Them’s Fightin’ Words, Buckeye Nut

brutus2

Fall is my favorite time of year for many reasons. I won’t roll out clichés about apple cider and the “chill in the air.” I’ll just say it’s almost the perfect season. Now you’re asking, “Why almost?”

Here’s my answer: football. “Why football?”  Because it’s poison ivy in my big pile of beautiful autumn leaves. I don’t dislike the actual competition, which is often exciting. And I actually prefer watching American football to real football (soccer).

My issue is with the unavoidable accessories that accompany the actual competition.  I could write a dozen blog posts on these accessories, none of which I ordered with the base model. They extend from puerile television commercials, to the misguided and crooked college scholarship system, to certain leagues that blackball socially conscious players and try to squirm out of concussion lawsuits.

This doesn’t bother most people.  They munch, guzzle, high-five each other, and conduct loud one-way conversations with the TV screen oblivious to the accessories.  But I’m a sensitive sort, who ponders stuff way more than is healthy, so they bother me.

But I’ll just concentrate on one sports accessory in particular: haughtiness. And this haughtiness hits close to home (literally, to use my daughter’s favorite word). Specifically, the haughtiness of one particular college football organization: the Ohio State Buckeyes.leaves

I know of whence I speak. I’ve lived in Ohio for 54 of my 61 years. Just wrote a blog series brandishing my Ohio connection. Grew up in a town that had an Ohio State (OSU) branch campus. My mom and in-laws were successfully treated at the OSU medical center in Columbus. Got a brother and sister-in-law who went to the main campus. Heck, got a wife who went there.

One would think these circumstances would render me an OSU fan. However…my DNA double helix was long ago constructed such that when anything is shoved down my throat, and whereas most people swallow with gratitude, I always gag.

Okay, I get that chest-thumping is part and parcel of college athletics, and a fun and usually harmless activity. Maybe it’s even healthy (a refreshing diversion from Powerpoint presentations, anyway). My father and daughter graduated from Pennsylvania State University (literally). That school chest-thumps with We Are Penn State! Note the crucial exclamation point.

Ohio State, on the other hand, has several thumping gestures, one of which is THE Ohio State University. Note the emphasis on THE, always Biblically pronounced thee. The school was founded in 1870 with this word article intentionally in front. But when certain partisans emphasize that first word, sometimes like a weapon, the implication is that Ohio has only one legitimate public university (which, of course, is patently false). Otherwise, why would this insignificant article even matter?football

In my opinion, the emphasis on this word goes beyond mere chest thumping and spills into unmitigated haughtiness.

I may as well now reveal the chief source of my grievance: I attended Ohio University (OU). OU is located about an hour’s drive southeast of that other school with the ‘S’ in the middle, in a small town called Athens. It is a much smaller school: 17,000 main campus undergraduates compared to OSU’s 47,000. It has a much smaller endowment: 569 million compared to 5.2 billion. And a much smaller football program. We play in the Mid-American Conference (MAC), not the Big Ten (which should actually be Big Twelve, or maybe it’s up to 13…I can’t keep track).

map ohio

Ohio University is located in one of the most scenic parts of Ohio, and for years our main claim to fame was that we were one of the top party schools in the nation (ranked #1 by Princeton Review eight years ago…not bragging, just saying). Although we have a great athletic program, OU is not what might be termed a sports powerhouse. Beer drinking powerhouse, yes.  But sports is not the biggest thing on OU’s radar. So this “THE Ohio State University” crap—at least in a sports context and delivered in the presence of a graduate of a different public university in Ohio—is personal.

How did this ridiculous trend of OSU emphasizing “THE” begin, anyway? Can I get some love here, people? As you’ll soon see, my figurative Napoleon complex is entirely justified.

Founded in 1804, my school of Ohio University has used the abbreviation “OHIO” since 1896. In 1993, we trademarked that nickname for merchandising purposes. OHIO is on our apparel, flags, bumper stickers, and other licensed merchandise. But in 1997, Ohio State challenged our trademarked nickname/logo. Evidently, “Ohio State” and “OSU” weren’t good enough. The Buckeye nuts wanted the whole enchilada, including “OHIO.” Why? Haughtiness, of course.

During the acrimonious legal dispute, the two school presidents got together, probably over some 3.2 beer on High Street in Columbus. Surprisingly, OSU’s titular head eventually saw the light and admitted his corporation—I mean school—was being silly. So, my school, which was founded 66 years before Ohio State popped out via C-section (it was too large for natural childbirth), was able to retain its nickname OHIO. It’s still on my forest-green sweatshirt. I continue to wear it in public, and I haven’t been arrested.

Just as in the real world…just as in Washington and elsewhere…here was a classic tale of Goliath wanting to beat up David. And this time—which seldom happens—David prevailed.

Battle Of David And Goliath

“Go, Go, Go-liath!” Seriously? (vecteezy.com)

(David and Goliath stories always spike my blood pressure. It’s probably why I’m a liberal Democrat…the old-fashioned kind, anyway.)

You know where this is leading, right? Chewing on their sour grapes, the sword-wielding children up there at Ohio State had to save face somehow. And that’s why that corporation—I mean school—in Columbus and its football scholarship jocks feel the need to emphasize the article “The.” Sour grapes. End of story. I think.

NEWSFLASH: I just learned that THE Ohio State University recently tried to trademark the article “THE.” This is not a joke. Evidently they have lots of time on their hands. However, they failed in this ludicrous attempt as well. Laughed out of the courtroom. Thou failest, Thee Ohio State University.

Maybe that school should next try to trademark the colors red (they haughtily call it “scarlet”) and grey.

***

So this is why my Buckeye-nut wife threatens to divorce me every fall when the traditional Ohio State-Michigan rivalry game comes around. Even though I don’t utter a word, much less watch the game, she knows I’m secretly pulling for, as Ohio State fans refer to them, “that team up north.” Not because I particularly like Michigan, but because, for me, rooting for Ohio State is like drinking skunky beer.

All kidding aside, OSU, Michigan, and Penn State are top-ranked public research institutions which annually churn out high-achieving graduates (as does OU). Athletically, Michigan football ranks first in NCAA history. Ohio State is one of only two schools to win men’s football and basketball championships the same year. Penn State has more overall NCAA Division I championships than any Big Ten school.

And my school? The humble, green-and-white Ohio University Bobcats down in lil ole Athens County? Win, lose, draw, or game cancellation…doesn’t matter. We’ll find a reason to be on Court Street and party at the Cat’s Den.

OU

8 thoughts on “Them’s Fightin’ Words, Buckeye Nut

  1. Ahahahaha this made me laugh! As a cat person I’m partial to any place with a bobcat mascot. I live in the town where I went to college, where everyone is a football fan. Except me.

    • I’m guessing Tuscaloosa? I like U of A only because they published my first book! Our family are big Penn State fans (another cat mascot), although I don’t usually watch the games. My dad saw every game he could catch!

      • You guessed right, though I miss-stated since I actually live in the woods outside the town. But it’s still pretty much like living there. Uh, Roll Tide! LOL. I did have some great professors and to me that’s what counts. BTW I have your Evergreen Dreaming, will read when I get some time.

  2. Peter: totally get your outrage and disdain for OSU’s use of the definite article ‘the’. It’s just a contraction of ‘the one and only’, a true illustration of haughtiness. But consider the poor situation of the Ukrainians. For years they were the residents of The Ukraine, a territory of the USSR. But now, they have been demoted to the more diminutive status of residents of Ukraine. How can it feel? Especially when they are being asked to check out marauding American politicians? It is to weep.
    Personally I think OU is the place to be, no THE place to be.

    • Hey Phil…just like Green Acres, OU certainly IS the place to be! Holmes County, Ohio, which we just visited and is filled with Amish-Mennonites, is also very nice, scenery-wise. Regarding The or “not The” Ukraine, I’ll talk to my sister-in-law, whose family is Ukrainian. Like my brother, she’s also an OSU grad. She’s a successful doctor, so she’s proof that OSU isn’t ALL about football!

  3. CB loves sports. People up here in hockey land do not get the extent of the football mindset south of the border. You just gave a great example.
    Your third paragraph is why I don’t indulge. The flow of the game was removed years ago for me. Let the boys play and get rid of all the money grabbing, commercials, adds for bad TV etc.My brain just can’t take all that mindless stimuli.
    Just watched the Rugby World Cup. What a throwback sporting event that was. No commercials. Running time with momentum changes throughout. Fantastic.
    I still tune into the pigskin once in a while. It’s the sports lover in me. Good piece Pete and I get your attraction and loyalty. Enjoy! Go Huskies. Have to cheer for my southern neighbor. (Ever watch a CFL game?)

    • Hi CB. No, never saw a CFL game. I like the Huskies, too, and have all the trading cards of ex-Husky, ex-Dallas Cowboy QB Steve Pelluer (it was an eccentric diversion of mine long ago).

      These days the only sports I watch with any regularity are men’s tennis and alpine skiing. I just can’t handle all the silly “accessories” of the other sports anymore.

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