It wasn’t until I got close to my current advanced age that I realized that it’s ok to stop reading a book if you aren’t into it after a few chapters. It’s only been in the last few years that I finally allowed myself to quit watching a TV show that was no longer entertaining me, even if I had already invested multiple seasons in the series. I stopped feeling the need to see every big, fancy movie just because it might get some awards consideration, and I no longer feel the need to try and understand everything that the smart people are talking about on Twitter.
It was honestly really hard for me to cut these things out of my life, because so much of my personal and professional persona had been built upon the idea of being an “expert” on these types of things. But as I changed as a human and in my work life, I realized that suffering through things, just to say that I had done or seen them, just wan’t bringing me joy; and even though I have no interest in living to any sort of ripe old age, I want to enjoy whatever time I have on this quickly decaying rock. So, I have learned to just move on when a certain activity is bringing me frustration and/or anger.
So that makes me wonder, why in the hell do I keep putting myself through the emotionally exhaustive exercise of allowing my expectations to get sky-high before watching Ohio State football games when I know damn well that, more often than not, the game is going to end up frustrating the living piss out of me for at least a quarter or two?
Ohio State football fandom is a constant push and pull between frustration and giddiness, and it has been that way for practically my entire life. There are obviously so many highs — which honestly greatly outnumber the lows — but it’s those valleys that we all seem to remember most; likely due to some inborn midwestern sensibility about suffering being good for us.
Dating back to the John Cooper era, Buckeye fans were Charlie Brown and Michigan was Lucy pulling the football out from under us. Every year, as the talent continued to get better and better in Columbus, we expected that “this is finally our year,” only for the skunk bears to pull it away from us at the last second.
Then, with the arrival of Jim Tressel, thank Woody the results changed, but man were some of those games hard to watch. No matter how much better the Buckeyes were than their opponents, the now-proverbial Tressel Ball approach made every game close and sent many a heart palpitating across Buckeye Nation.
When Urban Meyer arrived in Columbus, many of us assumed that he would bring his then-signature swagger and affection for running up the score along with him — the antithesis of what we had gotten used to during the Tressel era. And while things started off that way, eventually Urban seemed to lose his edge and devolved into someone more interested in giving jobs to his loved ones than continuing to innovate and grow his program.
Then we arrived where we are now, with Ryan Day at the helm, and over two+ seasons, he has yet to lose a regular season game and has two conference titles and two trips to the College Football Playoffs, but still, watching nearly every game sends fans on a stomach-turning roller coaster ride across the vast expanses of human emotions.
Most of the games open with explosive first quarters (the Buckeyes build an impressive early lead and we all pound our chests on Twitter as if we were somehow part of the team). Then, almost without fail, Ohio State suddenly forgets how to play football in the second quarter (and the Twitter crowd turns on everyone wearing scarlet and gray and blames them for their miserable lot in life). But, after halftime, the Buckeyes inevitably figure it all out again and end up winning by at least a semi-comfortable margin.
This has been a common, recurring theme throughout the Day era; so much so that I am regularly angry at myself for allowing the totally foreseeable dips to bother me as much as they do.
So, the question is, why do I set myself up for this inevitable aggravation when I am well aware of the so obvious eventual outcome?
Well, unlike the books I cast aside, or the TV shows I erase from my DVR, or movies I decline to see, I love Ohio State football far too much to ever give it up. For many of us, the Buckeyes are like family; we celebrate their successes as if they were our own, but damnit if we won’t unleash holy hell on them when they screw up.
There is an investment that we all have in OSU football that keeps bringing us back no matter how much the defense’s blown assignments make our stomachs turn, or how many pillows we hurl at the TV when the quarterback overthrows wide open receivers, or how many f-bombs we drop when the coaches insist on playing guys who clearly aren’t ready to be on the field, especially in the first half of a one-score game. Sonofabitch, why the hell can’t you figure out who the best guys are and just leave them in? I mean, we all know who they are and we’ve only watched one game, you’ve had all of spring and fall camp, and you can’t figure out that Teradja Mitchell and Cody Simon need to be the only two linebackers on the field and that Miyan Williams and TreVeyon Henderson need to get all of the carries out of the backfield? F’in’ a’, Cotton. This is football, not rocket science, just put the mother-lovin’ best players on the field and let your obviously superior talent win the bleepin’ game!
Sorry. I got a little carried away there for a second. I apologize. But I’d bet dollars to Buckeye Donuts that some form of that mini-rant happened wherever you were watching the game on Thursday night, didn’t it?
And despite the anger and frustration that the game inspired, you will either be on your couch in front of a TV, on a stool at a sports bar, or actually in The Shoe at noon ET on Saturday to do it all over again, won’t you?
That’s because for all of our collective grievances, the giddiness of watching Williams run 71 yards to pay-dirt after cutting the wrong way, or the OSU icon Haskell Garrett scoop-and-score his way into the end zone, or Henderson going for 70 on his first career touchdown, or Chris Olave tip-toeing down the sideline for one of his two TDs is the stuff that gives our lives happiness.
Sure, Ohio State football likely won’t materially change our lives; chances are, win or lose, we will still wake up the next day with the same job, in the same home, with the same family, but man, does it sure bring color and joy to our lives.
I can live without the boring books that I started, I can live without the TV shows that I lost interest in, I can live without seeing every Oscar-bait movie, but I simply cannot live without Ohio State football, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.