Have you ever looked at yourself in the mirror? Like really looked at yourself in the mirror? Looked so closely that you could see just how big your pores were; where every single random hair was popping up at inopportune spots on your face; the exact, bizarre angle that your ears stick out from the side of your head?
Have you ever gotten so close to the mirror that you actually lose perspective on what your full face looks like? No one is ever going to look at you as closely as you look at yourself; perhaps your significant other, but even that won’t come with the same frequency and intensity as you looking at yourself; like really looking at yourself.
You notice everything; you notice every single imperfection, and — because you notice it, and because you were looking so closely — your mind conflates the little things into big things. You become obsessed with everything that is not exactly like you want it to be and you leave the mirror thinking that you are uglier, weirder, more misshapen, more deficient than anybody else who ever looks at you from a normal distance.
That is what it means to be a college football fan. When we as Buckeye fans watch an Ohio State game, we see everything; we see the deficiencies at cornerback, we see C.J. Stroud occasionally over-throwing open wide receivers, we see a defensive line that causes pressure, but rarely gets home.
But do you know what most non-Ohio State fans see when they watch Ohio State? A fucking juggernaut. They see a team that is nearly perfect; they see a Deathstar that would be the absolute envy of 99% of all college football fans.
But we don’t see that. We intellectually comprehend just how good the team can be, but we want perfection. Those expectations are both the blessings and the curses of being completely devoted to a single team. We have the extreme, utter joys of all of the wins, conference titles, College Football Playoff berths, and NFL Draft picks that the Buckeyes routinely produce, but we also are stuck with the inability to appropriately appreciate all of those things, because we are just too damn close to thing to take in in its totality.
We see the blackheads, we see the scars, we see all of the imperfections — imagined or otherwise — and we compare them to the teams that we perceive to be closer to perfect.
But you know what? The fans of those teams do the exact same thing. Be it Georgia, Alabama, Clemson, TTUN, all fans that are incredibly invested in a single team invariably become hypercritical of perceived shortcomings, because they look at their team so closely that they fail to see the forest through the trees; they focus on everything that the team doesn’t do perfectly and overlook the infinitely more obvious areas in which they succeed.
This is not a Buckeye Nation problem, this is a fandom problem, and I hope that we (collectively and individually) can move beyond it, because it robs us of the enjoyment of this sport and the teams that we love.
Being a prisoner of the moment and harping on every missed assignment, every overthrow, every fumble, every poor play call obviously doesn’t make the team play any better, but it also doesn’t make our experience watching the game any better; in fact, all it does is make us more miserable and the conversation around our team more toxic, and prevents us from being able to truly appreciate all of the greatness that our teams are routinely capable of.
If you follow the Twitter account @BoardGeniuses, you are painfully aware that overreacting is a universal part of being a college football fan and no matter how good a team is, no fanbase is immune.
Of course, there is being objective and then there is being insane. Being critical of legitimate, long-term issues is one thing, but being apoplectic over a bad drive or two is another altogether.
So, I — for one — am choosing to try and avoid giving in to my baser fandom demons and to instead focus on the positives. While there might be a zit here or there; while one nostril might be slightly larger than the other; while the right ear might be a millimeter higher than the left, when you step back from the mirror and take in the entire picture at a normal, healthy distance, you will see just how beautiful and special it actually is.