I didn’t pay much attention to the NFL draft that happened over the last few days. Like so much else in the modern world, the draft has become so overhyped, puffed up, and glitzed up, anticipated for months with mock drafts and pointless predictions, that it is almost painful to watch. But I’m always interested in seeing who the Cleveland Browns have drafted, in hopes that one of these days the Browns will find the right combination of players to turn this storied franchise into a consistent winner, playoff contender, and–we can only hope–Super Bowl participant.
Yesterday the Browns drafted two Ohio State offensive linemen, Dawand Jones, shown above, and Luke Wypler. In addition, the Browns signed Buckeye defensive backs Ronnie Hickman and Tanner McCalister to undrafted free agent contracts. The foursome will join Buckeye alums Denzel Ward and Tommy Togiai on the Browns’ roster–at least until the training camp cuts begin.
The Browns’ moves yesterday are intriguing. Jones, an offensive tackle, is a man-mountain who stands 6′ 8,” weighs about 350 pounds, and has a tremendous wing span. His enormous size will come in handy in opening holes for Nick Chubb and Browns running backs, but the open question is whether he can develop the quickness and technique to deal with the many speedy edge rushers in today’s NFL. He’ll get a chance work on both of those skills in practice, when he lines up against Myles Garrett. Wypler, a 6′ 3″, 300-pound center, was steady as a rock in the middle of the Ohio State offensive line this past season. I can’t remember him making a bad snap or getting beat on a bull rush.
Neither Jones nor Wypler is expected to be a starter, but they will add depth to the Browns’ offensive line and, we hope, become seasoned pros. Hickman and McCalister, both safeties, showed flashes of NFL-level talents during their Ohio State careers, and the question will be whether they can demonstrate sufficient skills to make the Browns roster.
I like having Ohio State players on the Browns, and enjoy watching players who I followed during their college careers as they move to the professional level. It will be fun to follow these new Buckeye Browns and see whether they can help take the Brownies to the Promised Land.
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!
Today begins the seven-day period that is known in these parts as “The Week.” It’s the period of time right before the Ohio State Buckeyes strap on their gear and take on That Team Up North in what is known as “The Game.”
This year, as in so many years in the past, The Game is poised to be a classic. Both Ohio State and TTUN won nail-biters yesterday, with the Maize and Blue pulling out a last-minute win at home over a tough Illinois team and Ohio State surviving a road battle against a Maryland squad that pulled out all the stops. It was one of those days that make college football so great, as many of the top-ranked teams were pushed to the limit and the playoff hopes of one–the Tennessee Volunteers–were left crushed on the field in South Carolina.
But both the Buckeyes and the Wolverines survived and kept their unbeaten records intact. Both are 11-0, and both have played games were they have looked unbeatable and games where they looked good, but not great. Both teams have lots of talent, and both teams have been dealing with injuries. But we know one thing for sure: one team’s spotless record and great season is going to be marred next Saturday, while the other team will survive and celebrate and advance to the Big Ten Championship Game and, perhaps, the College Football Playoff beyond. But the Big Ten Championship Game and the playoffs aren’t the focus right now–instead, the focus is exclusively on beating the arch-rival and hated (but respected) foe. Nothing is more important, and there is no looking beyond.
This is a familiar scenario for Buckeye fans, and those of us who have followed the team for decades and have Buckeye football in our family DNA. That’s why it is fitting that The Game always happens around Thanksgiving. For many families, including mine, Buckeye football and The Game is as much of family tradition as the turkey and stuffing and the cranberry relish that still maintains the shape of a can. And when another version of The Game rolls around, and both Ohio State and That Team Up North are top-ranked and having terrific seasons, we think about the Buckeye fans in our families, the great games, joyous victories, and crushing heartbreaks we experienced with them in the past, and the tailgates and the scarlet and gray outfits and the thoughtful and earnest pre-game analysis and the killer Bloody Marys and the riotous post-game revelry when Ohio State notches a win against those arrogant bastards from our neighboring state.
So The Week is here, and we can feel, again, that familiar nerve-tingling anticipation that always arrives at this time of year–only heightened now, with so much on the line. And we know that somewhere, those Buckeye fans in our families will be watching, with Woody and Bo and the rest of Buckeye Nation and the TTUN fans, as these two great programs prepare to square off for another chapter in the Greatest Rivalry In Sports.
Yesterday, when we watched the Buckeyes game with Penn State at JT’s Pizza and Pub, the vast majority of the TV commercials during the game were for political candidates. The campaign strategists know that, in Ohio, virtually everyone drops everything to watch the Buckeyes on the gridiron, so it is prime time to deliver a message to a captive, very focused, every sense on heightened alert audience. It undoubtedly costs the campaigns a boatload to buy the ad slots, but they figure it is worth it–which is why Buckeye fans were seeing so many political ads rather than the standard in-game car, tire, or “remember to ask your doctor about Altavlid” commercials.
Fortunately, they had the sound off at JT’s, and we couldn’t have heard the voice over of the commercials in any event, over the din of football analysis and “OH-IO” chants. But you don’t really need to have the sound on to follow the political ads. Basically, they fall into two categories: the scary ads and the “humanize the candidate” ads. And it’s immediately clear which category a political commercial falls into, because every ad in either category shares obvious common characteristics. In fact, the touchstones are so commonplace that both Democrats and Republicans use them, and if you run a Google search you’ll find that the British and Canadian political wizards use the same techniques, as the Canadian ad above demonstrates.
Scary ads: Dark, grainy, blurry footage, with quick cuts from one troubling scene to another. Opposing candidate depicted in unflattering poses in slow motion or with some kind of color filter to give him or her a more devilish, unsettling appearance. Children in peril or worried people sitting around their kitchen tables. Messages in large type that appear on the screen like shotgun blasts that usually include the words “we can’t afford.”
Humanize the candidate ads: Candidate is shown in a bulky, woolen, Mr. Rogers-type sweater, carrying a cup of coffee and sitting on the family sofa with their spouse. Candidate makes breakfast or kicks a soccer ball or throws a football with kids. Lots of warm hues and sunshine. Candidate is shown gesturing forcefully to smiling, nodding blue-collar workers, who are deeply absorbed in everything the candidate is saying.
I’ll be glad when November 8 finally arrives and we can go back to watching the Buckeyes, the tire ads, and those helpful spots about the latest miracle drug.
Today we joined a loyal slice of Buckeye Nation at JT’s Pizza and Pub to watch the Buckeyes come back strong in the fourth quarter to top Penn State in Happy Valley. We cheered lustily, did “OH-IO” chants, marveled at the talent of Marvin Harrison, Jr., and tried to learn how to correctly pronounce the last name of the newest Buckeye hero, J.T. Tuimoloau. (It’s easier to just call him “number 44.”) it was a great game, a great win, and a lot of fun watching the game with a raucous crowd.
Bar owners in Columbus love the football season because they know people will turn out to root for the Bucks, eat, and down a few beers. Today’s noon start isn’t the preferred time slot, however. Pubs like the 3:30 slot best because people come early, enjoy the game, and then roll right into the slate of night games. When the Buckeyes play at noon, however, the crowd tends to head out after the game rather than making a full day of football and feeling guilty about it. Today, a full bar had emptied out about a half hour after the game ended and excited debriefing had occurred.
No worries, though—I’m betting another shift of Buckeye fans will fill the seats tonight, to see if Michigan State can knock Michigan out of the ranks of the unbeaten.
Ohio State played the Toledo Rockets, one of the best teams in the Mid-American Conference, last night. The Buckeyes were a heavy favorite, but this season many college football favorites have gone down to ignominious defeat at the hands of an underdog–and for a time, shifty and speedy Toledo quarterback Dequan Finn gave the Buckeyes’ defense fits. In a normal game, his playmaking ability would have been a cause of concern.
But this was no normal game. Finn’s heroics didn’t really matter, because the Ohio State offense played about as close to perfection as human beings can get. They scored 77 points against a pretty good team, and their offensive metrics were unbelievably gaudy. The team racked up more than 760 yards in total offense, including 482 yards passing and 281 yards rushing. The Buckeyes scored at least two touchdowns in every quarter–including four touchdowns in the first quarter and 42 points in the first half–and responded to every great play by the Rockets quarterback with another score.
If I recall correctly, the Men of the Scarlet and Gray scored on 10 of 12 possessions, with the 12th possession focused on running out the clock at the end of the game. None of the touchdowns were on fluke plays or short fields; the team repeatedly put together long drives and chunk plays that shredded the Toledo defenders. The offensive line opened big holes for Ohio State running backs, protected their quarterbacks, and had only a few modest penalties. The Buckeye starters looked great, the back-ups looked great, and the back-ups to the back-ups–including freshman running back TC Caffey, pictured above, who kept his legs moving, escaped the pile, and took a 49-yard carry to the house–looked great. Coaches always find some flaw, less-than-stellar blocking technique, or missed assignment to coach up, and I’m sure the Ohio State offensive coaches will, too–but they are going to have to truly scour the game film to find much to discuss.
The Wisconsin Badgers come to town next Saturday, and with that game the Big Ten season will begin. Playing sound defense will be a lot more important, touchdowns will no doubt be much harder to come by, and last night’s performance against Toledo will fade into the background. But while the memory is fresh, I hope Buckeye Nation pauses for a moment and appreciates just how amazing last night’s offensive performance was. It truly was a game for the record books.
We went to the Ohio State-Notre Dame game last night. It was a great, hard-fought game between two of the most storied programs in college football. The Fighting Irish lived up to their name and put up a tough battle, leaving the game in doubt until the Ohio State offense finally found its footing in the second half, the Buckeye offensive line asserted itself, and the running game helped the team grind out a clutch, 90-yard drive that finally put the game away, leading to a 21-10 win. I’m an old school football fan, and any game where good defense and the rushing attack make the difference is just fine with me.
But, speaking of old school, this fan who went to his first Ohio State home game more than 50 years ago was struck by the atmosphere and the hoopla surrounding the game itself. If you haven’t been to a game at the Old Horseshoe recently, you might be surprised by the in-game experience. Some might call it a feast for the senses; others would say it has become a cluttered confusion geared for people with short attention spans, where the new stuff is threatening to crowd out the traditional elements of a college football game.
Don’t get me wrong, some of it was cool. Last night’s game began with a pinpoint Navy parachuting exhibition, where the parachutists dropped into Ohio Stadium at high speeds and landed flawlessly on the field to the cheers of a huge crowd. I particularly liked the member of the parachute squad who swept into the stadium and onto the field trailing an Ohio State flag, as shown in the first two photos above. I also liked the concept of the drone formations that accompanied the band’s halftime show–although we couldn’t see most of the drone stuff, from our seat in B Deck, which made me wonder how many of the fans outside of the closed end had an unobstructed view–and also the mass cellphone flashlight waving, which made the ‘Shoe look like it had been invaded by a million lightning bugs. The South Stands, in particular, embraced the flashlight waving with gusto, as shown in the bottom photo of this post.
I was also happy to see that some of the traditional elements of a home Buckeye football game remain. The band’s ramp entrance, seen above, remains a central focus, and it never fails to get the fans amped. Script Ohio and a Sousaphone player high-stepping and dotting the i will never get old. The team’s rush onto the field has been jazzed up, with fire blasts, billowing smoke, and fireworks, but at least the band and cheerleaders are still part of it. I like that they continue to use at least some of the breaks during the game to trot people out onto the field for recognition; yesterday’s game honored a 100-year-old World War II vet, the OSU women’s hockey national championship team, and Coach Jim Tressel and the 2002 Buckeye national championship football team, among others. And singing Carmen Ohio with the team and the band at the end of the game is a sweet way to celebrate a win.
But there are other things that this old codger found annoying. Ohio State has hired some loudmouth guy with a microphone who presumed to instruct those of us in the crowd about what to do–like barking out commands for fans to “show their Buckeye spirit” or trying to start O-H-I-O chants as t-shirts are hurled into the stands–as if we really need to be told to cheer and get loud during an exciting football game. Couple Mr. Loudmouth with blasting rock and rap music during some breaks in the action and a few dumb on-field activities, like a relay race between teams encased in large inflatable balls, and you feel like some master planner believes that the fans will become hopelessly bored unless something really loud is happening at every second. And, if you haven’t been at Ohio Stadium since beer sales became part of the experience, be ready to stand up constantly for the beer drinkers in your row to pass by for repeated replenishment and depletion. Some of the guzzlers in our section went by so often we wanted to install a turnstile and charge a fee to let them pass.
I don’t think an Ohio State home game, in one of the most storied venues in college football, needs all of this sideshow stuff. It crowds out the opportunities for the band to play and for the cheerleaders to do some of their routines in front of the fans–which are two of the key things that distinguish a college sporting event from the pros. All of the noise also interferes with another nice part of the Ohio State football experience, which is to talk to surrounding fans, who are typically pretty knowledgeable about football, about the game itself. What a novel concept: football fans wanting to talk about football during the game without being prompted to do something by a loud guy with a microphone! I’d vote to give Mr. Loudmouth his walking papers, ditch the inflatable ball races, and let the band play.
I think it is great that Ohio State has successfully registered “THE” as a trademark for THE University, because it bugs the crap out of other schools–like TTUN. Let those other schools stumble along with their indefinite articles or prepositions! Ohio State may not win the national championship, or even the Big Ten, every year, but we’ll always be “THE.”
It’s the week of The Game. That’s the football game between Ohio State and That Team Up North, of course. In the Midwest we like to say it’s the greatest rivalry in all of sports (although I suspect that Army and Navy and the Red Sox and the Yankees might disagree with that), and every year this week features its unique, The Game-specific mixture of angst, fear, and loathing. Both members of Buckeye Nation and fans of the Maize and Blue know what I mean because they feel that unsettling mixture of emotions deep in their bones.
The loathing part is obvious: we hate (but nevertheless respect) the opposing team. But the angst and fear part require some explanation.
This is a rivalry game where both fan bases are haunted by memories of past losses and disasters, to the point where we each have sports-related PTSD. No Buckeyes fan who lived through the catastrophic failures of the ’90s will ever be comfortable about any game against TTUN; traumatic experiences have taught us, again and again, that calamity lurks around every corner. Fans of our opponents have the same feelings, only about the more recent games. That’s where the heavy, oppressive sense of angst comes in.
The fear, on the other hand, is that our greatest rival will ruin a fine season, and give bragging rights to the opposing fan base. This year is a good example. As has often been the case with The Game, the Buckeyes and TTUN will be playing for all the marbles: the chance to go to the Big Ten Championship Game and, potentially, the College Football Playoffs. But that’s not all. Every fan of either team knows a number of ardent fans of the opposing team, and we know that if The Game ends with a loss we’ll be hearing about it, in the most pointed, terrible ways imaginable, from now until next year’s contest offers a chance at redemption. We dread that awful possibility.
Angst, fear, and loathing: it’s the holy trinity that dominates our characters during the week of The Game, and it will always be thus. Go Bucks! Beat the Blue!
You could argue endlessly about which specific play is the greatest single play in the long and storied history of Ohio State football–Zeke Elliott’s run through the Alabama defense would be right up there, as would Joey Bosa’s scoop and score against Wisconsin, among many others–but no one would question that “Holy Buckeye” is in the conversation. Craig Krenzel’s perfect fourth down throw to Malcolm Jenkins for a touchdown to put Ohio State up on Purdue kept the Buckeyes in the mix for a spot in the National Championship game after the 2002 season–a championship game that the Men of the Scarlet and Gray later won against the supposedly unbeatable Miami Hurricanes.
I love the “Holy Buckeye” play not just because of Brent Musberger’s terrific call, but because it refutes all of the conventional wisdom about Jim Tressel’s supposedly conservative play-calling. When the game was on the line and all of the marbles were in play, Coach Tressel made a gutsy call that the team executed perfectly.
“Holy Buckeye” happened 19 years ago today. For members of Buckeye Nation like me, watching it never gets old.
Ohio State has won two tough, physical games in the last two weeks. By winning at Lincoln, Nebraska today the Buckeyes stay atop the Big Ten East and remain in the mix for the College Football Playoff.
And yet, if you go to Ohio State message boards today, you would think the sky is falling.
Here’s some news for the spoiled, irrational members of Buckeye Nation: winning football games against big-time programs is hard. Winning on the road is hard. Winning with a freshman quarterback is hard.
And yet, Ohio State is doing it.
I’m not saying the Buckeyes will win it all. But expecting the team is win every game by 60 points is simply self-defeating, and ridiculous.
Russell and I had the chance to go to the ‘Shoe last night and watch a classic Big Ten game with more than 102,000 of our closest scarlet-clad friends. The game started with a great fireworks display and ended with fans flooding the field to celebrate a hard-fought Ohio State victory as the Buckeyes pulled out a 33-24 win.
I’m sure there are a lot of people who wonder why Ohio State didn’t march up and down the field on offense and rack up another blowout win. The reason is: the Buckeyes were playing Penn State, and Penn State always plays Ohio State tough, whether the game is in Columbus or Happy Valley. The Nittany Lions have a great program and a lot of pride, and it seemed clear that Penn State’s surprising loss to Illinois was caused, at least in part, because Penn State was focused on this game against the Buckeyes. With all due respect to Rutgers and Maryland, the Big Ten doesn’t really begin until you start to play teams like Penn State, Michigan State, and That Team Up North. Last night’s game was what the rest of the season will be like–tough, hard-hitting, and closely contested from the kickoff–and I was happy to see the Buckeyes display some grit as they pulled out a win. So it didn’t surprise me that the Buckeyes didn’t put up gaudy numbers on offense or defense.
The Buckeyes have some things to be happy about, like our placekicker, who really came through in the clutch, and a defense that made some key turnovers, and some things to work on, like way too many penalties, a surprisingly unimaginative red zone offense, and figuring out how to play pass defense in the middle of the field. But I think a game like this is good for a team and may cause the Buckeyes to stop worrying too much about press clippings, Heisman campaigns, and hypothetical future matchups with Georgia and get back to focusing on the next opponent, because the next opponent has the ability to derail all of your hopes. I’m confident that Ryan Day and his staff will take the film of this game, study it, figure out how the Buckeyes can deal with those issues and continue to improve, and get the players to sharpen their focus.
Kudos to Penn State, their quarterback, who played a great game, and their defense, which gave the Ohio State running game fits and kept the Buckeyes’ offense off-balance the entire game. The Big Ten season has now officially begun.
It seems as though we are confronted with the conversion from actual to virtual at every turn these days. It has happened with newspapers, with meetings and conferences, and now it is happening with sports tickets, too.
I’m taking some client friends to Saturday’s Ohio State football game against Penn State. In the old days this would involve collecting physical tickets, like those shown above, and a physical parking pass to allow us to park in a good spot come Game Day, and then distributing the actual tickets to the members of the group at the pre-game tailgate so they could get through the gates of Ohio Stadium and get to their respective seats by kickoff.
But, with Ohio State at least, those physical ticket days are gone. Now the tickets are virtual, and you gather and transfer them electronically. It involves downloading yet another app, establishing a Ticketmaster account, directing Ticketmaster to distribute the tickets, and then entering email addresses so the ticket recipient gets notice of the transfer and can claim them. So far I seem to have been able to follow the instructions and successfully make the transfers, but the rubber won’t really meet the road until we get to Ohio Stadium Saturday night and start trying to scan in using bar codes on our phones. I sure hope everyone in my group remembers their cellphones and keeps their phones adequately powered!
I’m sure the virtual tickets are cheaper for the University, and the process has the added virtue of gathering email addresses that can be used for future notices and alerts. I still prefer the actual, physical tickets, however. It was comforting to have the tickets in hand and ready to hand out, and the glossy cardboard ducats themselves made nice souvenirs of your visit to the ‘Shoe. The cardboard parking pass had the added handy feature of a map on the back side that could guide you to your lot.
But those are the old ways, and they are going, going, gone as our worlds become increasingly centered on the apps on our handheld devices.
I guess I realized that the Supreme Court case upholding a lower court’s invalidation of certain NCAA rules, and the decision by the NCAA to changes its rules to allow student athletes to earn income from their name, image and likeness, would change the world of college sports forever. I just didn’t realize how fast it would happen,
The ramifications of some college athletes making huge sums in endorsements are mind-boggling. Of course, only the big revenue sports, like football and basketball, are likely to be significantly affected. If you’re a college football coach, I think it has made your job a lot harder. Now you’re not only going to be recruiting the star athletes on the basis of your school’s tradition, and facilities, and educational quality, and ability to prepare the athlete for life and a potential professional career–you’re also going to be noting how well some of your current and former athletes have done in the money game. And as a coach you might well also be recruiting local car dealers, insurance agencies, and other boosters to reach out to the sports agencies representing your athletes to sign up for endorsements, so your stars have marketing deals that are competitive with other athletes on other teams at other schools.
Part of the motivation for Savvy Old Coach Nick to mention Bryce Young’s million-dollar deals is no doubt to communicate that other stud players who are choosing between Alabama and other schools should come to the Crimson Tide to maximize their NIL value and enjoy a lucrative college education. This kind of news is bound to have an impact on competitiveness, because not all schools can offer the alumni and booster and endorsement base that is found at Alabama, or Ohio State, or the other perennial college football powers.
And finally, what does having a million-dollar quarterback who hasn’t even started a game do for internal team dynamics? How are the offensive linemen who aren’t likely to rack up endorsement deals, but are getting battered on every play, going to feel about the money discrepancy? Will savvy quarterbacks make sure that their endorsement deals include the big guys who are blocking for them? Will players try to establish their individual brands in on-field play to attract more attention and increase their NIL value? And how will players feel about having limited roles that might not be as noticeable to the endorsers, but crucial to the team’s potential success?
I don’t envy the college coaches who are dealing with these issues, and I wonder if the college sports world is going to look a lot different in the future. Who knows? The 2020 COVID season, with its weirdness and uncertainty and cancellations, might end up being the last “normal” college football season.
Sure, it’s baseball season, and the NBA playoffs and NHL playoffs are on, but those of us who are college football fans are pining for some gridiron activity. Early June is truly the slack period in college football, about midway between the spring game and the start of fall camp. The only real college football news is speculation about recruiting, and it really doesn’t fill the void.
Fortunately, the Big Ten Network Twitter feed is there to help out Ohio State football fans who are looking for their early summer football fix. Above is a link to a recent Twitter posting by BTN of video of every one of the 44 touchdowns that Ohio State has scored against That Team Up North during the Buckeyes’ current eight-game winning streak over the Wolverines.
Speaking as someone who cut their teeth on Buckeye football during the Woody and Bo Ten-Year War era, it’s still hard for me to believe two parts of the sentence immediately above: 44 touchdowns and an eight-game winning streak. How things have changed since the ’70s!