Any loss to "That Team Up North" is painful. One point, ten points, twenty points – the hurt caused by "That Team Up North" is always palpable.
When the pain has been inflicted by Ohio players on behalf of That Team Up North at home, in Ohio Stadium, against the Buckeyes?
Takes the hurt to another scale. Probably even off the charts.
In 1988, I remember when John Cooper was hired from Arizona State, replacing Earle Bruce as Ohio State's head coach. One of the key reasons cited at the time was John Cooper knew how to beat Michigan, as evidenced by Arizona State's victory over TTUN in the 1987 Rose Bowl. Arizona State won, 22-15.
Think about how much it hurt for Coach Cooper in 1988, in his first Ohio State/TTUN game in Ohio Stadium. Not only had Ohio State suffered through a losing season, but they trailed TTUN badly in the first half, 20-0, in Ohio Stadium. But the Buckeyes didn't say die quite yet. They rallied to take the lead over TTUN late in the game, 31-27.
Enter John Kolesar.
Yes, John Kolesar, who had played a key role in the 1985 game as a freshman wide receiver in defeating Ohio State up in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The same John Kolesar from Westlake, Ohio, whom I ran against in high school track. Kolesar was a senior when I was a freshman. For what it is worth, when we ran in the 400 meters, the back of his track cleats looked pretty good from where I was at the time.
John Kolesar, who would have gone to Ohio State, if not for being a legacy of TTUN. After Ohio State took the lead late in the 1988 game, Kolesar returned the kickoff to the Ohio State 40. On the very next play, Kolesar caught the winning touchdown.
An Ohioan, who could have been a Buckeye, but chose to be a Wolverine, inflicting pain on Ohio State fans in Ohio Stadium.
Two years later, John Cooper felt pain again from TTUN in Ohio Stadium. This time it was from three people with ties to the Buckeye State.
Every Buckeye fan remembers the painful 16-13 loss to TTUN, as a result of Ohio State quarterback Greg Frey being stopped on an option play late in the game. What a dreadful play call.
How about the fact that Elvis Grbac, a Cleveland St. Joseph alum who wanted to be a Buckeye until Earle Bruce was fired, threw a touchdown pass to Desmond Howard, his high school teammate? Howard also could have been a Buckeye if not for Earle Bruce's firing.
Who led the way on the ground for TTUN? Akron Buchtel's Ricky Powers, who was offered a scholarship by Ohio State, but chose to go to TTUN. Ricky Powers could have been a Buckeye, along with Robert Smith, but chose to be a Wolverine.
Now think about the glorious record former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel had against TTUN. Eight wins, one loss (and one vacated win, unfortunately).
Think about how many Ohioans who played key roles against the Buckeyes during Coach Tressel's tenure...
***Insert cricket noises***
Coach Tressel made it a key point to lock down the top talent in Ohio. Yes, Mario Manningham turned down the Buckeyes to play for TTUN, and had a nice game in Ohio Stadium versus the Buckeyes in 2006. Prescott Burgess turned down the Buckeyes to play for TTUN, but I truly cannot recall Burgess making any big plays in The Game, especially not in Ohio Stadium. And all Ohio State fans can marvel at Justin Boren coming to his senses back in 2008 when he decided to become a Buckeye.
Will there be any Ohio-on-Ohio hate crime during The Game in 2012? Kyle Kalis opened the wound. We'll find out if any other turncoat Buckeyes can pour maize and blue salt in it.