I think that we all understand that there has been a lot happening in our country this week that could rightly lead a person to cry. There have already been far too many tears shed out of sadness, anger, fear, confusion, frustration, and many more complicated emotions this year. Make no mistake about it, those are the important tears that deserve the vast majority of our attention. But, this article isn’t about those types of tears, except that it is.
Either coincidentally or ironically, SB Nation deemed that this week would be “Sports Moments that Made You Cry” Week. Those types of tears are obviously very different than the ones that many of us across the country will continue to cry for the foreseeable future born of issues both personal and societal.
But, to get this article at least onto a tangent related to the topic at hand, let’s start here; I have long called myself a “sentimental crier.” I very rarely cry about things in real life, but rather, the majority of my tears come from moments in movies, TV shows, talent competitions, documentaries, social media videos, commercials, greeting cards, and — yes — sporting events in which something appeals to the sappy side of my otherwise stoic heart.
These moments tend not to be the saddest, or happiest, or most emotional in any specific way, but rather the little things that hit closest to home; they almost always involve some combination of family, friendship, or someone overcoming an obstacle to achieve something large or small. The first time that I actually remember crying in this way was when I saw the famously emotional, heart-string tugging, tearjerker of a classic “Independence Day.”
Now, you might be saying, “That makes perfect sense, Matt. When I first saw Bill Pullman’s President Whitmore make his now iconic ‘Today we celebrate our Independence Day!’ speech, it touched me too.”
But the thing is, that wasn’t the part that got me. It was when Randy Quaid’s alcoholic, probably-crazy pilot character Russell Casse radioed to mission control in order to tell his children that he loved them before flying his fighter jet equipped with a nuclear bomb straight into the alien ship’s massive laser in what proved to be a suicide mission that saved the world.
Now to that, you might be saying, “That’s kind of weird, Matt, but what does that have to do with sports moments that made you cry?”
To which I would respond, “Not much really.” But I tell that story so that you’ll understand the type of crier that I am. It’s usually not the biggest, most obvious things; it’s the smaller, more intimate or personal moments that do it to me.
When I was in Sun Devil Stadium to see the Ohio State Buckeyes beat the Miami Hurricanes in the completely non-controversial 2003 Fiesta Bowl to win the program’s first national title in 34 years, I didn’t cry.
When Ohio State lost to Florida in the 2007 BCS National Championship Game, or to Clemson in the 2016 Fiesta Bowl, both in fairly embarrassing fashion, I didn’t cry.
When the Buckeyes beat the Alabama Crimson Tide in 2015 en route to the first ever College Football Playoff National Championship, I didn’t cry.
Neither the highest or lowest moments in recent Ohio State football history have brought me to tears, but you know what will never not make me cry? The Ohio State University Marching Band!
There is a reason that the band is known as “The Pride of the Buckeyes,” and it’s because that is exactly what they are. I don’t know that I fully understand why I am so moved by a 220-something person precision brass band, but I just am. I don’t think that it’s out of any specific musical appreciation; after all, I have literally no musical ability at all. I don’t believe that it has anything to do with the specificity and intricacy of their movements, either.
The closest thing that I can settle on for why TBDITL makes me cry is perhaps the most sentimental reason of all, and thus should have been the most obvious: tradition. For generations, that group, wearing those uniforms, playing those songs, marching in those formations has been at the center of the fan experience for what I biasedly believe is the best and most passionate fanbase in all of sports. The OSU marching band has been a constant throughout my entire life, intimately entangled in many of my most cherished memories. And if that doesn’t make a sentimental crier weep, I don’t know what will.
While “Script Ohio” is easily the most famous — and perhaps the most beloved — classic in the marching band’s repertoire, the thing that always chokes me up the most is the ramp entrance. I don’t know if that is because it’s what starts it all; or when the band appears, that means that the game is approaching; but I think it’s because the drum line enters from the north end of the stadium with this transcendent calmness, slowly but assuredly transforming The Horseshoe’s rowdy, chaotic energy into a focused intensity waiting for permission to explode. We abandon our disparate conversations and more than 100,000 fans become singularly focused on rows of musicians entering the stadium.
Then finally, after the rest of the band has methodically assembled, the drum major sprints down the ramp through the flanks and almost teasingly slowly executes their backbend. And then, with a flourish of baton movements, allows the release of the pent up collective excitement as they lead the best damn band in the land literally across the field.
Tell me you don’t get goosebumps when you watch that. I dare you.
And then there is the aforementioned, incomparable “Script Ohio.” I’m not going to bother to describe this one, because you all know the power of this tradition.
Of course, like you, I get excited every time I hear “Le Régiment de Sambre et Meuse” begin to play as the marching band is in their tightly wound Block O on the east side of The ‘Shoe. But you don’t have to be a sentimental empath to know that the waterworks start to flow when the sousaphone player hidden amongst the trumpets is picked up by the drum major, and then when they get to the top of the final o in “Ohio,” they exchange a few emphatic fives and begin the high stepping that ends with the dotting of the i (and yes, I teared up both while typing this and when cueing up the clip below).
I am a grown man in my late 30s, and I am in no way shape or form ashamed to admit that a group of a few hundred college musicians make me cry on the reg. The passion and talent that they have shared with me over the decades has been an anchor for me in many ways. No matter the ups and downs in my life, no matter the dark days that we have collectively experienced as a community, I know that there is joy in these songs. I know that there is comfort in these routines. And where there is comfort and joy, there is healing. And where there is healing, there is hope.
While I certainly don’t expect the Ohio State University Marching Band to cure all that ails our nation, they always have — and I imagine always will — be able to sooth what ails me.