Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Year of the Runner Up

  • 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 CafĂ©, 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.


woodsmeister said...

Of all of the above, the Indians loss is by far the most painful for me, having grown up in Akron and having followed the team since the mid-70s.

Just another sucker punch to the gut. I should be used to it by now, but each one seems progressively more painful, I guess in proportion to the hope I have that this is finally going to be the year.

I'm 42 years old, and the last time a Cleveland team won a championship of any kind I was 6 weeks old (64 Browns).

Anonymous said...

Not sure how you let the Sox off the hook on that one. As far as the Buckeyes go it seems like this football is getting stronger and stronger every week. Mich State wouldn't have even scored last week except your offense decided to help them.

The only thing I fear is that Wisconsin will rise up to beat you....Just kidding of course and yes I am a Badger fan. Best of luck to you guys this year and this time finish it correctly...

Karen said...

i don't get the hysteria, either. seriously. it boggles my mind that people would get this into a sport, let alone football. it's one thing to enjoy sports, what columbus does is a whole other level.

i still like to wear my U of M shirt on the "big day" just to piss people off. :D

mg said...

karen, i don't think it's hysteria. most of these people grew up in columbus and/or graduated from OSU. i know for me ohio state is a great tradition in football and in academics. you can ask sara...i didn't become a fan until i went to school there.

andy, i am nervous about osu's next 4 games. this has been a season of upsets, and i keep thinking that our time could come at any moment. if we are going to lose, i would rather we lose now as opposed to, say, the national championship though. i am optimistic in coach tressel. regardless of whether or not we win a championship this year, or come close, he is a great coach and has given us many many wins over the years.

Andy Whitman said...

You know, I will probably jeopardize my central Ohio residency by admitting this, but I've seen all of about 30 minutes of Ohio State football this fall. Thanks to the Big 10 Network, I missed the first two games, we had a prior commitment for Game 3, we were in Italy for the following 3 Saturdays, and I caught about half of the Michigan State game this past Saturday.

So I really can't say what kind of team the Buckeyes are fielding this year. I have a hard time believing that they'll be a serious title contender given all the losses from last year's team, but hey, they're 8 and 0. We'll see what shakes out over the next four games, three of which I will again miss because of prior commitments.

mg said...

i have a superstition this year that OSU is winning because i'm not watching or listing to the games. we went to the game on saturday and i watched 3 quarters of it (up to the point where michigan state scored 2 touchdowns) and then we left. it would appear that my superstition held true because OSU still won.

we'll see how they do against penn state this weekend when i don't listen to or watch the game.

Andy Whitman said...

So that was you, huh? I bet you watched the National Championship game against Florida game last year, too.

If the Buckeyes happen to make it that far, we'll be forced to kidnap you, blindfold your eyes, and tie you to a chair to keep you from watching the 2008 National Championship game.

mg said...

yep, that's me.

and yep, i did watch the entire national championship last year (although i didn't want to after the 1st quarter).

personally, i think it only is in effect for this season. who knows if it will work next season?

but yes, if the buckeyes continue to win...i will continue to support them by not watching.

Brian Estabrook said...

On the other hand, it could be good karma for the Blue Jackets.

Karen said...

i have a superstition this year that OSU is winning because i'm not watching or listing to the games.

and you say it's not hysteria?


just scott said...

ah...god bless those sox :) i can't proclaim to be a "die-hard" fan, but my aunt and uncle have lived there for 30 years, and I always had a penchant for cincy teams as opposed to cleveland. something about being oppositionally defiant towards dad, lol. that, and ive always followed schilling around wherever he is, so he sure hasn't done me wrong.

e said...

Yeah, we come in second in the national sports scene (though the vast majority of "great" teams never even make it that far).

But Paris? The French don't just come in second in major sporting events (Zidane's bald head...?), they also need outside help in every major conflict they've engaged in since Napoleon (WWI, WWII, Vietnam, etc.).

I'm not sure where you find constant "winners," but with a 1000 year empire to their credit, Rome seems as good a place to start as any. Or Cairo.

scott said...

It's been a "tough year" to be an Ohio sports fan? That's true only if you only find pleasure if your favorite teams win championships.
LeBron and the rest of the Cavs managed to get to the NBA championship.
27 other major league baseball teams would have loved the opportunity get to play the seventh game of a league championsip series. As a 52-year old - who has a shrine to the 1964 Cleveland Browns in his basement - I remember 30-plus years where the Indians finished last or next to last every stinking year. When the Browns reported to training camp, I stopped paying attention to the Tribe. The Indians had a great team this year, who, when push came to shove, blew their opponents away and cruised to the American League Central Division title. They had a lot of exciting young talent come up this year, and acquired a crafty old veteran in Kenny Lofton who played his heart out down the stretch. We had Octboer baseball in Cleveland -and took a series from the Yankees. That's not "tough." That's pretty damn good.
As for OSU, how many universities would kill to get to the national champioship games in both basketball and football in the same year (OK, all but one other school). Both of OSU's teams had spectacular talent, were well-coached, and gave us many great memories as they got to those championship games. That's not tough. That's pretty damn good too.
And besides, if you want championships, then go over to Alliance and check out Mount Union's football team? They've won the Division 3 NCAA Football Championship the last two years - and in several more before that.
2007 has been a great year for sports in Ohio!!!!

Anonymous said...

In the midst of the hysteria, Andy, the HR department at our company not only (strongly) encouraged us to wear scarlet and gray to work (oops, somehow I missed that memo and dressed in my normal black,) but we also had to play OSU cornhole. Not so sure it's hysteria. I tend to think of it as an infection. :o)


Anonymous said...

our arena football team the destroyers also came in second to the san jose team. i would rather play and be second than not play in the championship game
matt gordon

Anonymous said...


Which championship game did you play in?

Anonymous said...

hey anon. great rhetorical question. such a funny man with a strong position but forgot to post your name. how did that happen?

though i have not played in the games mentioned on this thread, i have been on high school teams that almost went to state championships in cross-country and track. been on intramural teams at osu that have won and placed second. was once a recreational weekend warrior who would much rather play for the chance to win and experience defeat than not play at all. that can be as a player or fan as well.