Never have I ever cheered for Ohio State. Now, before I get the blog-equivalent of carried out on a rail, let me explain…
The Ohio State University just ended a perfect football season, going 12-0 this fall. I think that’s fantastic, and I’m happy for any university or college that can claim that sort of streak. It truly says something about the strength of the team and the wisdom of the coaches. Unfortunately, for the 2012 Buckeyes, this past weekend’s game against arch rivals, the University of Michigan Wolverines, brought the end of their undefeated season. During the 2010 and 2011 football seasons, while the team was under Head Coach Jim Tressel (the coach who led my alma mater, YSU, to 4 NCAA Division I-AA titles in the 1990s), several players were found to have traded tattoos for autographs or selling memorabilia, violating NCAA policies. The fallout from these and other scandals led to Coach Tressel retiring from football, wishing to remain a “Buckeye for life.” Urban Meyer was named as the new head coach for the team, but his first season at the helm would not include postseason activities due to the sanctions set in place by the NCAA.
A lot of people are quite angry that despite their perfect record this season, Ohio State will not be headed to any bowl games, including one where it was likely that they’d be matched up against the Notre Dame Fightin’ Irish. Fans of the team, who are flung to all corners of these United States, attempted to petition the White House, seeking a pardon for the team and allowing them to participate in postseason games. This petition, however, was removed. (I would petition to have “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” brought back, but I think the President has bigger things on his plate.)
Welcome to ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway?’, the show where everything’s made up and the points don’t matter. That’s right, the points are just like Angelina Jolie’s breakfast.
Getting back to why I can’t bring myself to root for the scarlet and gray… I just don’t have a reason to. I don’t have a personal connection to the university, so I guess I don’t understand fervently cheering for a school I’ve never attended. It doesn’t mean anything to me, really. Going by that standard, a lot of universities hold no meaning for me. You know who I will always cheer for? The Youngstown State Penguins. Since I called it home for six years, I always will. Even if they’re not not in the playoffs, they’re still my team. I’ll probably be a big fan of the football program of whatever university or college I get to work for in the future, too. (I will try to get excited about basketball and baseball, but that’s asking a lot.) If you didn’t have a personal connection to Youngstown State, I wouldn’t expect you to root for them. OSU has fans all over the country, if not all over the world, so I understand the “pride is nation-wide” thing. As a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers, I’m part of a similar nation, but more about that in a minute. However, my friends who are alumni of Ohio State can take comfort in the fact that I don’t cheer for the Wolverines, either.
Alright, so I’m not a fan of Ohio State because I didn’t go there. Ok. What about the fact that they’re from Ohio? Eh… that doesn’t hold much for me, either. It’s not like they’re the only good university football program in the state — look at Cincinnati. This goes for my NFL allegiance, too. Just because I’m from Ohio, it doesn’t mean that you’ll ever catch me in orange on game day, for either the Bengals or the Browns. (Actually, never the Browns.) I live closer to Pittsburgh than I do Cleveland, and I guess you could say I’m Pittsburgh Steeler-born-and-bred. I can admit that we’re very likely not going to the Super Bowl this year, but no one can ever call me a bandwagon fan.
So there it is. It really isn’t personal, Ohio State. I have plenty of friends who have attended and loved their experiences at Ohio State and that’s great for them. I appreciate the strong traditions of the school, including the annual “baptism” in Mirror Lake and Script Ohio. But, I didn’t go there, so I just don’t have that connection. At the same time, I don’t actively root against them, or any team… unless they’re playing against YSU. They’re a good team, and if they have a lot of players returning next season, I don’t see why they can’t make it to the bowls next year. Coming off the postseason ban, I’m sure they’ll have the drive to do so. Besides, I know several other people who cheer for universities they never attended, including Duke, Alabama, WVU, and, yes, even Michigan.
Now I’m curious, and there’s no right or wrong answer. If you’re an Ohio State fan, did you go there? If you didn’t, what about the Buckeyes makes you cheer for them? Or, do you root for another school that you didn’t attend? Why? These are just my reasons, and I’d like to hear yours. Just keep it civil.