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.

Long Overdue

Neal Colzie

Neal Colzie

The Ohio State University Men’s Varsity O Alumni Association recently announced that Neal Colzie will finally be inducted into the Ohio State Athletics Hall of Fame.  I’m amazed that Colzie, a legendary defensive back and kick returner, wasn’t named to the Hall of Fame years ago.

Colzie was one of the most memorable players on the great Ohio State football teams of the early 1970s.  He was fast, a powerful hitter and sure tackler, had great hands, and was a shifty, elusive runner who was tough to catch and bring down on a kick return or after an interception.  He made many big plays on a team filled with big-time players.  More important to me, as an impressionable teenager at the time, he clearly was one of the coolest guys on the team.  He looked cool, walked cool, acted cool, dressed cool, and — and this was not easy to do — was even cool when he appeared on The Woody Hayes Show.  Anyone who ever watched that show remembers the awkward staging and pregnant pauses as Coach Hayes brought on some fidgeting players and “interviewed” them.  Woody would ask them some softball questions about the game and then try to coax the right answers from some enormous, ill-at-ease, tongue-tied offensive lineman.  I remember Colzie having a bemused expression whenever he was on the show, as if he was enjoying the spectacle as much as anybody else.

I searched high and low for a better photo of Neal Colzie than the picture at left, but was unsuccessful.  He deserves a better picture, and he deserves to be included in the OSU Athletic Hall of Fame.