The world of literature is filled with redemption tales. From ancient mythology to the stories of the Bible, from medieval narratives to modern novels, the basic contours of a redemption story plot have proven to be irresistible: the hero does something terrible, is tormented by his misdeed and seeks atonement, and must face some incredible challenge in order to redeem himself and wipe the slate clean. Sometimes the hero successfully meets the challenge, and sometimes he doesn’t.
In Greek mythology, perhaps the most famous redemption tale is that of Heracles (Hercules, in its Romanized form). Hera, the queen of the gods, hated Heracles because he was the son of her husband Zeus, kind of the gods, and Alcmene, a mortal princess who Zeus had tricked and seduced. Heracles’ presence therefore was a constant reminder to Hera of Zeus’ extraordinary and never-ending infidelity and philandering. To punish Heracles, Hera caused him to go mad–and in the throes of madness Heracles killed his wife and children.
When the madness lifted and Heracles realized with horror what he had done, he sought guidance from the famous oracle at Delphi, which advised that he must go into the service of King Eurystheus in order to atone for the murders. The King then required Heracles to complete a dozen seemingly impossible tasks requiring immense physical strength, stamina, extraordinary fortitude, and intelligence and guile, besides. The tasks included slaying the nine-headed Hydra, cleaning the colossal (and filthy) Augean cattle stables in a single day, and bringing the three-headed dog Cerberus, the guardian of the gates of hell, up from the underworld. Heracles completed all of the labors and was thereby redeemed.
Tonight we will see how another redemption story plays out. The Ohio State Buckeyes seek redemption in the College Football Playoff semifinal game after a disastrous second-half performance against Michigan a month ago. To start on the road to redemption, the Buckeyes don’t need to slay the Hydra, but they instead must defeat the mighty and top-ranked Georgia Bulldogs, a three-headed powerhouse on defense, offense, and special teams. Rather than 12 labors, the Buckeyes will need to play a complete game of four quarters of tough, disciplined, hardnosed football, block and tackle, avoid penalties, execute under great pressure, go toe-to-toe with a great and talented team, and perhaps bring some guile and misdirection into play as well.
It’s a plotline as old as time, and we’ll be rooting that the Buckeyes–like Heracles–meet the challenges before them so that redemption lies ahead. Go Bucks!