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What does it mean to be an Ohio State fan?

Reader atxbucknut joins us to talk about what it means to be an Ohio State Buckeye, the games that shaped us as fans, and how the 2012 team will be remembered by history.

Jamie Sabau

Ohio State wrapped up a season for the ages yesterday. In doing so, the Buckeyes finished 12-0, guaranteed themselves a spot in the season's final top 4 (plus will likely will start next year thereabouts the same spot) and more importantly, clinched just the 6th undefeated season in Ohio State football history.

We wrap what's been an incredible football fall up appropriately enough with a very special 5 minutes in the Holy Land in which we discuss all things Ohio State fandom with Land-Grant Holy Land reader, atxbucknut. atx won our contest a few weeks back to be entered in for a chance for he and a guest to have an air fare, hotel room, and game tickets paid trip to see the bowl game of their choice. Just because Ohio State isn't going bowling doesn't mean atx and company can't. Feel free to cheer him on in the comments below.

I'm not sure it'd be possible for a fan base to have a wider "delta", as it were, between where the program was at in early 2011 to where it is now. Fast forward a year later and Ohio State's achieved perfection; it doesn't get much better than this. How as a Buckeye do you even process the last year and change? Has there been any moments where you sort of pinch yourself and ask whether or not Urban Meyer, the same guy who crushed Ohio State's national championship hopes and dreams in January 2007, is in fact your head football coach?

The irony of Urban Meyer – Ohio State's 2006 season soul crusher – coming to Columbus isn't lost on any fan, much less me. Just about every Bucknut out there went from being deflated, downhearted, and dispirited on November 27, 2011, to pure ecstasy on November 28, 2011, when the news of Meyer's hiring broke.

In 2011, it seemed like the end of a golden era of Ohio State football after a 6-7 season disappointingly capped a decade featuring a 5-3 BCS bowl game record, appearances in three national championship games, and one outright national title. Instead, Meyer's hiring created instant euphoria for Buckeye Nation; but also what I thought to be dangerously high expectations.

I was ready to accept an 8-4 season as a sign of progress. But Meyer and his staff apparently didn't share my view (thankfully). I think the season has exceeded every Buckeye fan's expectations so far. Whether we finished 12-0, 11-1, or 10-2, I think every OSU fan were going to view 2012 as an unmitigated success. But now that they've done the almost unthinkable, will this season create even more absurdly high expectations for next year? Is anything short of a national championship going to be viewed as underachieving? For me, I am content to focus (for now) on this year and savor every minute of the 2012 season that was. The legacy of Ohio State's success on the gridiron continues after a one-year hiccup.

A troubled Midwestern economy forced my family out of Ohio almost 20 years ago. I may have left Ohio, but Ohio never left me. The Buckeyes' continuing success helps keep us passionate about the great state of Ohio. I hope Ohio State football never loses its sheen. It keeps so many Ohio ex-pats connected to our birthplace. It's hard to think of a college football program signifying so much more than just athletic achievement for so many people. Do you think Alabamans and M*chiganders are the same way?

I'm pretty acquainted with Michigan at this point having been there quite a bit in the last year and while I think they definitely have some passionate lifers that originate to and from the Ann Arbor metro area and the rest of the state alike, I'm not quite sure they do fall into the same class. The Wolverines don't have quite the sidewalk following Ohio State does, maybe because of the school's status as an elite academic institution or maybe just because the populous is fractionalized with the presence of Michigan State.

Alabama on the other hand; even with Auburn there, I think you can take the Alabaman out of Tuscaloosa, but you'll never take the Bammer out of them. I think state origin pride is important as it's part of who you are, but I also think, even for transplants such as myself, the experience of being matriculated at Ohio State left me indelibly changed. Few other fan bases compare from a sheer passion and intensity standpoint as well in terms of the just unyielding pride about the state (and school) from which they came. It can definitely be both a good and a bad thing but as long as you keep things balanced (as is in life), it's certanily more a net positive than anything else.

So let's shift gears here. What about the moments that shape who we are as fans. What's one moment as an Ohio State Buckeye devotee that you could never forget no matter how hard you tried, good or bad?

Listening to the internet radio feed of the Michigan State upset of Ohio State in 1998 is the one memory I just can't shake. I was in college at the time and took Ohio State losses too hard. I remember sitting on the end of my bed frame in my dorm room with my head against the back of the desk chair as MSU's Renaldo Hill intercepted Joe Germaine. I almost started "calling dinosaurs" and was physically ill the rest of the day. After late season losses by undefeated Ohio State teams in 1993, 1995, and 1996, I just couldn't handle another upset of that magnitude. That episode did help me understand that I needed to put some emotional distance between me and the game of football. Never again have I let myself get that worked up over a Buckeye loss. I am hopeful that Meyer's tenure in Columbus will deliver at least a few more (positive) unforgettable moments.

Do you have certain Buckeye memories etched on your brain forever? I imagine almost every play in the 2002 national championship game as well as "Holy Buckeye" will forever be imprinted on the mind of most Buckeye fans. And rightly so.

The 2006 season is one that, despite it's ending, has many moments indelibly etched into my consciousness forever. Though I'd been attending Ohio State since 2003, I grew up in Central Texas and was the son of an LSU and a Texas alum. I was raised to root for the hometown Longhorns and until I shipped off to Ohio State, didn't know anything otherwise. Playing Texas in 2005 was a bittersweet, surreal game but losing it the way it did then inadvertently getting caught in tear gas after the game left me needing some catharsis.

Going into Daryl K. Royal Texas Memorial Stadium as the lone Troy Smith jersey in the Texas student section (I actually had to buy Texas season tickets to get that one game at a reasonable clip and had been at the North Texas game the week prior rooting for Texas since it didn't conflict with Ohio State's game), in a place where I'd watched probably half a dozen or more Texas games in my life time and getting that win the way they did is a turning point in my life as a sports fan. Something that shapes my identity, set the basis for the later game of the century at season's end, and will be something I remembered until my dying days.

Though I wasn't a fully initiated Buckeye yet, the 2002 national championship game was one of my favorites to watch ever, and who knows, may have subconsciously played a role in my decision to become a Buckeye. Is that season the most special to you as an Ohio State fan or is there some other specific moment that makes you the Buckeye fan that you are today?

Speaking of catharsis, 2002 didn't make me a Buckeye, but it certainly helped exorcise so many of the demons created during the Cooper era (so painfully close to perfection so many seasons!). I feel like I was a Buckeye the moment I popped out of my mom at University Hospital on the OSU campus back in the '70s. It's ironic that I've been transplanted to Central Texas whereas you went from Texas to Ohio. In any event, both my parents graduated from OSU and made sure I was a Buckeye fan as soon as I was sentient. I don't remember much from the end of Woody's era, but my dad (Lima born and bred) can remember the '49 Wes Fesler-coached Rose Bowl team, and avers that several of Woody's teams in the late '60s to mid-'70s were the best teams OSU has ever fielded.

I'm curious how this year's team will be viewed by history. While almost any Buckeye fan will admit that this team didn't look as dominant as even some of the other teams we've fielded in the past five years, 12-0 is still 12-0. No one *really* knows how we might have fared in the national championship game against ND or an SEC school. In hindsight, will this team be viewed as one of the top 5 Ohio State teams of all time? Top 10? Top 15? I wonder what [Ohio State historian] Jack Park thinks!

If Terry Bowden's unbeaten on probation Auburn team is any precedent, it'll be one of those teams that will spawn much debate fodder and potentially even seem better than they were as time goes by. The strength of schedule and the rest of the national landscape will seem less consequential in comparison and folks like you and I will debate each other in old folks homes how good this team was relative to the Ohio State teams we mentioned previously that we couldn't forget if we tried.

And that's the great thing about Ohio State football: it's timeless. Whether you came of age in the 60's or you got into football in the early 2000's, for all that changes, the more everything else stays the same. "Time and change will surely show..." Regardless of what happens Saturday, we'll be Buckeyes til the day we die, and what that means will never change.

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