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.