- January, 2007 -- The Ohio State Buckeyes lose to the Florida Gators in the NCAA Football Championship Game
- April, 2007 -- The Ohio State Buckeyes lose to the Florida Gators in the NCAA Basketball Championship Game
- June, 2007 -- The Cleveland Cavaliers lose to the San Antonio Spurs in the National Basketball Association Finals
- October, 2007 -- The Cleveland Indians lose to the Boston Red Sox in the Major League Baseball American League Championship Series.
You can tell a lot about a city by its airport(s). I recently traveled to Europe and witnessed this firsthand. In Atlanta’s Hartsfield airport, where I had a three-hour layover, I could wander the concourses, shop for clothes, grab a quick meal from one of 100 restaurants, browse in several bookstores, and surf the net throughout the Wi-Fi enabled facilities. In Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport, where I had a two-hour layover, I could order a baguette, buy some fromage, and wander the futuristic concourses and marvel at the architectural wonder of a building that, in fact, looks like an airplane. In Columbus, Ohio, my departure and termination point, I could surf the net in the five-foot-by-five-foot Wi-Fi enabled zone called Wai Fai Beach, complete with plastic palm tree, eat stale nachos at the Buckeye Hall of Fame Café, and buy an Ohio State Buckeyes – 2002 National Championship t-shirt. We take our Buckeyes seriously in these parts. It’s all we’ve got. That, and corn, and insurance salesmen.
It’s been a tough year to be a Buckeye and a Cleveland sports fan. I have a degree from The Ohio State University, but I was in my mid-twenties and had already graduated a couple times from other colleges before I showed up on campus, so I never really viewed my OSU years as part of my true college experience. I worked full time, went to classes, and drove home. Maybe that explains my ambivalence toward the spectacle that is Ohio State sports. I have witnessed the phenomenon of middle-aged women dressing up in cheerleader uniforms in corporate America, shaking their pompoms in the midst of the cubicle farm, and leading the faithful programmers and software architects and project managers in a rousing rendition of the Buckeye Battle Cry. “O H,” one side of the cubicle farm chanted. “I O,” the other side chanted back. It was one of the more surreal moments of my life.
But I have been touched by the madness as much as anyone. I grew up in Columbus, where toddlers are taught to venerate the memory of the legendary football coach St. Woody Hayes, and where two-time (and the only two-time, mind you) Heisman Trophy Winner Archie Griffin is mentioned in the same breath as Abe Lincoln and Jesus. I grew up loving the Cleveland Browns, and the Cleveland Indians, and later, after a bout of NBA expansion, the Cleveland Cavaliers. These passions are embedded deep within my DNA. You can’t live here and be unaffected by it. Even the insurance salesmen drop their actuarial tables and turn into raving lunatics on football Saturdays.
And it’s been a bad year to be a Buckeye. We are experiencing the curse of the Boston Red Sox, the major league baseball team that, for decades, was the perennial also-ran – almost always good, but never good enough to win it all. So I suppose that it’s only fitting that the Indians, who had the best record in baseball this year, should be eliminated from the playoffs by the stinking Red Sox.
Four times this year we have been to the borders of the promised land, only to be turned back. Four times, with the most recent ignominy occurring last weekend when the Indians choked, blew a 3 games to 1 advantage, and lost three straight to the Red Sox.
The current Ohio State football team is 8 and 0, and ranked #1 in the country. Do not be fooled. These people will break your heart, guaranteed. Don’t even start to fantasize. It’s not worth it.
The problem is that it’s all we’ve got. It’s either the Buckeyes or stale nachos and Wai Fai Beach. Maybe it’s time to move to Paris.