The Path to Sports Fan Enlightenment

  My FN friend, 0-6 has asked me to start this entry with my flight to Columbus, OH on Thursday, 9/20/12. The means being dear and my wallet not so flush, I selected the most affordable flight from the nearest airport. This was on Delta, an MD88.

The MD88 is an older plane, a smaller one with twin engines mounted at the back of the fuselage. For my flight to Columbus, the internal starter motor would not work to fire up one of the engines. A service crew had to be called to use a portable starter, accessing the engine from outside of the plane - an auspicious beginning. To the passengers' great relief, the stubborn engine did start, and we flew to Columbus without incident.

I sat in the back rows of the plane. I'd like to tell you that it was just as the lyric from the Arlo Guthrie song, 'Alice's Restaurant', with folks of questionable character rolling pencils on the fold-down trays and having the best time, but it was not. I read a few chapters of a book during the flight.

Arriving at Port of Columbus, I completed the paperwork necessary to rent a car. A tiny Chevy poop-scooper, it ran well and got me around town, fulfilling my needs. Arriving at my cousin's place in the afternoon, I had a few hours to kill. After calling her office and leaving a message to inform her I was in town, I called GTH and heard his voice for the first time. We affirmed out plans for the following morning, and I settled into a wooden bench seat hung from the big, low branch of a buckeye tree. After enjoying the view of the Scioto River replete with sculling crews and large white birds, I read a few more chapters and awaited my cousin's arrival.

My cousin showed up whipped from a difficult day. I took her out to dinner, and afterwards we talked late into the evening. Both of us had early starts the next morning, but harbored no regrets. She had to work both Friday and Saturday, so I reserved my evenings to spend with her. This worked out just grand, as GTH had a solid agenda for both mornings and afternoons.

Friday, at 8:00 AM sharp, GTH arrived at my cousin's place, and we met face to face. GTH is just as he describes himself and a fine man with intelligence, wit, and sincerity. He too was visiting family in C'bus, and that common ground was firm circumstance binding the two of us. It is fair to say that GTH has many memories of C'bus which I do not, but his generous spirit brought these gently into our experiences together and did not overwhelm our adventure.  

We began with a pilgrimage to the graves of Chic Harley and Woody Hayes, both great men with ghosts darkly coloring their heritages. GTH and I have learned to see through the glass darkly, and the ghosts of our pasts which have long been put to rest granted us the humility to give homage to these men. We laid buckeyes and scarlet carnations upon their graves and marked the moments with modest photographs. Then, it was off to Conrad's to acquire Buckeye stuff.

GTH had purchased tickets for us to attend the game at Ohio Stadium on Saturday, but he would accept no remuneration from me. Only a favor in kind would suffice to square our accounts. Judiciously, he selected a Buckeye rugby jersey and a few tchotchkes which totaled (with tax) the price of the ticket. I purchased these for him and for myself a buckeye necklace, a C'bus shot glass, and a tOSU synchro swimming t-shirt (my sense of humor and appreciation for the sports generating less revenues than football, though thoughts of hard-bodied coeds might have been of some influence).

We grabbed a late breakfast, and GTH was able to reach TZ Man by phone. TZ Man took the time away from work on a Friday to meet us and give us a grand tour of the tOSU campus and unfettered access to some of its finest facilities. Modest though he is in person, TZ Man's company carries weight. Terrazzo floors are an art, and TZ Man's firm has graced 20 or so buildings on campus with some of the finest examples of this rare craft which I have ever seen. "The Schott" (Schottenstein Center) features enormous depictions of historic and celebrated Buckeye athletes, capturing detail and fluidity of motion. I urge readers to search terrazzo so that they may have an inkling of the skills required for these masterful works.

In the midst of our tour, we broke for lunch at Eddie George's place. It's a sports bar with food one would imagine finding at trending upscale brew pubs or cafes. Our waitress was a good sport and, using my phone at our table, left a message for Hippy Weed, beckoning him to join us. Unfortunately, he was engaged in charitable endeavors which kept him from doing so. Still, the three of us enjoyed our repast and went on with the tour.

I will say this for TZ Man, he is imbued with the best qualities one would attribute to the quintessential Midwesterner. He is genuine, modest, generous, unselfish, steady, quietly confident, and treats everyone the way he (and all of us) would like to be treated. Oh, I do not doubt his verve and drive. One can imagine his firm resolve in meeting obligations and how that might effect those of flightier temperaments engaged in business with him. To put a point on it, TZ Man is the kind of guy I'd want with me in a crisis and would be fortunate to call friend.

After the tour, GTH and I stopped in at The Varisty Club to hoist a cold one to Woody's Boy. In the parking lot, we stopped to chat with two fellows setting up a huge LED screen. It was comprised of individual units which locked and linked together, hoisted on a formidable framework. They programmed it from a console under an awning. It was impressive, and the crew was nice enough to allow us close examination while explaining its assembly and operation.

 The afternoon came to a close. We parted ways and returned to our own families. GTH and I would meet again the following morning, and this time, I would drive (No, I didn't have an accident or cause any harm).

Saturday, six o'clock in the morning, and I could no longer lay abed. It's up for the shower, shave, and dressing out for the big game. At the appropriate time, I called GTH. He's champing at the bit, and I head off to retrieve him from his mother's home. GTH has brothers in C'bus as well, but a man who does for his mother is a man after my own heart (GTH was clearing out her overstuffed garage). I had the honor and privilege of meeting GTH's mom. She's a pip.

We headed to the parking deck which GTH's brother recommended and scored! We got a parking spot right on campus. We walked to the St. John's arena to witness the Skull Session. On the way, we ran into some alumni band members at a tailgate. After admiring their horns (and grub), we hurried on to watch The Best Damn Band In The Land marching into St. Johns. As they entered, they were singing, "We don't give a damn for the whole State of Michigan..."

Entering the arena, we climbed (yep, steep stairs) up to the second level and settled into prime seats. A mass of alumni band members dwarfed the substantial host of The Best Damn Band In The Land. TBDBITL launched into a number, starting out dolce and growing into profundo. The rafters vibrated in sympathy with a purely brass band in full throat. Sousaphones, baritone horns, trombones, fluglehorns, trumpets, and coronets were accompanied by a drum corps which could shake the place all by itself.

The team entered. There were speeches and more speeches. Honors were awarded and recognitions given. Then, at an auspicious moment, TBDBITL's song was answered by the throaty roar of ~400 alumni band members. I was lifted into band geek heaven. Over 600 brass players were in this classic old arena, vibrating the bones of all present. I sang the National Anthem in decent voice. GTH and I were aglow, he with memories accompanying the experience and me with awe, wonder, and joy.

We skipped ahead of the rush for the doors and made it outside for the stroll to Ohio Stadium. We paused so that GTH might capture me in the moment, with the grand entrance and rosettes behind me. Everywhere, there were Bucknuts, old, middle-aged, and young. I spotted the rare fans dressed in UAB green, but the overwhelming crowd was scarlet and gray.

Entering at an unrushed gate, I grabbed a brat and a beverage from the stadium concessions only to find a Bob Evans stand opposite the entrance to our section. I must have a Bob Evans brat! Wolfing down my standard concessions sausage while in the queue, my hands are freed for the true taste of Ohio. I grabbed two and gave one to GTH.

Our seats were 10 rows up into the second section. We were on ~the 25 yard line, near the student section. Regular alums filled the seats around us and remarked that we must be friends of Woody's Boy (We had his regular seats). We introduced ourselves and were greeted warmly.

Then, it began. TBDBITL marched down the ramp into the stadium. Their sound echoed around the 'Shoe. Among their formations was the diamond OHIO. I am reminded of the terrazzo floor in the entranceway to the band's practice rooms (A gift from TZ Man's company) and our auspicious meeting with the 5th year senior sousaphone player who will dot the "i" for TBDBITL this day.

The band members retired to the stands and the players took the field. Game on! Unfortunately, it's 3-and-out for the Buckeye's first possession. UAB blocked the punt and took it in for a TD - not the start anyone present imagined. The Bucks special team showed some grit and blocked the extra point attempt, but we wouldn't see any fireworks from the Scarlet & Gray until the second quarter. UAB has one heck of a kicker, and they tacked on a field goal to go up 9-zip.

GTH is keen in his observations and noted the Bucks CBs playing soft and yielding UAB receptions. UAB had some success running the ball as well, but the Buckeye D stiffened at the 30s, and UAB's offensive scores were limited to field goals. GTH was equally quick to note Buckeye offensive miscues and stupid, drive-killing penalties. It was frustrating for all Bucknuts, but the students' spirit was unflagging and they started several rounds of O! H! I! O! rolling around the 'Shoe.

In the second quarter, the Buckeye's were headed towards the goal nearest us. I predicted that the Bucks' O would find their groove and score at our end of the field. They did, and racked up 3 TDs. Indeed, we were lucky that day, as all of the Bucks' scoring was at our end of the field (2nd & 4th quarters).

Halftime was another great show from TBDBITL and the alumni. Among the alums were two drum majors from the classes of 1944 and 1945. Some of the band members were carrying horns of a fashion which haven't been in use for decades - alto horns and tenor horns. At one point, there were ~600 brass instruments pointed in our direction. My God! It'll jiggle your innards!

It was my good fortune that this was the alumni band and cheer squad reunion. There would be not one, but four script Ohios formed on the field. The bands began to play and flow into their scripts. I don't have the words to adequately relay these moments. A former band geek who couldn't make the cut at the college level, I was buzzing in joyous sympathy for what was unfolding before me. It's time, and the drum majors escorted the sousaphone players to their places dotting the "i"s. Each took a bow with a flourish.

During the second half, small groups of current and alumni band members and cheerleaders roamed the stands, giving brief performances. Among these were six TBDBITL sousaphone players, including Mike Johnson, the 5th year senior who we'd met the day before and watched dot the "i." He recognized us and came back to join me for a photo opportunity.

The second half was much like the first. UAB racked up yards and first downs, but couldn't punch it into the end zone. Their kicker proved he was human by missing a 50+ yarder. The Bucks came to life in the 4th for one more score to clinch it, tacking on a 2-point conversion. All in all, the football wasn't pretty, but the Bucks won. The cheer leaders and the coeds were pretty, the alumni augmented band was AWESOME, and the fans welcomed me most graciously - A truly great time for this errant Buckeye-for-a-day.


A postscript of sorts is in order, or the Colonel might feel cheated. After the game, GTH and I met up with his brother and nephew. We sauntered over to an Irish pub to quaff victory ales. The fine Fall day didn't deprive us of Columbus's quirky weather, as drizzle chased us from the stadium to the pub and wicked gusting winds cleared it all away as we walked back to our vehicles. GTH and I said our goodbyes, and as a parting gift, he gave me his Woody Hayes cap. We will see each other again.

Once again on the Sunday plane ride back, I sat in the back rows. I had a triple row all to myself and stretched out to read a few more chapters. The plane started up on its own, flew, and landed without a hitch. Home, I carry around a buckeye in my pocket to keep the memories fresh.

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September 27, 2012  11:17 PM ET

Impressive post, Tin Man Thanks for sharing.

September 28, 2012  08:44 AM ET

Excellent blog!

September 28, 2012  07:09 PM ET

A truly memorable weekend, thanks for sharing so eloquently.

Kudos to the Buckeye hosts also, well done gents!

October 1, 2012  09:09 AM ET

That was beautiful. So wish that I could have joined you.

October 1, 2012  03:11 PM ET

Thank you for the story Tin Man, as it is not worthy being identified as a "blog" entry! Meeting you and playing host for a memorable Buckeye weekend, is the graciousness my brother GTH is all about! Glad to know all you fine gentlemen got to meet up in person. The visit gave me, GTH's sister, and the rest of our family a second visit with him this year!
Thanks for sharing your experience!

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October 3, 2012  02:59 PM ET

Reading about the skull session, I started to get the pumped up chills running down my neck and arms. I sure missed a great time. Maybe someday I'll get to share in a good time at the 'Shoe. I am so dang jealous.
I wanna go back, I gotta go back to ol' Columbus town,
I wanna go back, I gotta go back to OHIO!


ps TinMan, I had a great time at Neyland stadium a couple years ago (D.Dooley's 1st as a coach). What a great time and cool traditions too. I will not even attempt to put into words, you sir, have set the bar too high! Thanks for the awesome blog!!

October 14, 2012  11:49 AM ET

Well TinMan I'm glad that you and GTH had a great time.I am also glad that my ex-teammates welcomed you both with open arms.We are a close knit group of ex Buckeyes that like to make our guest and others welcome.Thanks to GTH for the call from the Varsity Club and the toast.If I ever can help you both again,share a game experience with the Buckeyes feel free to let me know.


October 23, 2013  06:27 PM ET

Great Post Tinny. Felt like I was there with you.


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