Note: I wrote most of this on April 3rd, immediately after the NCAA tournament final and before I saw the reaction of the city. So while not all contained below is still relevant, I still wanted to finish this up and get it out there.
Dear Ohio State sports fan:
Please be aware of how lucky we are. In the past seven months, we (yes, I’m included here) have been blessed as fans. With the success of the university’s major sports programs, Buckeye fans should be grateful.
As everyone knows, OSU football rules in central Ohio, often to extremes. In most years, OSU basketball is something to be followed while football is out of season. A distant second, if you will. Still, year in and year out we dutifully camp out at tailgate parties, line up at Ohio Stadium and Value City Arena, crowd in front of the television set, or huddle around the radio to enjoy our beloved Buckeyes. Whether you’re an alum, born a Buckeye, or a convert: you know there’s nothing like watching and cheering the scarlet and gray.
Since September 2nd, 2006, the football and basketball Buckeyes have done the following:
- Earned a combined (47-5) record. (12-1) for football and (35-4) for basketball.
- Won a football and basketball Big Ten Championship.
- Played in each sport’s National Championship game.
- Been led by a Heisman Trophy winner in football and the National Defensive Player of the Year in basketball.
- Provided a lot to be proud of for their mostly loyal fans.
Why do I say “mostly” loyal? Those of you who didn’t want to face Florida in the final basketball game know why.
Some Buckeye fans were so distraught at the January 8th drubbing at the hands of the Florida Gators in the BCS title game (41-14 final for those keeping score), that they couldn’t bear the thought of losing to the basketball Gators in the basketball final and having to “suffer the ridicule” sure to be inflicted upon them from Florida fans. Really, is that what it’s come to?
No other Division I program can say that their two money sports had a combined winning percentage of over 90% during this past school year. Even Florida, who earned both national titles, can’t say that (they come in second at 88.9%). I understand that the ultimate is winning the title, but when you have roughly 119 teams competing in D-I football and over 300 competing in D-I basketball I don’t think it’s realistic to expect to win either of these titles in any given year, let alone both. (I understand that realistic expectations are not part of every Buckeye fan’s arsenal).
“But,” you say, “the Florida Gators have accomplished just that, beating my Buckeyes to win each title.”
It’s true. And the football and basketball programs in Gainesville should be receiving all the credit in the world for what they’ve accomplished. Winning it all is the goal, and they’re batting 1.000 this year.
“So, Drew… what the hell is your point?”
I have two points, I guess.
First, that I think it is shameful for any true Buckeye fan to not be supremely proud of our Ohio State athletes after the year they’ve given us. Losing two title games in three months is nothing to cry about. You’ve had the joy of watching guys who will be “one-namer’s” in Columbus for a long time: Troy, Teddy, Gonzo, Oden, and Conley. You’ve jumped out of your chair in disbelief at hail mary passes, nail biting victories, lightning quick steals, and thunderous dunks. You cheered and exhorted at every turn. Losing a final game is no reason for these athletes to see your back turn, or to watch you crawl into a blanket because you can’t bear to watch another damn Gator Chomp.
Secondly, and I guess this is related to the above point, regardless of what many obsessed OSU fans may think: it’s not our God-given right to win every game, title, and award there is. I was as disappointed as the next guy when the football Bucks got decimated in Glendale. But from a purely sociological standpoint, I was fascinated. In the span of 24-hours, the team went from being king to a failure. Staunch supporters didn’t want to show up to work the next day because they didn’t have to think about how bad their team lost. Then the basketball team, starting two freshmen, takes the team and the city on an unforgettable ride through the NCAA tournament only to lose in the final game to the same Florida school that dismantled their football brothers. If you’re the sort of person who would go to the airport to welcome home a champion, I hope you made it to give the Buckeyes a hero’s return from Atlanta.
Before the tournament started, the prevailing attitude among Buckeye fans was this: we’ll be happy with a Sweet 16 berth, and anything beyond that is icing on the cake. A Final Four appearance would almost be too much to ask and we’d be elated to play in the final game. As the final weekend began, there were some callers to local sports radio shows who were ready to forsake the Buckeyes if they didn’t win it all.
As I’ve seen since, Buckeye fans seemed to have taken the basketball loss better than the football loss. The question we all wait to see answered now is how will these two teams after losing such notable players as Troy Smith, Ted Ginn, Anthony Gonzalez, Antonio Pittman, Greg Oden, Mike Conley, and Daequan Cook? Some losses will hurt more than others, but my hope is that although the characters in the play have changed the audience will still cheer as hard at the curtain call.
Thanks for stopping by the End of the Bench. Come back soon.