Sunday, November 20, 2005

OSU vs. Michigan - hype and passion

Well it is finally over at the Ohio State Buckeyes have prevailed over the Michigan Wolverines. I have to admit, I watched the entire game this year because I wanted to. This is a change of pace from previous seasons where I simply didn’t care because of the massive amounts of hype surrounding the game.

Hype?

Maybe it has always been there and I just haven’t noticed it but to me it seems like the local media hype surrounding Buckeye football has increased to the point of being overpowering. Some local radio stations kiss so much Buckeye ass year round I’m surprised coach Jim Tressel has time to wear pants. Every year is saturated with coverage.

Local radio has plenty of “Buckeye Football Reports” even when nothing is happening. My favorites are the player interviews during the off-days between practices before the season starts.

“So what are you doing with your days off?”
“Umm, I’m going to relax a little and catch up on school work.”
“How about you, what are you doing with your time off?”
“Umm, relax and catch up on some things.”
“We asked defensive tight-end so-and-so what he will be doing.”
“Relax. Study.”

Well, duh. The week leading up to the Michigan game is usually the worst. It seems like every news story revolves around Buckeye football somehow. “A plane crashed in the city of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia killing all aboard and dozens on the ground. No Buckeye football players were on that plane.” This year, the Columbus Blue Jackets acquired one of the more recognizable names in ice hockey and easily the most recognizable player in team history when they traded big fan favorite Tyler Wright and Francois Beauchemin to the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim for superstar center Sergei Fedorov. That news was second and even third fiddle to preparations leading up to “the big game”. Local news television sets take on a noticeable Buckeye motif. Scarlet and grey dress codes are probably enforced.

It has all been too much for me. I think about four years ago I just shut it down mentally whenever this week came around. I ask my parents about it and they are sick of it as well. It’s just too much.

My girlfriend is from Michigan and up there the main rivalry is between Michigan and Michigan State. Travel north of the Ohio border and you will see the maize and blue “M” flags flying most places but there are prominent pockets of Spartan flags flying as well. The whole “rivalry” seems to take place solely in Ohio. You will find significantly more Michigan flags flying down here amongst the numerous and varying Ohio State flags. Up in Michigan, however, the only sign of Ohio can be found on vehicle license plates. If I were a scientician or something I might infer that people go to Michigan to get educated then move to Ohio for employment.

Hype justified?

I typically get upset when I get saturated with Buckeye football coverage, especially when something a practice or an off-season interview with the coach takes priority over things like results from a game or game day discussion of a non-Buckeye football sport; namely Crew soccer and Blue Jacket hockey. I’m sure some Clippers baseball fans feel the same way. Heck, sometimes these sports take a back seat to non-playoff local high school football. Yes, coverage of a high school football game gets priority over a sport that can regularly put 12,000 or more butts in seats. Is all this hype and coverage justified?

To put all this hype and coverage in perspective I look at how my favorite sport, soccer, is covered outside of the United States. Soccer, or football as it’s known outside North America, is considered to be a world sport and is probably the “world” sport. In some nations there will be other sports that are equally if not more popular. Rugby is popular. Cricket is also a big sport in places. Baseball is also a popular sport in a few countries. Mostly though, it is soccer. Entire countries are shut down in preparation for an important soccer match and shut down in celebration of a win. Trinidad and Tobago recently proclaimed a holiday just for qualifying for the World Cup. Some fans of soccer are so passionate about their sport and their team they will turn to violence to support it. Watch any German or French game and note the colorful and energetic support found at each game. I would love this type of celebratory attitude here in the United States, but is not going to happen.

Football (i.e. pointy ball or grid-iron football) is the big sport in the United States even surpassing baseball. We have our coverage. We have our celebrations. We have our violence as well. Ice hockey and soccer are not going to replace football (or baseball) in my lifetime. Although I would love to see a fairer amount of coverage for soccer and ice hockey here in Columbus, I now understand and accept why things are the way they are. I accept the parties, tailgating and celebration surrounding Buckeye football. I will also learn to be more receptive to Buckeye football in the future. It’s not because it’s fair or not fair, or because frankly the Crew and Blue Jackets have done little to warrant otherwise. It’s because the majority of pride in Ohio here in Columbus is behind the Buckeye football program. The Crew and Blue Jackets will still get my support and I will still wear their colors, but the Buckeyes now have a place here as well.

By the way, it was a great football game. Early excitement, suspense, the feeling of defeat, then last second jubilation. In those last forty seconds I was feeling the same pride I feel when I watch the men’s US National soccer team play.

No comments: