The Bloody And Battered Big Ten

Rutgers and Maryland may want to reconsider their decision to join the Big Ten, because apparently the Old Conference really sucks this year.

Saturday, September 6, 2014 was an embarrassing bloodbath for the Big Ten.  The top teams — including, unfortunately, the Buckeyes — all lost convincingly.  Virginia Tech came in, pulverized the overmatched Ohio State offensive line, sacked poor redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett more times than you can count, and came out of the Horseshoe with a tough, physical win.  Kudos to them for a great victory.  Meanwhile, Notre Dame beat the tar out of hapless Michigan, shutting out the Wolverines 31-0 and leaving Brady Hoke looking sweaty and bewildered, as always, on the sideline.  Oregon put on a track meet in the second half and drubbed Michigan State, 46-27.  Purdue got crushed by Central Michigan, and Northern Illinois beat Northwestern.

Even the wins that Big Ten teams racked up yesterday were pretty lame.  Nebraska needed a last-second miracle to beat McNeese State.  Penn State squeaked by Akron, and Minnesota slipped past Middle Tennessee.  Maryland and Rutgers, at least, held up their end of the bargain and won.

The season is young, of course, and I’m hoping that the Buckeyes get better.  They’re young, and without Braxton Miller to energize their offense with his special talents I wasn’t expecting them to contend for a national championship.  But there’s no doubt that, after yesterday’s crippling losses, the Big Ten has taken another black eye and its national reputation, which already was battered, has slipped another notch.

I hope I don’t have to take any trips down to SEC country soon.

Chili Fry, Oh My!

The Hunter House, in Birmingham, Michigan, is a classic. It’s been there since the ’50s and has achieved landmark status.

The double cheeseburger and chocolate shake were great, but the chili fries are to die for — rich, tangy, and chock full of that mysterious chili meat. We had a late lunch there today, but it’s got to be a fabulous post-boozing spot, with those chili fries ready to soak up any evil excess alcohol.



The Comeback Kids

Because I can’t use my left foot or get exercise in the conventional way, I’m trying to get my blood pumping by watching the Ohio State basketball team. So far, my plan is working like a charm.

Today the Buckeyes played Nebraska in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament. Ohio State stunk up the joint at the end of the first half and the beginning of the second and were getting embarrassed, 48-30. My blood pressure was spiking at the pitiful performance, with flushed cheeks and spittle and epithets flying.

But then, improbably, a mop-topped bean pole spurred the Buckeyes. With Amedeo Della Valle hustling his brains out, and LaQuinton Ross making just about every shot he put up, and Aaron Craft playing the tough D that is his trademark, the Buckeyes came back to win, 71-67. That’s a 41-19 run to close out the game — and it was fitting that Della Valle iced the victory by coolly making four free throws with the game on the line.

How do you explain this team? They disappear, then come roaring back. They can’t make a free throw for most of the game, but as the clock winds down they can’t miss. They seem to lose their composure, but as the game ends it’s the other team that is red-faced and stunned.

So, the Buckeyes move on. Tomorrow they play Michigan. The Buckeyes had better bring their A game for all 40 minutes tomorrow, because if they fall behind the Wolverines by 18 there’s no coming back.

Saving A Law Against Being Annoying

For 38 years, the City of Grand Rapids, Michigan has had a law against being “willfully annoying.” Now the law is going to be repealed, because the city attorney has determined that the law is probably unconstitutionally vague and therefore unenforceable.

I’ve no doubt her legal analysis is correct, but I’m also sure that the law was well-intentioned. After all, when you’re dealing with a willfully annoying person it’s just so . . . annoying. I’m guessing the person who came up with the law in the first place had a little brother who tormented them with all kinds of annoying behavior.

Could the law be clarified and saved from unconstitutional vagueness by specifying certain conduct that is deemed per se annoying? I think you would find near-unanimity that certain things are, by definition, willfully annoying. My list of such conduct would include the following:

* Constantly repeating, word for word, everything you say in a sing-song voice

* Repeatedly thrusting things toward your face, with accompanying sound effects

* Deciding to sing 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall for an entire three-hour car ride

* Repeatedly kicking the back of the chair in which you’re sitting

From The Mouths Of Babes

Some enterprising — and young — Cleveland Browns fans have made a video arguing that a familiar name should be selected as the next head coach of the Cleveland Browns. It’s pretty clever. Thanks, kids!

I actually think Jim Tressel would likely be a capable and successful NFL head coach. He knows how to win, he builds capable staffs, and he has an eye for talent and the ability to figure out how to maximize the impact of that talent. At Ohio State, he quickly turned around a demoralized program. He understands how important the Browns are to Cleveland sports fans, just as he understood how important beating Michigan was to Ohio State fans. I think the notion that Tressel is too conservative to win at the NFL level is silly — in reality, the NFL is far more conservative, in terms of scheme and approach, than is the college game.

Of course, the chances that the Browns would select Tressel are remote, and not because the Browns would shy away from a coach who received NCAA sanctions. Even if the Browns had the intelligence to really consider Tressel, I think Tressel has too much intelligence and self-respect to get involved with a front office that seems to be more interested in its own power games and turf battles than producing a winning football team.

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.