I am now and have always been fascinated by the human animal: what makes us the way we are? Is it the effect of our parents and their nurturing, is it something that is inborn and part of our inherent nature, or is it some balanced combination of the two? I used to lean heavily toward the "nurture" and balance arguments, but now I'm not so sure. Maybe there are just things that are part of our "nature", things that are uncontrollable, perhaps even predestined. What changed my mind? Was it a compelling article or recently published discovery that tipped the scales? No, it was something even more important and shocking to me: I am not a first generation Buckeyes fan.
I grew up in my father's hometown in rural Northwest Ohio-- Buckeye country-- with the kind of fans that give real fans a bad name. (You know the type, because every institution has them: extremely loud, terribly arrogant, and exceptionally annoying, most of whom didn't attend any college, let alone YOUR alma mater-- the absolute worst type of fans.) And my father had to work with these guys on a daily basis. For this reason (almost understandably), he HATED Ohio State and everything Buckeyes. But despite his best efforts, the influence of our neighbors (both Ohio State Alumni), my teachers, and my classmates won out: I was an Ohio State fan. I spent my childhood fighting with my father, screaming at the top of my lungs every time he would sing that STUPID fight song from Up North. My mother made me go upstairs to watch The Game, because apparently our yelling back and forth at each other from different floors was easier to block out than if we were in the same room. This scenario continued throughout my youth and teen years. Eventually, my father grudgingly converted to Buckeye-dom, when both his daughters (and all his money) ended up at Ohio State. And by the time Tressel came along, though he detested the conservative play calling, Dad was a fan in earnest. I was so proud. I thought I'd done my duty. I had no idea it had nothing to do with me or my efforts. It was nature taking its course. You see, I recently found out that my paternal grandmother was a huge Ohio State fan.
This revelation took me completely by surprise. My aunt and I were taking care of my three little cousins during the Ohio State-Illinois game, and I kept getting sidetracked by the TV. My aunt eventually said, "You really love your Buckeyes, don't you? Just like Mom." Come again? What do you mean? She continued, "Yeah, Mom loved football, especially the Ohio State. She'd sit in front of the radio every Saturday and listen to their games. You didn't know?" WHAT???? Of course I didn't know!!! Your little rat brother never told me THAT!! Had I known, he wouldn't have heard the end of it! (Which, in his defense, is probably why he never told me.) I didn't even know she liked football!!!
On one hand, I was completely elated. I wasn't the weird one (for a change). I was actually living the legacy and following in the footsteps of an obviously great lady. On the other hand, I was disappointed and confused. Dad didn't turn away from The Dark Side because of me and my persistence; he was returning to his roots. But how could he let others cause him to ignore his heritage for so long? My father is gone now, so I will never know the answer to that question. But I do know how proud he was that I am such an avid football fan and that I can hold my own in a football argument with any man.
My grandmother died when I was three or four, so I never really got to know her. In fact, I remember very little about her-- visiting her at the little house with the big woodburning stove and wheelchair rides from room to room are about all. But I am forever grateful to learn that she and I shared a love for football and for Ohio State, even though I didn't know it. So whether it was nature or nurture, born or taught, I was meant to be a Buckeye, and I'm damn proud of that.