clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

If This Were A Movie: Ryan Day and Jim Harbaugh star in ‘Grumpy Old Men’

On insults, practical jokes, and kicking the rivalry up a notch this Thanksgiving.

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK
Jami Jurich Jami Jurich puts her Ohio State journalism degree to good use, working as professional copywriter by day, SB Nation contributor by night.

Grab your popcorn and get ready for pop culture references, a hint of snark, and a trip back in time to the Blockbuster Video days.

While the rest of America focuses their attention on turkeys, any true Ohio State or TTUN fan knows Thanksgiving is only the second-most important holiday happening this week. I say this as someone who loves Thanksgiving — it still gets trumped this week. That’s because we have finally entered Rivalry Week, and we have complete tunnel vision on The Game.

But since we do have to go through Glutton Fest to get to The Game, we’re bringing you an extra special Thanksgiving/Rivalry Week preview edition of “If This Were A Movie.”

As we near the end of college football’s regular season, fans of these rival schools seem even more fired up than usual, in large part because we are the Wolverines’ last remaining obstacle, and they, ours. The winner is guaranteed a spot in the Big Ten Championship, and a CFP playoff berth is on the line, with both teams currently sitting in the top four.

Nothing stokes the flames of a rivalry quite like having your sights set on the same end goal and having to go through each other to get there. It’s like the wildest game of Musical Chairs you’ve ever played. One chair remains, two teams want it. No one is going down without a fight.

Add to that the drama around what Buckeye fans would call “cheating,” and what the blue and yellow guys would call, “an act of injustice” or “cruel and unusual punishment” (aka the Sign Stealing Scandal) and everyone is at a boiling point.

Somewhere out there are two fictional feuding next-door neighbors who can relate to what Buckeye and Wolverine fans are going through right now because their neighborhood rivalry came to a head over the week of Thanksgiving too.

That’s right—I’m talking about none other than John Gustafson, Jr. (Jack Lemmon) and Max Goldman (Walter Matthau)—everyone’s favorite “Grumpy Old Men,” whose longstanding feud manifests in ways familiar to OSU and UM fans: insulting each other, name-calling, and playing practical jokes and pranks on each other just to get under each other’s skin; a tale as old as time.

Their neighbors and friends find their rivalry to be soul-crushing and irritating, and OSU and Michigan are nothing if not annoying to everyone else in the Big Ten/College Football (whether it’s because our teams are better than theirs or because we have overinflated egos and the volume of 10,000 screaming teenage girls at a boy band concert is a debate for another day).

Their disdain for each other is an ongoing part of everyday life, just as it is for Buckeye fans who don’t give a damn for the whole state of Michigan 365 days a year. The feeling is mutual, too.

But the Grumpy Old Men really take their rivalry up a notch when they realize they both have their eyes on a National Championship a.k.a. the same lady, Ariel Truax (played by Ann-Margret), who recently moved to their street.

As John begins to court Ariel, Max finds himself jealous, and it is eventually revealed that John and Max had their own Bo and Woody drama back in the day: Bo Schembechler betrayed everything good and holy to kick off the Ten Year War, John married Max’s high school sweetheart. Same thing, basically.

Now, as John and Max find themselves reliving the drama of competing over the same woman for a second time in their lives, OSU and TTUN find themselves competing for stakes as high as a National Championship.

“Grumpy Old Men” has a happy ending, and while one team will enjoy fleeting happiness on Saturday, I don’t anticipate that either school will let bygones be bygones any time in the next century. Certainly not while Jim Harbaugh is coaching (which is something I actively love about him as a rival coach—he and his team hate us as much as we hate them, and it ups the ante a bit). Certainly not while both teams are powerhouses with playoff shots.

But if you want to kill two birds with one stone during your time off this week, pop on “Grumpy Old Men” for some festive Thanksgiving fun that will also fuel your hatred for that team up north. You could even borrow from John and Max’s playbook and play some petty practical jokes on any Wolverine fans in your life!

From everyone here at Land-Grant Holy Land, may your Thanksgiving be full of good food and good company. Here’s to stuffing both turkeys AND Wolverines this week.