The 2003 National Championship Game (I)

Looking back now, it’s hard to recapture the complex mix of emotions that gripped Ohio State football fans during the 2002 season, but the story demands that we try to do so.

One of our National Championship Game tickets

The team had made it through an undefeated season relying on a stout, deep, hard-hitting defense led by safety Mike Doss, the tough running of oft-injured, talkative, controversial freshman sensation Maurice Clarett, and the careful and clutch quarterbacking of Craig Krenzel.  The Buckeyes had eked out hard-fought, nailbiter wins against Cincinnati, Wisconsin, Penn State, Purdue (thanks to the “Holy Buckeye!” play), Illinois (in overtime), and finally Michigan.  The team had stared defeat squarely in the face on multiple occasions but had, somehow, always come out on top.

Running the table during the regular season was great . . . but the national media didn’t give the Buckeyes much credit.  Some called them the “Luckeyes” and argued that they had barely beaten mediocre opponents.  And the team that the Buckeyes would be playing in the national championship game would be the formidable Miami Hurricanes, possessors of an unbelievable 34-game winning streak.  Miami had crushed Nebraska in the 2002 BCS National Championship game, and they were the overwhelming favorites to pulverize the Buckeyes in the 2003 game.  And while Ohio State fans professed confidence, there was a strong undercurrent of nervous concern.  Ohio State’s defense looked awfully strong, but what if the Big Ten offenses were just weak that year?  If Ohio State fell behind Miami, how could the run-oriented offense possibly catch up?  Could the game quickly turn into an embarrassing blowout?

So, Ohio State fans had to make a decision on whether to go to the game or not.  It would, of course, be a costly exercise to get tickets and travel to and from Tempe, Arizona.  But it also would be the first time the Buckeyes would play for the national championship since 1968, when I was 11 years old.  Who knew whether it would ever happen again?  Even if there was a chance of humiliation at the hands of the Hurricanes (and their fans), there also were other, more important considerations at play — like really supporting your team, and putting your money where your mouth is, and perhaps having a chance to share in what would no doubt be a sweet, always-to-be-cherished memory of an historic triumph.

So, Russell and I decided to put all fears aside and give it a go.

The Leaves Begin To Turn

Kish and I took Penny on our early morning walk this Labor Day, 2010.  The weather has grown a bit cooler, and last night we slept with windows open and enjoyed the fresh air.  This morning the temperature was probably in the 50s as we strolled along beneath overcast skies.

As we walked, I noticed that the leaves on many of the trees are just starting to turn.  The bright green is beginning to leach from the leaves on the many trees lining Ogden Woods Boulevard.  The phenomenon gives the leaves a curious two-tone, skeletal appearance.  The tree at the northwest corner of our house, on the other hand, already is dotted with bright yellow leaves, and in some places you see leaves on the ground.

September is among the most beautiful months in central Ohio.  The weather tends to be warm, dry, and clear during the day, with cool evenings, and the turning leaves add bright flashes of red and yellow to accent the green surroundings.  Soon we will be heading into sweater weather.

Tough Times On Labor Day

Times are tough on this Labor Day.  You can’t pick up a newspaper or visit a news website without seeing discouraging reports on employment, manufacturing, housing, and other economic indicators.  Labor Day marks the traditional end of summer and beginning of autumn — which means that the “Recovery Summer” has come and gone, with nary a recovery in sight.

What does it all mean?  Different observers are reaching fundamentally different conclusions.  This writer thinks our economic problems are attributable to the fact that American workers are not as unionized as their European counterparts and are powerless to stop capitalist employers from taking advantage of a bad job market.  This writer thinks we need to cut taxes and cut regulations that may be hindering small business growth and job creation.  Others say we need to cut government spending before the American economy becomes permanently crippled by unsustainable levels of government debt.  In direct contrast, still others, like this columnist, urge the government to engage in even more stimulus spending.

It seems that the only thing everyone can agree on this Labor Day 2010 is that there is no consensus on how to proceed.  This may be a good thing, however.  We have an election coming up, and Americans will be presented with political choices that reflect different economic philosophies.  With no “expert” consensus to bludgeon them, I think the average American will fall back on their common sense and be guided by their own experiences in deciding how to vote.  The collective decision-making of average Americans, acting on their own common sense and practical experience, have tended to serve America well in the past.