Sooner or later it happens to every Ohio State fan. One fall Saturday, as the first notes of Le Regiment de Sambre et Meuse rise through Ohio Stadium, the crowd begins to go crazy. Yes, you've seen Script Ohio before but this time it is different. Your blood begins to boil as waves of emotion and excitement pulse through your veins. Cheers emit from deep within as a proud senior band member high steps to his position at the top of the letter "i", removes his hat, takes a deep bow, spins and does it again.
Voices suddenly rise into the air and you find yourself singing "Across the Field." You didn't even know you knew the words yet they come out perfect.
Then it happens. The chimes of Orton Hall echo through the stands yielding to the Alma Matter. By this time, you can no longer sing. The words get stuck in your throat and your eyes are welling up with tears. You adjust your sunglasses, pretend you've got something stuck in your eye, anything to hide the fact that raw emotions have taken control.
It is about this time that you look over at your buddy only to realize that he too is suddenly wearing his sunglasses and looking the other way as he uncomfortably rubs his eyes with his shirt sleeve. And you're not alone. The woman in front of you, a man four or five seats down…you suddenly notice that throughout the entire stadium, a transcendent moment has taken hold.
Then, suddenly, you are pulled out of it as the 100,000 people sing the last line of the Alma Matter-"Oooo---Hiiii---Oooo.
It is at that moment you realize that you are part of something much bigger. As you stand before this field of honor, this field where glorious young men have risen to their great moment in history, you understand that as an Ohio State fan, you are part of that great tradition that is Ohio State Football.
On those fall Saturday's, the men of Ohio State go forward under the proud shadow of seven Heisman Trophies, six Lambardi Trophies, four Maxwell Trophies, and four Outland trophies. Meanwhile, our opponents from that school up north can only claim three Heisman's, and two Maxwell Trophies.
While yes, UM has a bigger stadium, what good is it when it is only half full. What good is the largest stadium in the country when the fans can't even be moved to stand up for what they term "key" plays in the game, only to find that if they do stand, the yells to sit down will be quick to follow. What kind of football tradition boasts fans that can barely raise the volume in their beloved "Big House" above a mild cheer?
It is almost as though UM fans barely understand the word tradition. They look on in wonder as they try to grasp the Ohio State fan eventually retreating from their envy in a bastion of smug remarks and refrained detachment.
Meanwhile, Ohio Stadium is sold out, every game, to crowds with the potential to shake the earth. Every Saturday, a sea of scarlett, 100,000 strong, packs The Shoe to a standing room only capacity that won't leave until the final gun sounds. And it's not only the stadium, or even Columbus. The entire state of Ohio comes together for those three hours as their "Eleven Warriors" wage battle continuing this glorious football tradition.
Ohio State Football is a tradition that continues to grow. Since the dawn of Coach Tressel, we have entered a great Renascence in Ohio State football. From the singing of the Alma Mater moments after winning the BCS National Championship to the historic game that we will witness tomorrow, these are great moments for the ever-evolving tradition that is Ohio State Football.
And yes, tomorrow's game will be historic. Expect Ohio State to enter calm, prepared and confident in the face of this monumental moment. Coach Tressel will have his team prepared and they will hit hard and hit often.
Look for a hard fought game but Michigan will be quickly surprised and on their heels before they know it. Once down, they will find it very difficult to come back.
MICHIGAN HAS ALWAYS HAD IT EASY when asked to justify its tradition. The most victories, all-time. The best winning percentage, all time. The fight song declared best by none other than John Phillips Sousa. The largest stadium in the country. The most distinctive helmets and appealing uniforms. Three Heismans, eleven national championships, and more Big Ten championships than any team. Not incidentally, Michigan also has a tremendous lead in the all-time series against Ohio State.
And so forth and so on unto eternity. It would be easy to rattle off a list of facts, cherry-pick and fluff the ones that favor Michigan, downplay the ones that favor Ohio State, and call it a day. Without seeing my esteemed opponent's contribution, I can assure you that that's what he's done. It's just the natural way to do these things. I guarantee you the column on the other side of the page contains the following:
--A shot at Michigan's overall leads in everything, declaring them "ancient history."
--The establishment of some sort of arbitrary window in which Ohio State has more of something.
--OMG LOL Tressel OWNZ Carr.
This is the way of things. But it's not relevant, no more than those leads Michigan has in everything. It's not the truth.
The truth? The truth is that Michigan and Ohio State need each other. Believe me, I hate to admit it - I'm typing this poised over the sink in case the gagging becomes too much for my stomach - but it's true. Like Republicans and Democrats, we need the alien other to irrationally hate. We need to push against them as they push back, lest we fall over. And despite the fact that I have solid information that my esteemed colleague has sexytime with bunny rabbits before consuming their still-living flesh, his existence gives me something to battle against, and thereby his sordid, wretched life is imbued with meaning.
Yes, there are others to battle. Michigan has a lot of rivals. Ask virtually anyone in the Big Ten. But Michigan does not define itself in terms of Wisconsin or Illinois or even Michigan State and Notre Dame. Either of those schools could be teleported to Estonia tomorrow and Michigan football would continue on unperturbed. We could find a suitable non-conference opponent to replace Notre Dame, though they could not replicate the Domers' quaint belief that college football exists solely for the glorification of the Irish. We could play Central or Western or Temple or whoever in place of State, though they could not be as hilariously implosion-prone. Nevertheless, life would go on.
Suddenly remove Ohio State and Michigan staggers. There is no replacement. Unopposed, they trip forward into a void of meaninglessness. Who does Desmond win his Heisman against? Who does Woodson dominate en route to the National Championship? What is the bright star in Tim Biakabutuka's career? Who is Sauron in Mordor? Who do we play at the end of the year? In short, what the hell is the point?
I'm sure that in-between drinking the blood of newborns, constructing puppy catapults, and fiercely... uh... contemplating their shrines to... uh... Woody, Ohio State fans have their versions of these questions, albeit with a suspicious 13-year gap spanning the late 80s and most of the 90s and a lot more "durrrrrr" inserted at random intervals. I could not tell you what their equivalent is since I do not recall any Buckeye victories since 1968, but Lord knows they wouldn't know what to do without Michigan. They'd have to focus their hatred on some other state (No, Buckeye fans, "Canada" is not a state, and neither is "WOOOOOOO BEER!!!"), but it wouldn't be the same. That State Out East? That State Down South? Doesn't have the same ring.
Michigan is defined by Ohio State. Ohio State is defined by Michigan. Their tradition, their best tradition, is each other.