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.

The Perfect Tailgate Food

This morning in America, as the first rays of dawn sweep across the vast and fruited plain, countless college football fans are preparing to tailgate.  Tomorrow, with the NFL season beginning in earnest, professional football fans will engage in the same careful pre-game preparation.  I am here to advise them all that the perfect tailgate food is the Scotch Egg.

Bear with me on this.  A Scotch Egg, for those who have not sampled this awesome culinary masterpiece, consists of a hard-boiled egg wrapped in sausage, coated in bread crumbs, and deep fried.  Properly prepared, a Scotch Egg looks to the lucky consumer like a ball of meat.  You squirt some mustard on it, take a bite, and your mouth is filled with a hearty, perfectly proportioned mixture of egg, sausage, bread crumbs, and mustard.  It’s like a ball of pure breakfast.  You eat one, and you are properly fortified for the game.  You eat two, and you could sit through the coldest conditions at Green Bay’s Lambeau Field and still be warmed to your core.

The real beauty of a Scotch Egg at a tailgate is its portability.  Because — unlike a sandwich, or ribs, or most of the more high-falutin’ tailgate fare — it only requires one hand to consume, it leaves the other hand completely free to hold a frosty adult beverage and lift it repeatedly to your thirsty lips.  Consumption of Scotch Eggs therefore bears a direct cause-and-effect relationship to overall tailgate enjoyment and mounting game readiness.  And the Scotch Egg is environmentally friendly.  It doesn’t require a baggie, or a toothpick, or anything else that would end up as discarded tailgate debris.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the perfect tailgate food — the Scotch Egg.

Buckeye Bebe At The ‘Shoe

Aunt Bebe, me, UJ, and Richard after the Navy game

Aunt Bebe, me, UJ, and Richard after the Navy game

My friend Kristin cleaned out her digital camera this week and sent me this photo that she took at the tailgate after the Navy game.  We had a great time, as photo suggests.  Aunt Bebe’s outfit was so striking that a complete stranger came up and asked if she could have her picture taken with Aunt Bebe.  That is why she is known far and wide as “Buckeye Bebe.”

A Band Of Buckeye Boosters

J Schoolers (left to right) J. Most Leickly, Sandy Theis, me, Bob Hust, and Ken Kraus

We’re getting ready for tomorrow’s contest with Navy, the first game of the 2009 Buckeye football season.  I’ll be sitting in A Deck, in the closed end, with Buckeye Bebe, UJ, and Richard.  We’ll be tailgating beforehand and afterward and may visit the Skull Session, too.

-2To usher in the 2009 season and get everyone stoked for tomorrow’s game, I offer these pictures from a tailgate in the French Field House parking lot hosted by my pal and partner Kristin Watt before last year’s game with the despicable Michigan Wolverines.  The picture features an intrepid band of J School graduates, consisting of (left to right) J. Most Leickly, Sandy Theis, me, Bob Hust, and my college roommate Ken Kraus.  In anticipation of the dismal performance by U of M, we gave them the fabled J School choke sign.  Sure enough, The Ohio State University Buckeyes inflicted maximum pain on the hapless team from TSUN, giving them a thorough beating and sending them scurrying back to their ratholes on the short end of a 42-7 whipping.  It was a glorious day.