Brutus Buckeye stands at the railing of a high bridge. "Some life!" he says to himself, bitterly. "I'm worth more dead than alive. Sometimes I wish I had never been born at all." Then, suddenly, a flash! An angelic form appears before him in the snow; a pudgy man wearing farah slacks and a short sleeved dress shirt, with a tiny glowing halo floating just above his wireframe glasses.
"You stupid dumb idiot," bellows the angel. "You feel bad? Fine, feel bad. But hucking yourself off this bridge is the coward's way out, and by God I will not become the guardian angel to some communist sissy crybaby pantywaist. You're coming with me." The short-tempered angel grabs Brutus by the collar with a meaty paw, and in another flash, they are off!
It's been a rough year. Almost exactly twelve months ago, scandal grabbed Ohio State football by the back of the head and dunked us in the proverbial toilet bowl of mass media, and it seemed like the football players and staff were the ones repeatedly slamming on the flusher.
That, plus the resulting 6-6 season, might have been enough to make you want to quit. Give up. Turn in your faded BuckID to an unimpressed secretary in the basement of Lincoln Tower and burn your faded Chris Spielman jersey as you sob in the rain while "I'd Do Anything For Love" plays in the background.
I hope you didn't. In about an hour, the NCAA will let OSU know what their final verdict on this whole ordeal is going to be and tonight or tomorrow the university will go public with what they've heard. And then it'll be over. The speculation, the worrying, the nervous flatulence, all gone. Yes, there will probably be penalties to think over and gripe about, but this hangman's noose that has dangled in front of Ohio State fans for 364 days is about to come undone.
Brutus and the angel flash backward to February, into a bedroom where a gregarious basketball player who owns the NCAA's most famous butt is grinning at a package he just received. "Look," says the angel, "Look at this young man, this Jared Sullinger. A Minnesota fan (MINNESOTA) has the temerity to mock his singing abilities. Me? I'd knock that smug semi-Canadian right in the mug. Jared? He laughed, had fun with it, gave it to his mom." Brutus nods. "He's a great kid." "Yeah," says the angel, "but sometimes you forget this stuff."
As Ohio State fans, we tend to view everything through the prism of college football. It's how the university and the students have defined themselves for the better part of a century, and considering how important football is in general to the social fabric of Ohio, this can be forgiven somewhat.
But even if it can be forgiven, it's not always a good thing. Football begins to influence not just how we perceive ourselves, but also how we perceive other institutions and entities. ESPN is out to get us. Sports Illustrated is incompetent. The NCAA is filled with inconsistent bumbling fools. It's doesn't matter to what extent these accusations are true; what's relevant is that we get so tribal and wrapped up in defending ourselves that we ignore the good and try to hide the bad.
Ohio State last won a national championship in football during the 2002 season, and it was awesome. 14-0, beating a heavily favored Miami team, making Dan Fouts mad... everything about it was great. And we've been riding that crest for nearly a decade now, hoping to relive that feeling of knowing that we're better than everyone else in the country.
Which we have been, eleven times since that night in Tempe. Fencing in 2004 and 2008. Pistol in 2003, 2004, and 2009. Synchronized swimming in 2003, 2004, 2009, 2010, and 2011. And...
"Wait, where are we now?" Brutus looked around the packed arena in State College PA, all attention focused on a small court with a net splitting through the middle. The angel sighed, as the mismatched pair walked through the joyous crowd that had gathered to celebrate a championship. "You don't remember? Normally if you told me a men's volleyball team had beat another men's volleyball team, I'd ask why they decided to create a Wuss Olympics. But this is an OHIO STATE men's volleyball team. And they're the best in the country. WE'RE the best in the country."
In 1962, Ohio State was given an invitation to the Rose Bowl. The invitation was turned down, with the university citing an undue amount of attention on the football team and a need to concentrate more on academics. It was the wrong decision, but today I kind of admire it because a) it isn't a decision that any school would ever make today, b) it took an incredible amount of guts and stubbornness on the part of Ohio State to make that call, and c) just because it was the wrong decision doesn't mean it wasn't made for the right reasons.
In college football this past year we have seen some horrible scandals: people covering up some horrific acts and incidents, all in the name of perpetuating the image of a sport that we tend to wrap up our identities in. I hope Ohio State never gets to that point, where we care more about football than what's right. There's too much good and fun to be had in enjoying Ohio State athletics and Ohio State the university to allow that to happen.
Whatever punishment that will come from the NCAA will pass, in time. We've got a great coach and a bright future, and root for a really cool school with a lot of terrific athletes in other sports who do awesome things. It's a wonderful life.
Brutus stood in front of the glass case, which contained awards and trophies for dozens of sports, stretching back decades. His large, expressive eyes welled up with with tears and dripped down the side of his huge felt head. "You're right, Woody. There's a lot to love here. There will always be a lot to love here. I get it now." The angel smiled and was surrounded by a bright light, and sprouted wings. "Goddamn finally" muttered Woody, as he ascended into Heaven.