In this installment of my pre-Rose Bowl exchange
of questions and answers with Ohio State fanatic Noah Litton, I ask about one commonality that surfaced between Buckeyes and Ducks fans: a recent Sports Illustrated survey of fans
in different conferences concluded that Ohio State and Oregon fans
were both voted the rudest in their respective conferences.
My question to Noah: How accurate is that assessment about Buckeyes fans?
Here's his answer, delivered from Columbus where he happened to be visiting last weekend:
I write today from the Belly of the Beast…old Columbus town! I was a little hungry, so I stopped by the Buckeye Hall of Fame Café for lunch and BOOM…there was one of Archie Griffin's two Heisman Trophies on display. How cool. Then I met some friends for dinner at Eddie George's Grill 27 on High Street and BOOM…there was his Heisman Trophy on display as well. It's hard to swing a cat in this town without hitting one of Ohio State's nation-best seven Heisman Trophies. So are Buckeye fans the most obnoxious in our conference and perhaps in all college football? Yes. But I like to think we back it up on the field (last few bowl-seasons excluded).
Buckeye fans are proud of our team to a fault. And I have witnessed the good, the bad, and the ugly all in the past decade as Ohio State has experienced unprecedented dominance in the Big 10.
Buckeye fans and our traditions are at our best when we travel for games. I can remember climbing the Grand Canyon prior to a Fiesta Bowl and seeing nothing but scarlet-clad hikers stretching down like a train of ants for miles and miles. On a trip to Texas in 2006, an entire plane of fans erupted in our “O-H, I-O” chant upon landing.
Then there was the 2003 National Championship where 80 percent of the stadium was Ohio State fans prompting many to claim Sun Devil Stadium was really Ohio State's west campus. If you've ever flown into Columbus, you probably noticed that the ingress corridor flies directly over Ohio Stadium, and most pilots feel inclined to tip a wing down into the stadium in quiet reverence. Legend has it that one of the original FAA flight planners was a huge Buckeye fan.
Buckeyes can and do go overboard. There is an entire cottage industry of T-shirt makers devoted to “Ann Arbor is a whore” and “Muck Fichigan” logos. I personally enjoy these chants and jeers, but I have seen many grimaced faces from seniors and those with small children trying to enjoy game day. Then there is the anthem “I don't give a damn for the whole state of Michigan” that fans cheer after nearly every game, regardless of whether the opponent actually is Michigan. It is embarrassing enough for some teams to come to Columbus and get thumped by the Buckeyes without the fans forgetting who they even played after the game.
The worst singular display I saw by Ohio State fans occurred (go figure) prior to the Michigan game in 2002. A berth to the National Championship was on the line, and Buckeye fans were particularly animated that day. I happened across a crowd of 15 drunk Buckeyes who had encircled a Michigan dad and his 4-year-old son in a parking lot and were really getting after the guy verbally. I can't imagine a worse experience for someone who just wanted to show his son The Game. Lesson learned? Don't wear maize and blue in Columbus.
One year Michigan threatened to bring its own police to Columbus to help patrol automobiles with out-of-state plates or Michigan regalia. Columbus officials took this as a huge slap to the face. Lastly, there were the riots after the Michigan game in 2002. The entire country was treated to images of drunken revelers burning couches, flipping cars, and looting the campus bookstore. Of the 75-plus people arrested, only two were students at Ohio State. But the image was still seared into the school's reputation and has only abated somewhat after an intensive “good fans” campaign.
By the way, honorable mention for most annoying fans in the Big 10 goes to Penn State who has taken the liberty of throwing piss-filled cups on our band prior to them taking the field and Wisconsin for cheering “shoot him like a horse” whenever an opposing team-member goes down injured.
I think Ducks fans will see the best of Ohio State fans at the Rose Bowl. You might even see a Heisman Trophy winner or two!