I’ve Got a Bone to Pick with Ohio State Football Fans

Several years ago I started a small business with a fellow that I had worked with for many years at another company. We are both huge sportsaholics. I’m a southerner and grew up in and around  Atlanta and had parents and other family members that graduated from the University of Alabama. This made me a fan of the Atlanta pro sports teams and all Alabama sports teams, especially the football team. My business partner grew up in the Columbus, Ohio area and had many family members that graduated from Ohio State. Neither of us graduated from our respective rooting interests, opting instead to get our degrees elsewhere (another story for another day, perhaps).

My business partner, unlike myself,  has a relatively low-key personality. He’s passionate about his team, but typically not all that outspoken, unless prodded. I, on the other hand, have never had any compunction about expressing my love for all things Crimson Tide-related.

For most of the past decade, Ohio State’s football program has enjoyed a good deal of success. Their head coach, Jim Tressel, was hired after the 2001 season. Ohio State fans had enjoyed some success since Woody Hayes left the program in 1978, but neither Hayes’ successor, Earle Bruce, nor Bruce’s successor, John Cooper, ever lived up to the legend of Hayes himself. Tressel wasted little time in bringing Buckeye fans back to the promised land, winning a National Championship in his first full season as head coach in 2002. Little wonder, then, that he has been deified and put on the highest possible pedestal since then.

Conversely, Alabama’s program went through almost every imaginable form of hell: probation, recruiting scandal, coaching changes, and so on. But moreover, there were the losses. Lots and lots of losses.

While the Crimson Tide has won each of the three times these two teams have met on the gridiron, those memories were distant during the 2000s, as Ohio State stayed around the rarefied air of the top of the rankings, while Alabama was doing its best just to appear in bowl games on an annual basis. The two programs were miles apart in terms of the paths they were on.

Growing up in the 1970s, I knew nothing of such fallow periods. Alabama routinely won the SEC championship in that decade and was three times crowned the national champion. Needless to say, it wasn’t easy watching other programs enjoy significant success while my precious boys in crimson mostly struggled during the decade that just passed. Yes, of course the decade ended in glorious fashion, with the huge win over Texas that brought yet another championship to Tuscaloosa, but it was a long and arduous journey.

As for Ohio State fans, something happened to the whole lot of them during the decade of the 2000s. Sports fans are always passionate. As most of us know, the name fan is short for “fanatic”, so it’s easy to explain why so many of these people can act a bit crazy from time to time as they express their love for their respective teams. But somehow, Ohio State fans are different.

I have spent an enormous amount of time with fans of Notre Dame football. Notre Dame probably enjoys more widespread support from coast to coast in the U.S. than any other college program. Many Catholics are fans even if neither they nor any of their family members ever even attended the school.  And with the history of that school, with the “Gipper”, the four Horsemen, the Heisman winners, the scores of national championships, and so on, one would think that if any school’s fan base would be considered arrogant, it would be the fans of the Fighting Irish.

Let me tell you something. Notre Dame fans pale in arrogance to the fans of Ohio State.

I have spent an enormous amount of time thinking it over, but I do not understand it. yes, the Buckeyes brought home the championship in 2002, and have won more than a handful of Big Ten championships since then, but they have also been subjected to horrifically bad back-to-back losses in the championship games after the 2006 and 2007 seasons. They have lost marquis games in back-to-back seasons to USC. Outside of their recent Rose Bowl win, there have been precious few big wins to cheer about in Columbus.

But I confess to being about as perplexed as the Grinch on Christmas morning when he heard all of the Whos singing. This string of embarrassment has not tempered their arrogance one iota. If anything, Buckeye fans have found they have been able to strengthen their resolve to be arrogant even more. If you visit an Ohio State fan website at virtually any time of year, you wouldn’t have to muddle through many comments or articles to find the latest prognostication for another national championship in the upcoming season. Yet their ballyhooed quarterback, an incredibly cocky kid named Terrelle Pryor, hasn’t begun to live up to the hype that has followed him since he graduated from high school two years ago. The team has suffered losses to lowly teams such as Purdue. No matter. Talk to an Ohio State fan and they will tell you they cannot imagine there is any chance their team could lose a game during the 2010 season. This, they will tell you, is the year. Of course, every year is the year when you’re a Buckeye fan.

This goes way beyond normal fandom. It goes way beyond the support that any team’s supporters can usually muster up. It is, in fact, the sort of delusional can-do-no-wrong sort of blind faith that is often seen with sycophantic political supporters.

And I just don’t get it. At least the Grinch had his heart grow three sizes, he saw the meaning of Christmas, and so on. I, on the other hand, continue to puzzle this. My puzzler can’t seem to find the answer.

There’s one thing that can make this whole thing better. One thing that may not solve the riddle of the Buckeye arrogance. But a thing that will make me forget about it, if only for a while. Ohio State fans believe their team is going to make it back to the championship game after this coming season. The most likely opponent? Alabama’s Crimson Tide. Oh please. If there is a God…

11 Responses to “I’ve Got a Bone to Pick with Ohio State Football Fans”

  1. Lee Roi Jordan Says:

    Is there an administrative process we can go through to ban such ridiculous statements? This site, and the entire internet, would be better off if we could just get this Bone guy banned.

  2. Lee Roi Jordan Says:

    As a fellow Alabama fan, I am embarrassed by the pettiness and bitterness that gushes out of this post. My view is that rarely is one team so much better than the rest of the country that it is a lock for the national title. Most years a few teams, perhaps as many as ten to fifteen, have a reasonable shot at the title, but only one will combine talent with preparation and a bit of luck to win the title. In 2002, the Luckeyes escaped early against Cincinnati and then later with the “Holy Buckeye” catch by Michael Jenkins against Purdue, an overtime win against Illinois and then the double overtime win against Miami, Fl where both teams had several key plays that could have altered the outcome of the game. In our glorious 2009 season, we benefitted from the SEC officiating scandal that engineered an undefeated matchup in the SEC Championship Game, the blocked kick against Tennessee and the injury to Colt McCoy early in the national title game among other fortunate turns. In most seasons, a team that is legitimately top five or even top ten has some reasonable chance to take home the championship with the proper breaks.

    This leads us to Ohio State, who along with Southern California, are the leading examples of the success that all fans should hope to enjoy. Since their national championship year of 2002 they have had exactly one season in which they were not legitimate contenders for the national title. In 2004, after losing fourteen players to the NFL draft (a record total for a seven round draft), they fell to 8-4 with a final AP ranking of #20. The other six seasons saw the Buckeyes play in six BCS bowls and win half of them. Their average rank in the preseason AP poll was 4.7. Their average rank in the final AP poll was 4.8. The lowest preseason rank was 11 and the lowest final rank was 9. The nation, not just arrogant Buckeye fans thought Ohio State had contending teams at the beginning of each of those six seasons. The final rankings in those six seasons was virtually unchanged. The breaks did not fall for the Buckeyes, but they were in contention each of those years.

    My hope is that my beloved Tide can stay in contention for that long before we again are caught (or turned in by jealous Tennessee or Auburn coaches) and get sidetracked by NCAA penalties.

  3. deepsthboy Says:

    Lee Roi, I am suspicious of your loyalties. You claim to be a fan of Alabama football, yet you manage to get sidelined from the point I made in my blog post virtually right away. Nowhere in my original post did I suggest that Alabama got to the top of the mountain without a little luck in the 2009 season. It seems you are going out of your way to defend Ohio State, while simultaneously tearing down the Tide. Highly suspect.

    Average rankings, losing talent to the NFL, and so on. What is all that but a smoke screen? The fact is that since 1961, the year of my birth, Ohio State has won exactly two national championships–in 1968 and 2002. I won’t bother with the math, but suffice it to say we’re talking about Ohio State as the national champ about 4-5% of the years I have been on this earth. Nowhere along that stretch did it appear the Buckeyes had established a true DYNASTY, a la the Oklahoma of the early 70s or the Alabama of the late 70s. There has been no sustained period of true NATIONAL dominance, and I want to make it clear that I mean NATIONAL and not conference dominance. Beating the Michigans of the world for several years in a row, or even winning the woeful Big Ten several times in succession is hardly a measure of dominance to anyone outside Columbus.

    No. My article was focused on the sheer arrogance of a program that is truly unparalleled during my lifetime. Since I wasn’t around during the 40s to listen to the fans of Army or Notre Dame, I have only the dynasties of my lifetime to use for an analogy. And no team or its fans are consistently so full of themselves for no good reason with the exception of Ohio State. Maybe if the team actually WON some big games from time to time, or if their “star” QB could play with some measure of consistency, then we might have something to talk about.

  4. Lee Roi Jordan Says:

    In no way did I intend to tear down my boys from T-Town. I merely used our most recent championship team as an illustration that nearly all championship teams get some breaks during the season. A few different breaks and Texas is playing Boise St for the title (and I’m sure you you remember the throwaway with one second left in the Big 12 championship game that was a huge break for Texas – Texas got breaks too). Few successful teams are not the beneficiary of a key break or three during the season. We at Alabama are no different and if you believe we are, perhaps it is you and not the Ohio State fans that should be the subject of your bone picking.

    I am excited about 2010 just as I was excited about this past season and they way Ohio State fans seem to rightly be excited just about every year. I admit that 2008 caught me a bit by surprise. We had been so bad for so long and sucking hind teat to that big-earred Auburn coach that I was not used to having a true chance at a national championship. I am thrilled that we can go into 2010 along with the Ohio State fans knowing that our team will have a chance if we get the breaks.

  5. deepsthboy Says:

    Lee Roi, I don’t know if perhaps you make a habit of this, but you are still steering away from the point I made in the original blog, which is that OSU fans are arrogant beyond that which is warranted from the quality of their play. Once again, with only 2 championships in 50+ years, one would think that their fan base would be aware of how infinitesimal their chances are every year.

    But rather that have some form of tempered enthusiasm on a yearly basis, they have a hard time finding a way to prognosticate anything but an undefeated season every single year. Given that the one year in the last 40 that they actually did finish undefeated came with several heart-stopping close calls, one would think that they would almost never attempt to be so foolhardy. Alas, such is not the case.

    This is why this group of morons is in a class of one.

  6. Lee Roi Jordan Says:

    I am sorry I was not more clear about my original point that was in direct response to your original blog. Your point was Ohio State fans are arrogant/moronic for believing every year that they have a chance to win the national championship. My response was that most of the teams in the preseason top ten do generally have a reasonable chance at the championship. Ohio State teams have perennially been in the preseason top ten (usually in the upper half of the top ten). Not only that, they have perennially finished the season in the top ten justifying those preseason rankings. Ohio State fans over the past decade have been entirely rational in believing that their team was a championship contender.

    I hope and expect that our Tide will contend for another championship in 2010. We look to be among the teams with a legitimate chance to contend. So do the Buckeyes and for fans of either team to deny this reality would be so willfully ignorant as to be in a class of one.

  7. deepsthboy Says:

    Lee Roi, I guess you don’t read the same Buckeye tripe that I do, or you would know exactly what I mean. Perhaps as I suggested earlier, you are not a Bama fan, but are instead a fan of Ohio State, because if you have read or do read the ridiculous musings that I see, there would be no way that you could conclude that such is reasonable. You are attempting to make it sound as though Ohio State fans are just like the fans of every other program that has experienced some modicum of success. Hardly.

    You are the guy who is sitting at the traffic light and doesn’t realize it’s green. You’re the guy who has stray hairs splaying out of his nostrils, but doesn’t see them in the mirror. You’re the guy whose kitchen has foul odors emanating from it, but who does nothing about it. If you can look at the Ohio State fan base and not see what I see, then there is no way at all that you are impartial.

  8. Lee Roi Jordan Says:

    Let me get this straight. Because I do not read all the Buckeye tripe that you do then I must be a Buckeye fan. Why in tarnation would an Alabama fan be searching out Buckeye tripe? I don’t read any Hannah Montana tripe either. Does this make me a fan of the Disney Channel?

    I have one additional clarification about the words you are putting in my mouth (or on my keypad). I do not claim that Ohio State fans are just like the fans of every other program that has experienced a modicum of success. My observation about expectations has little to do with the past or past success. My point is that Ohio State fans, as well as those from Alabama, Oregon, Virginia Tech and a very few others have every right, and indeed obligation to go into 2010 with the expectation that their team will contend for the national championship. The only nod to history was to point out that Ohio State is one of a very small number of programs who fall into this group with regularity.

  9. deepsthboy Says:

    We’ll just have to disagree on this one, Lee Roi.

    As an Alabama fan, this is my view of the 2010 season:

    We have a lot of talent returning on offense (Ingram, Richardson, McElroy, Julio, Maze), which should bode well. We have some great players returning on defense as well (Hightower, Barron, Dareus, Anders). However, we also have Penn State and Florida on this year’s schedule as well as Tennessee (in Knoxville), LSU (in Baton Rouge), Arkansas (in Fayetteville), and South Carolina (in Columbia).

    The schedule is loaded with potential potholes, so whatever optimism I have is very guarded.

    This is the distinction that you don’t seem to recognize. Ohio State fans don’t look at the potential pitfalls associated with their optimism. Theirs is unbridled and unchecked. They see nothing but the best case scenario–Pryor explodes and wins the Heisman, players who haven’t yet played a down on the field will excel beyond everyone else’s expectations, returning players will be the best in the country at their position, and so on.

    Having such impossibly high expectations rarely set you up for success when the bar has been set as high as it can possibly go.

    I will say this. The Big Ten is so ridiculously weak that this gives the Buckeyes a far better chance to have a good enough record to be in the hunt than teams like Alabama that play in a competitive conference. As a Bama fan, I am sure you would agree. But the common theme for the Buckeyes year after year is that they find a way not just to disappoint their fans, but to devastate them. The list of those examples is long–Florida, LSU, Penn State, Texas, USC, USC, Purdue, and so on. I see no reason to expect 2010 will be any different.

  10. Traci Badenhausen Says:

    I hate Ohio State…..

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