Red Zone Resurgence

As I pointed out last week, the key for Ohio State is to just win, baby.

That doesn’t mean that their fitful offense hasn’t been frustrating.  With so much talent, and the memories of the team’s dominance at the end of last year still fresh in the minds of Buckeye Nation, three-and-outs to the likes of Indiana and Maryland are like fingernails on a chalkboard.

Today, against a game but not particularly talented Maryland team, Ohio State may have started to figure things out.  The adjustment was to start Cardale Jones, but let J.T. Barrett man the helm when the offense entered the red zone.  It worked like a charm.  With Barrett giving the Buckeyes a viable running threat at the QB position, the formerly sputtering Buckeyes went 6-for-6 scoring touchdowns in the red zone — which is more what we all expected when the season began.  Barrett just seems like one of those players who has a nose for the end zone, and having him run the team down close seemed to help Cardale Jones, too.  Jones tossed some beautiful passes today and had one of his best days ever throwing the football, and the Buckeyes spread the ball around to the indomitable Ezekiel Elliott, Braxton Miller, and Michael Thomas and really got into a rhythm in the second half.

I’m not bragging about a 49-28 win over the Terrapins in a game that was tied after Maryland’s first drive in the third quarter, but I am happy that Ohio State put together some good drives and mixed up the run and pass.  The defense got gashed by a running quarterback — again — but the offense is the key to this team.  If Ohio State can get close to the juggernaut that couldn’t be stopped by the likes of Wisconsin, Alabama, and Oregon, the scoring onslaught puts so much pressure on the opponents that it makes the defense that much better.  Ohio State isn’t going to win many 6-3 games this year, but they aren’t going to lose many games where they score more than 40 points, either.

Noon Kickoff Memories

Today the Ohio State Buckeyes play the Maryland Terrapins at noon.  Nowadays, that seems like a weird time for an OSU football game.  It’s so early!  Now, the Buckeyes typically play at 3:30 or at 8:00, under the lights.

But when I first started going to OSU football games in the ’70s, noon was the kickoff time for pretty much every game.  And at our house, where Dad and Mom hosted a gang of clients, colleagues, and family members who were going to the game, the noon kickoff produced a certain rhythm and sameness.

Scarlet-and-gray clad people started arriving at about 8:30.  An Ohio State Marching Band record would be playing on the stereo, and Mom would lay out a buffet of food.  For the hardy souls — and I do mean hardy — Uncle Tony would prepare lethal, translucent Bloody Marys that could end your football Saturday before it really began.  Jim, Aunt Bebe and I would look at Aunt Bebe’s football card, which identified the games you could bet on for the day and their spreads, and Aunt Bebe would consult her season-long Stat-Key information before making her picks. As kickoff time neared, we’d start to hear the motors of the prop planes flying overhead, heading for Ohio Stadium with their advertising banners for pizza or insurance in tow.

We’d nibble at food, listening to the noise level in our split-level house mount as more people arrived and feeling that growing excitement that comes with the knowledge that a game is only hours away and you’re going.  Jim and I were usually responsible for making sure that iced-down coolers of beer and sodas were put in our transportation.  Then the departure time would come, and we’d don our Buckeye Nation gear, pile into a van or RV, and roll from Upper Arlington down to the French Field House parking lot across from the Stadium for some tailgating before game time.

After the game — which usually lasted no more than three hours, because only one or two of Ohio State’s games were televised each season and at the game you didn’t have to wait through a bunch of commercial interruptions — we’d return home, ready to celebrate another Buckeye victory and eat the lavish spread that Mom had set out.  The adults would drink some more, but Jim and I would usually go outside to throw the football around with our neighborhood friends on a crisp autumn afternoon, and there was still plenty of daylight left to do so.  When we came back inside the remaining guests were roaring and red-faced and entertaining in their own right, and usually there would be a late game to watch before the 11:30 start of The Woody Hayes Show rolled around.

College football coaches don’t like noon kickoffs these days.  They want a later kickoff, so visiting recruits can see the campus and spend some time with the current players before the games begin, and I can understand that.  But as a kid, I liked the noon games.  The memories of those games during my teenage years are still very fresh.

JT’s Pizza And Pub

UJ and I have written before about JT’s Pizza, our nephew Joe Hartnett’s business up in the north Columbus area, on Route 161.  It serves great pizza and, in UJ’s view, the best Philly cheese steak sandwich you can get anywhere in the Midwest.

Now JT’s Pizza has acquired the former Bier Stube North bar located right next door and will become JT’s Pizza and Pub, offering both great food and drinks and, from time to time, live entertainment in the location at 2832 West Dublin-Granville Road.  Renovations of the interior and exterior of the building have begun, and the goal is to give the new business more of a neighborhood sports bar vibe and better integrate the backyard and patio into the operation.  A “rebranding and relaunch” of the new business is set for November 7.

Our Dad ran a business, and he would be proud of what Joe has done with JT’s Pizza.  It takes some courage to start a business — statistics tell us that a lot of new start-ups fail within the first year — but Joe has produced tasty products, focused on customer service, paid attention to the bottom line, and grown the business from a shop that prepared pizzas for the bar next door’s patrons to an operation that now offers an extensive menu and has lots of carry-out and delivery customers in addition to providing the food service at the Bier Stube North.  Buying the Bier Stube North and consolidating the operations is a big next step, but it’s also a logical one.  And it all starts with pretty darned good pizza.

So here’s a tip of the cap to JT’s Pizza and Pub and its owner Joe Hartnett, one of those small business owners who take risks, create jobs, and help our economy grow.  If you find yourself in north Columbus with a hankering for a pizza, a Philly cheese steak sub, or a cold adult beverage, stop by JT’s Pizza and Pub, won’t you?

Unfizzed And Unfazed

I can’t even remember the last time I had a full-calorie soda.  It’s a time period that can be measured in decades, and it might stretch back into the mid-1980s.  At some point I switched to diet sodas and then I pretty much stopped drinking sodas altogether.

Apparently I’m not alone.  America is in the midst of a long and significant decline in the consumption of soda generally, and full-calorie soda specifically.  The drop in consumption is having the incidental effect of reducing calorie consumption by kids — but we’ve nevertheless still got a serious obesity problem.  The decline in people guzzling fizzy soft drinks, without a commensurate decline in obesity issues, suggests that sodas can’t bear the entire blame for our country’s tubbiness troubles.

What are Americans drinking instead of sodas?  The article linked above says bottled water sales are jumping, and based on my personal observations I’m guessing that consumption of coffee also has increased.  In fact, Americans who used to satisfy their sweet tooth with a Coke may simply have switched to some high-end, caramel-flavored, whipped-cream-topped coffee concoction — which may also explain why obesity rates haven’t tracked the downward path of soda drinking.

I don’t drink either bottled water or high end coffees.  I long ago decided that some tap water over ice, with a lemon slice, would do me just fine.  It quenches my thirst, cools me down, and has a nice light tartness to it — as well as being cheaper, less fattening, and more environmentally friendly.

To Tip, Or Not To Tip

Lately, it just seems like they are inventing new jobs that create impossible “tip, or don’t tip” scenarios.

IMG_6557Consider the guy who drives the shuttle bus from the long-term parking lot or the rental car office to the airport terminal.  He’s piloting a vehicle that you’re riding in, so he’s sort of like a cab driver.  He’s often lifting luggage and putting it on the inside racks, so he’s sort of like a doorman or bellhop.  Yet most people don’t give a thought to giving the shuttle bus driver a tip, whereas the cabbie, the doorman, and the bellhop all expect to get a gratuity.  Why?

The shuttle bus driver isn’t alone.  What about the folks who work at a cafeteria-like food line who have a jar with “tips” written on it by the cash register?  Are you really supposed to tip them?  I’m not saying their job is unimportant or unappreciated, but after all, they’re not coming to your table to take your order, drop off food, or clear off plates, they’re just spooning your grub into a styrofoam “to go” container.  Why, exactly, do they deserve a tip any more than the dishwasher or cook does?

What about the guys at the “genius” bar at the Apple store?  If they quickly fix your computer so you don’t need to buy a new one, is a tip in order?  What about the friendly kid behind the counter at Starbuck’s who remembers that you always get a grande with a double shot of espresso and caramel?  What about the woman who grooms your dog, or the service technician at the car dealership, or the guy who comes out to hook up your internet or fix the furnace?  When are you supposed to tip, and when not?  Is it all just convention and tradition, or is there something more to it?

The only tipping situation that makes perfectly good sense to me is the hair stylist.  She’s flitting around your head with sharp scissors or, in some instances, a razor, positioned just inches away from the jugular vein.  Of course you want to stay on her good side.  A few extra bucks to keep the stylist happy, and uninclined to plunge a sharp implement into the side of your neck, seems like a wise decision to me.  The rest is a mystery.