Marcus Hall’s Middle Fingers

During last week’s Ohio State-Michigan game, a brawl broke out after a kickoff return.  Senior OSU offensive lineman Marcus Hall participated in the melee and was ejected.

Frustrated because he wouldn’t be able to play in his last game against Ohio State’s arch-rival, Hall threw his helmet, kicked the Ohio State bench, and was escorted to the locker room.  While still on camera as he entered the tunnel — and no doubt being booed and razzed by Michigan fans — Hall suddenly flashed the middle finger from both hands.

The reaction to the double-barreled gesture has been interesting.  The next day Hall apologized to “The Ohio State University, The University of Michigan, my teammates, my family, the fans and the TV viewing audience for my behavior during yesterday’s game.”  Hall said “I let my emotions get the best of me and didn’t conduct myself properly in the heat of the moment” and added:  “From the bottom of my heart, I am truly sorry and hope everyone can accept my sincere apology.”

Hall properly recognized that making an obscene gesture on national TV doesn’t reflect well on him as a person; to his credit, he apologized and took the blame.  Other Ohio State fans, however, seem to be celebrating Hall’s obscene gesture.  You see some fans chuckling about it, saying it captures their feelings about Ohio State’s great rival, and people have even made Hall’s gesture into their computer screensavers and, apparently, shirts where Hall’s upraised arms and fingers as he left the field form the “H” in the familiar “O-H-I-O” Buckeye salute.

This sort of crass fan reaction is embarrassing to me and should be embarrassing to other members of Buckeye Nation.  Hall’s actions were improper, but they were the impulsive act of a young man whose emotions were running high.  There’s no similar excuse for fans who are acting like Hall’s gesture was a great moment in Ohio State history.  I was taught that obscene gestures — whether flashed from a driver’s seat or on the football field — reflect ignorance, lack of self-control, and inability to express oneself in an acceptable way. The right way to root against Michigan is to cheer like crazy for the Buckeyes and boo the Wolverines — not get into fights or launch obscenities or obscene gestures.

I believe in sportsmanship.  The one-fingered salute is not funny, or “edgy.”  It’s pathetic, and the positive reaction to Hall’s conduct by some Ohio State fans makes them look like  ill-educated jerks.  I’d like to think that the Buckeye Nation is better than that.

One For The Ages

In a rivalry filled with memorable games, this year’s version of The Game has to be one of the greatest ever.  Back and forth, with the game ending on a thwarted effort by Michigan to get a two-point conversion and spring a stunning upset.  But Ohio State’s defense, which had been gashed repeatedly during the day, finally made a play, Tyvis Powell knocked down the pass, and the Buckeyes hung on to win.

IMG_1829This was the kind of game that makes the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry the greatest rivalry in college sports.  Michigan ran just about every play in their playbook, their much-maligned offensive line held up, and Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner was a warrior who played a virtually flawless game.  He never quit, and neither did the Wolverine coaching staff.  Michigan just kept coming, and coming, and coming.  They gained more than 600 yards — 600 yards! — and were clicking on all cylinders.  I give great credit to the Michigan team, from the head coach on down, for developing a near-perfect game plan and showing what this rivalry is all about.

Fortunately for me and other Pepto-Bismol-guzzling members of Buckeye Nation, the Wolverines had no answer for the Ohio State offense.  For the Buckeyes, the accolades must start with the offensive line.  The Buckeyes front wall pushed the Michigan defensive line around like a precision lawnmowing team, and Carlos Hyde and Braxton Miller took full advantage.  The Buckeyes ran for 393 yards — 393 yards! — and Carlos Hyde rumbled for the most yards ever by an OSU running back against the Wolverines.  I was especially glad to see Carlos Hyde, who has been a monster, bounce back from his fumble to score the winning touchdown.

So, the Buckeyes’ winning streak continues.  The pundits can talk all they want about style points, and we can worry about that porous defense next week.  For tonight, Columbus and Ohio and Buckeye lovers everywhere will breathe a sigh of relief and crack open a cold one.  The Buckeyes won against their great rival, stay in the hunt for a BCS title game spot, and move on to the Big Ten championship game next weekend.  That’s good enough for me.

It’s Michigan Week! (II)

I would call the rivalry between Ohio State and Michigan during the week of The Game a friendly rivalry — except it really isn’t.  Deep down, every Buckeyes fan wants to crush Michigan like a cockroach.  We want to punish them, humiliate them, and leave them wailing forlornly to their misbegotten gods. Michigan fans share this perspective.

But, since we aren’t fighting with broadswords, we need to make do with humor.  When I was a kid, and Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler were fighting the 10-Year War, the battle was waged with bumper stickers.  I remember one of the Michigan bumper stickers said:  “Save Fuel.  Burn Woody!”  And I thought — boy, Michigan fans are about as funny as, say, Jerry Lewis during the MDA telethon.

The Ohio side of the humor equation, however, isn’t appreciably better.  Consider these two representative efforts:

1.  “A University of Michigan fan walks into a doctor’s office and removes his hat to reveal a frog sitting on his head. The doctor asks, ‘How can I help you?’ The frog replies, ‘I was wondering if you could help me get this wart off my butt.’”

2.  “Two University of Michigan grads are laughing it up on their way into a bar.  The bartender asks:  ‘Hey, why are you guys so happy?’  One of the Wolverines says, ‘Well, to be honest with you, we’re proud of ourselves.  We just finished a puzzle in a week, and when we were done we noticed the box said 4 to 6 years.’”

In Ohio, we try to make our statements on the football field.

It’s Michigan Week!

On Saturday, Ohio State will play Michigan in the annual renewal of the greatest rivalry in sports.  Each year, Michigan Week is a much-anticipated time, when every member of Buckeye Nation focuses anew on The Game.

But here at Webner House, we are also about education.  And today, we’re interested in learning about Michigan’s mascot, the Wolverine.  It looks like a deranged skunk, and it’s a member of the weasel family.  So far, it seems like an appropriate mascot for Michigan, all right.  But what about other attributes of the animal?  Specifically, does a Wolverine have any kind of special odor?

Imagine our surprise when we learned that, according to environmentalgraffiti.com, the wolverine is one of the seven smelliest creatures in the world — right there between the bombardier beetle, which shoots a stinky combination of liquid and gas from its rear end, and the musk ox, which has exceptionally smelly urine.  The website explains about wolverines: “They’re seldom seen by humans, but they’re frequently smelled. Like most members of the weasel family, the wolverine has glands that it secretes fluid from to mark its territory. The musky scent is supposed to be very unpleasant, and has given the wolverine the colourful nicknames of ‘skunk bear’ and ‘nasty cat’.”

It’s official — even environmentalists think the Wolverines stink!

Being A “Visitor”

Today Kish and I are going with friends to West Lafayette, Indiana to watch the Ohio State-Purdue game.  We’ll be the “visitors” you see mentioned on the scoreboard.

I’m looking forward to the prospect of being a “visitor.”  Until today, my college football experience as a visiting fan has been limited to several trips I’ve made to see the Buckeyes play Michigan up in Ann Arbor — and I’m not sure that such a rivalry game tell you much about the “visitor” experience.

IMG_5276I first went up to Ann Arbor as a high school student in the ’70s, Michigan won, and one of the happy Wolverine fans stole my Ohio State hat and ran away after the game was over.  Stealing a hat from a high school kid seems like a pretty cheap stunt to me, but it’s just another reason why it’s not hard for me to hate Michigan with every fiber of my being whenever we play That School Up North.

I think I’ve been to Ann Arbor four times.  Ohio State won twice and lost twice, and each time the experience was pretty much the some — lots of (mostly) good-natured razzing, some angry, obscene comments, reasonably good behavior by all concerned once you sit in the stands, and always that slight hint of potential personal danger lurking right around the corner.  You have to stay alert for an abrupt change in the vibes coming from the fans around you.

I’m not expecting today’s atmosphere to be as charged as an Ohio State-Michigan game, but I’ll keep my eyes open — and a hand firmly on my hat.

Like Pilgrims In An Unholy Land

Here’s another little example of how the internet has made the world a better place.

We wanted to find a bar where we could watch the Buckeyes play Penn State last night.  But we were in Michigan, of course, and therefore were like pilgrims in an unholy land.  Walking into any randomly selected bar and openly rooting for Ohio State seemed like a bad, and potentially reckless, idea.

IMG_5222So we used our iPhones to google “Ohio State bar in Detroit,”  and found Hi-Tops Ten & One Half, just down Woodward Avenue in Royal Oaks.  It’s where some diehard Buckeyes meet to drink a few beers and watch Ohio State games on one of the dozens of TVs found around the room.

So, instead of worrying about drawing evil looks from Michigan fans drinking at nearby tables, we were able to watch Ohio State demolish Penn State in comfort, with friendly fellow citizens of Buckeye Nation who shared our interest in seeing the Buckeyes triumph.  High fives were exchanged, OH-IO chants were had, the beer was cold, and the burgers and wings were tasty.  When the game was over, we were happy, well-fed, and well-lubricated pilgrims, girded and ready to reemerge into unholy territory.

The Michigan Question

This week was a bye week for the Ohio State football team, so the Buckeye Nation had to wrestle with deeper, almost philosophical questions — like whether it is ever appropriate to root for Michigan.

Normally, the notion of supporting Michigan would be anathema to most Ohio State fans.  They despise the strutting Wolverines and everything they represent.  Asking purists Buckeyes to root for Michigan would be like asking Ted Cruz to do whatever he can to ensure that “Obamacare” is a great success.

This year, though, the issue is slightly different.  The Buckeyes have won every game, but they haven’t looked particularly impressive in doing so.  And their schedule is weak.  It’s apparent that the Big Ten, top to bottom, just isn’t that good this year, and if Ohio State hopes to play in the BCS championship game it needs some signature wins.  Pragmatists argued that if Michigan goes undefeated then Ohio State would gain credibility by beating them.

The debate between the pragmatists and the purists raged in Columbus this past week.  Alas, it was mooted by yesterday’s results, as the Penn State Nittany Lions beat the Michigan Wolverines in four overtimes, 43-40.  Now everything can go back to normal and Buckeye Nation can root for teams to beat the pants off Michigan every week.