I’m proud to be a Buckeye, even if I’m not really a Buckeye.
That’s the best part of Ohio State’s run to the national championship game Monday night. There’s plenty of room on the bandwagon, and it’s a shared point of pride for all of us.
Growing up in this state, it took me a while to even understand that Ohio State was an educational institution. From that little window of the world called TV, it seemed like a sports franchise. If you were an Ohioan, you should be a Buckeye too. It’s as natural as answering “O-H” with “I-O.”
Your young mind starts to understand the world a little better as you grow older. If you decide to go to college, you find one that fits right for you or at least fits your budget right.
That’s why I’m not really a Buckeye. I’m a Bobcat, as my degree from Ohio University clearly leaves out the words “The” and “State.”
But even if I didn’t sit through a single class at the Columbus campus, I can still consider myself a Buckeye. That’s one of the joys of fan-dom, that you’re totally accepted into the club without doing much of anything but declaring your loyalty.
It can be a tough loyalty to live through, too. I spent two years in Georgia, the heart of the Southeastern Conference, and had to listen to all the Big Ten hatred then. I relocated to Virginia, in the midst of the Atlantic Coast Conference, and heard similar vitriol.
Occasionally, I’d have to explain how I could cheer for a school I never attended. The college football experience and the college experience, while connected, aren’t the same.
I have a buddy who doesn’t have a degree from OSU, yet he’s been to every game, home and away, this year except for the Navy game in Baltimore at the start of the year. Attending a wedding kept him from achieving the perfect fan season.
That includes a trip to the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day to watch the Buckeyes beat Alabama. This weekend, he’s in the Dallas area, awaiting the national championship game against Oregon.
He even has a superstition, sneaking red jawbreakers into the games. When he’s gnawing on a jawbreaker, the Buckeyes play better, he assured me. And I won’t doubt a man who will drive 4,500 miles over a two-week period — to and from New Orleans, to and from Dallas — about why the Buckeyes have been successful.
It’s been an incredible run for a team now playing with its third-string quarterback after losing the two-time conference player of the year. It’s been an amazing show of resiliency from a team that lost to a bad Virginia Tech team early in the year and got counted out every week afterward.
The Buckeyes unite us in the same ways crazy weather and Midwest work ethic do. It’s nice to have something to cheer in January beyond the hope the temperature cracks 30 for a day or two.
It’s interesting the national championship is being played in the Dallas Cowboys’ stadium. People call them “America’s Team,” sometimes sarcastically. Ohio State is Ohio’s team, with no sarcasm.