers. It ended with a one point margin, defied everyone’s expectations, and thrilled fans of all persuasions. But in the wake of such a game, the grousing from “fans” of TTUN has reared its predictable, ugly head.
I spent part of the game in the den of the enemy, courtesy of a holiday trip to see my in-laws in Virginia Beach. They’re all (supposedly) fans of TTUN, but when it came time for The Game to start, they were making pancakes. Pancakes. At kickoff. They paused The Game and went about their business making brunch, leaving time suspended on the television for nearly an hour. The only conclusion I could draw is that they aren’t really fans out of devoted passion, but out of disgusting habit, something I’m finding to be typical of their ilk.
But The Game is not a sitcom, to be DVR’d and watched at your convenience. It is the culmination of a season of work, an annual ritual more sacred than any other secular event, and it is not to be ignored while it is happening. Certainly not for pancakes and mimosas, anyway. I did what I could do in the face of such a travesty, pulling up a live stream on my laptop and watching, as quietly as I could, as an all-out gridiron war ensued.
Halfway through the second quarter, after the teams had exchanged blows both on the scoreboard and on the field, they finally sat down to watch, from the beginning. I knew what I was in for… Endless replays of the fight, finger pointing, jeering and baseless accusations regarding the conduct of my beloved Buckeyes, all while the game marched on in real time, ahead of where we could ever catch up. So I did the reasonable thing, and when The Game went to commercial, I gathered my wife and left, heading over to the local BW3 to watch the remainder in relative peace, and preserve whatever familial harmony might be left.
There were a respectable number of Buckeye fans at the bar, and when the game ended as it did, the place erupted in pandemonium. I was high fiving strangers, hugging our waitress (who hailed from Akron), jumping and yelling and dancing… And so was everybody else, save the two token Michigan fans at the table behind us. The agony of The Game was relieved by the ecstasy of a narrow, last-minute victory. We would have hung around for the Iron Bowl, had not the table next to us been filled with apparently illiterate GOBAMAROLLTIDE fans, who tried chanting S-E-C through tobacco-stuffed lips, over the roar of the Buckeye faithful after the win. They would be more insufferable, I thought, than returning to my in-laws, so we went home.
Of course, given how that game ended, we should have stuck around just for the comedic value.
I digress. By the time we arrived back home to Ohio last evening, my timelines were full of petty grumbles and meaningless recriminations, almost exclusively from demoralized followers of Ann Arbor’s Abomination. Say what you want about Ohio State fans; that we are grumpy, obnoxious, pessimistic, hatred-filled jerkfaces. But when we lose, we own it. TTUN, on the other hand, loves to play the victim, and so do their fans. Let’s wade into some of their whining, shall we?
The fight was “sad” and Marcus Hall’s twin salute upon being ejected was “classless.” As a senior (at the ripe age of 22, mind) he should have the maturity to control his emotions.
Or maybe the thuggish behavior of a classless Michigan team precipitated exactly the reality they wanted. Maybe the coaching staff in Ann Arbor has failed to instill respect and discipline in their own team, things you should display at all times, especially in front of your home crowd.
Maybe a senior in college, playing in one of the most important games of his career, against his team’s arch rival, in their stadium, reacted to being tossed for a fight he didn’t start by being upset. Crazy, right? And maybe while exiting the stadium, amid the raucous booing and hurled expletives from tens of thousands of (classy?) opposing fans, he decided to vent his emotion the best way he knew how.
Maybe I’d have done the same thing. Maybe, just maybe, you would have too.
The Buckeyes’ narrow victory should be cause for doubt as to their strength, and assuming they both win their respective conferences, Auburn is the rightful entry to the national title game.
Or maybe it’s harder than one might think to walk into one of the loudest home fields in the country, against a rival that you’ve played 109 times, who has ruined your season more times than anyone cares to remember, and pull out a victory. Maybe an honest assessment of The Game and its history by a rational observer would say that any team who walks out with a victory earned it, especially stealing it on their opponent’s home soil.
Maybe an honest assessment of the performance of ESPN’s favorite conference (the SEC, in case you hadn’t noticed) this year would show that they’re just as mediocre as everybody else. That Alabama lost because, well, they just aren’t that great this season, and Auburn has won twice now on blind luck and their opponents’ mistakes. Maybe we should call conferences beating up on their own parity, or mediocrity, but be consistent with whichever label across all conferences.
Or maybe people just conveniently forgot that Auburn lost to a very middle-of-the-road LSU team this season, and Ohio State hasn’t lost in 24 games.
Ohio State’s win streak is mostly down to its relatively weak schedule, again due to the Big 10 being just this side of a high school league in terms of talent.
Or maybe almost nobody in the top 25 has a schedule that’s worth a damn this year. Maybe, when evaluated statistically, a bunch of the top schools, including Alabama, Florida State and Ohio State aren’t even in the top 50 in strength of schedule. Winning programs play to win, and that includes when they sit down to write their schedules. Even after the 1-point win on Saturday, the Buckeyes’ average margin of victory is nearly 28 points– that’s 4 touchdowns, for those of you in Ann Arbor– second only to the Florida State juggernaut (whose rank of schedule is a whopping 66th, 5 places behind the Buckeyes) and Baylor, who is busy falling on their own sword.
The facts are these: A bunch of blue-and-yellow thugs surrounded a tackled Ohio State player with the expressed intent of intimidating him. That precipitated a shoving match in what was already a very charged atmosphere. Hard to blame Dontre Wilson for that. Then someone ripped his helmet off and threw it, and someone else headbutted him. So the threw a punch. In his shoes, if you say you’d do different, you’re a dirty liar (and probably a Michigan fan). Also, if you’ve never wanted to walk out of your job after a rough day doing a Marcus Hall impersonation, you’re a dirty liar (and probably a Michigan fan).
Ohio State’s defense had its worst game of the season in Ann Arbor, and TTUN’s offense had its best by far. These sort of things will happen in The Game. And we still won. Alabama lost, like they’ve been trying to do all season. With all respect to a resurgent and exciting Auburn team, they’ve been riding on some very thin luck for two games in a row, and when Lady Luck didn’t show up earlier this season, they lost to LSU.
Next week may or may not lend clarity to the national title debate, as the Buckeyes will face Sparty’s rowdy defense, the Seminoles will probably clobber the Blue Devils, and Auburn may just get punched in the mouth by a ruthless Missouri team. But whatever the outcomes, nothing will remove the joy from the hearts of the Buckeye faithful from stealing one in Ann Arbor. Roll on, Indianapolis.