The Pandemic Can’t Kill Ohio Football Pride
In Columbus, Ohio, there are certain rules that every citizen must know. A majority of these rules involve college football. Michigan is a dirty word. Always wear scarlet and gray on game day. And when someone yells “O, H,” you respond with “I, O!” It doesn’t matter where you hear it, you respond immediately.
Football rules are enforced from childhood. I grew up knowing these rules. My father grew up with them. And my father’s father grew up with them. This long-standing tradition not only bonded me with my family but with my community. On any Ohio State University game day, you can count on certain things. Grocery stores are empty, except for the people buying last-minute game snacks. If you do go out, any store or restaurant has the game on television or is being played in place of music. If you listen to a local radio station, they have the game on. If they don’t, the DJ updates listeners with the recent score in between songs. It is acceptable to walk up to a stranger, ask them, “What’s the score?” and they know what you were talking about.
When I went to college, the school was in Ohio, but the football culture wasn’t as present. I was the only one who seemed to care about OSU football games. Several of my friends asked me, “Why is Columbus so crazy about football?” It had never occurred to me that our behavior wasn’t normal. It was how things were always done. I began to realize that Buckeye pride was something unique.
I now live in Maryland. But my loyalty never wavered. When I moved, my husband was aware of how important OSU games are to me. He had already observed the change in my personality whenever a game was on. It’s the only time where I yell, stomp, and scream at the television. Again, I do this because my father does this, and his father does this. The yelling, screaming, and reveling becomes as much a part of the day as a turkey is on Thanksgiving. Every game day is a Columbus, Ohio holiday.
But I’m not in Columbus anymore. I found ways to watch college football. My father, sister, and I text throughout games. If I have to record the game and watch it later, I call my dad for his opinions. But the spirit of the game isn’t the same. My sister–in–law came over once in the middle of a close game between OSU and Penn State. She opened the door, and the sounds of my screaming greeted her. She wouldn’t come inside. Even though my husband cheers with me, it isn’t the same. If we were in Columbus, she would have heard at least five other people screaming with me.
College football is the one activity where I can still feel like a part of my home town. And now, the national pandemic has hit me where it hurts most. Football is in jeopardy. What happens if games are essentially canceled? Even if the stadium allows fans during live games, it would be at 20% capacity. Half the fun of watching a game is to see the shots of the packed stadium. The overflowing excitement of fans drives the entire experience. How will our boys be able to play without that energy?
There is still time between now and football season. And I know I’m not the only concerned Columbus citizen. I’m sure that Columbus will find a way to keep the spirit alive. Football is more than a game to Columbus. The games connect us. They bring us together with the hope that we outshine every other team. And we do because of our loyalty. Our Buckeye Pride.
I was in Spain a few years ago and pressed a button for a hotel elevator. When the doors opened, I saw a man wearing an OSU tee-shirt. I shrieked with glee.
“O, H!” I said
“I, O!” he said.
And that is why I can’t lose hope.