Monday, January 7, 2008

Buckeye Shame?

I never attended The Ohio State University. I no longer live in the state of Ohio, and I no longer possess an Ohio Drivers License. In fact, in the fall I plan on applying to the University of Michigan’s PhD program. But tonight, like last year, and like every third Saturday of every October as far back as I can remember – I will be wearing scarlet and gray and pulling for the Ohio State Buckeyes.

For whatever reason, pulling for the Buckeyes has become a sort of faux pas in the last several years. Perhaps it is their success on the national stage (and accompanying domination of the Midwest recruiting pool) that has turned them into the Yankees of the Big 10.

Perhaps it is the obnoxious and viral behavior of many Buckeyes fans that has followed the success – a feeling not familiar to fans of Ohio sports teams.

Maybe it is merely friendly competition between friends that root against each other in all matters, regardless of whether Heismans, Bowl Victories or sweater vests are involved.

All of these reasons to loathe all things scarlet and gray are valid. But these arguments are valid with the hatred of any fan base or team, collegiate or pro. But one of the more common reasons has really irked me.

The idea that because I didn’t attend Ohio State and therefore have no right to root for them, is ridiculous. First off, I was an Ohio State fan long before I applied to Kent State. So one day, when I’m already a mature eighteen year old, with years of scars and beliefs in a team or concept, I’m supposed to abandon this allegiance in favor of a lesser team, in a non-competitive league, even though I know NOTHING about the history, tradition or culture of this team. I find this stupid.

In 1996 The Cleveland Browns moved to Baltimore. My Sunday’s were given up to practicing guitar and running around outside. But I still loved football. I had always watched and rooted for the Buckeyes, but now, without an alternative to direct my rabid football allegiance, my focus turned to the red hot Ohio State Buckeyes. Eddie George, Orlando Pace, Terry Glenn and David Boston. This will be an easy team to root for (boy was I wrong)

In January 1997 I got my first scarlet jersey, a 75 Pace jersey with the Rose emblem on the shoulder. Ohio State beat Jake Plummer’s Arizona State Sun Devil’s that day to finish #2 in the nation. I was in 9th grade and had no earthly idea where Kent State was. I was a Buckeyes fan.

I consider the 2002 Fiesta Bowl a high point of my sports fandom career. I saved newspaper clippings of Troy Smith’s Heisman run, and I have ventured from Cleveland to Columbus many times to merely be in the city for a big Buckeyes game.

Why should I feel guilty about this. The players on the team went to high schools that my friends and I went to. My parents and their parents rooted for the Buckeyes. I own the same amount of scarlet and gray jerseys as I do brown and orange. I am a Buckeyes fan – and I’m proud of it.

So when the Buckeyes take on another school I never considered going to tonight, I won’t feel guilty that I’m donning the same Big Ten Championship shirt I wore on January 3rd 2003, right beneath my scarlet 2 jersey that my college girlfriend had branded with the letters “Doss” on the back to honor my favorite player.

From the lots outside the horseshoe, through the bowels of the SuperDome, all the way to my home, minutes from the Pacific Ocean – shout Go Bucks – and do so with no shame.

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