Crazy from the Heat

By Ramzy Nasrallah on March 26, 2013 at 2:30p
Vamos a ganar!

The pit in my stomach last Friday night did not gestate on account of some dire personal crisis. It wasn't due to any food poisoning or that hideous norovirus epidemic that sent entire classrooms home vomiting the previous week.

And it wasn't because Ohio State was just beginning its journey into the cruelest postseason in sports. That pit formed because I was in a strange place, and worse, I was totally blind.

Tengo que ver el juego del Ohio State y, um, Iona. Ayúdame por favor? I never formally learned Spanish, but I know enough to sound like an earnest American traveler. Ohio State's first second-round game had tipped ten minutes earlier in Dayton. I was in rural Puerto Rico, and the uniformed gentleman I had just spotted looked like he might be able to help. He was uniformed, after all.

"Yeah man," he replied, pointing in the direction I had been walking. "Go to the front bar in the hotel lobby. They might have it on there." It was Puerto Rico, our unofficial 51st state, where the English is hablo'd almost everywhere con mucho gusto – but that doesn't keep the television programming from consistently reminding you that you're somewhere else.

"Thanks," I said, shuffling toward the lobby. Grassy-ass.

Just about every week you will see the desperate pleas on message boards and social networking sites: A huge fan among us is in the throes of unavoidable travel, the Buckeyes are playing in a big (or little) game and that displaced little lady needs help finding an accommodating television set or online feed.

It's admittedly hard to get too emotional over some anonymous lost soul in a place where you'll never be – until suddenly you're that soul and the Buckeyes' NCAA tournament run is beginning. That was me last Friday night after a week out on business somewhere else.

I wasn't interested in an Internet feed. The six previously mostly-disconnected days on the island had soured the notion that a robust, reliable and public pipe for streaming the OSU/Iona game existed. No, I needed a sports bar, and preferably one with some other Buckeyes in it.

The uniformed man proved worthy of his costume, as that hotel lobby front bar was equipped with not one but two functioning televisions that looked just old enough to be considered out-of-date. The unit carrying the Buckeyes and Ionians was marked by two ladies seated directly in front of the game, shouting instructions to Amir Williams.The unit carrying the Buckeyes and Ionians was marked by two ladies seated directly in front of the game, shouting instructions to Amir Williams.

They sounded very frustrated, and it was strangely comforting. I had found my home for the next two hours. My flag was planted.

At the time I still had not seen a bracket. The most recent Buckeye basketball game I had watched was the B1G tournament semifinal against Michigan State, shortly before I had to board a plane which caused me to miss the championship against Wisconsin (which is why there were no Badger references in my post last week; the only pit-in-the-stomach feeling that can compete with being blind during a Buckeye game is writing blind for all of you).

Despite the cosmos, the Internet machines and our rapidly shrinking planet, it's still extremely difficult to be an American college sports fan outside of the 48 contiguous. There are just too many variables working against you, most commonly inconvenient time zones and vacuous local interest. They don't even watch college soccer in other countries unless one of their own is playing.

It's partly why I was so excited about the prospect of a global B1G/PAC alliance last summer before it unceremoniously dissolved: One of those two enemy elements of our global tailgate – vacuous local interest – might have been mitigated. It still might be, but as of today it's difficult to get the non-natives emotionally invested in our beloved campus contests.

Case-in-point: As the first half of OSU/Iona drew to a close, I had to outbid another bar patron more interested in [globally popular non-basketball sport] just to keep the Buckeyes on our screen. The bartender rewarded my bribe with complimentary fried plantains.

Those desperate pleas across the Internet begging anyone for a reliable place to see the Buckeyes in Seoul, Machu Pichu, Turkmenistan, Antarctica, Jupiter's seventh moon, or somewhere further away are largely futile shots into space. They're looking for a hero.

There are viewing parties in cities and towns everywhere, but sometimes you don't really know where you are. And worse: Someone else – or no one else – is driving the car. I didn't make the attempt and accepted that I probably wouldn't see the game, just as I had missed Wisconsin in-flight. I've found myself in that isolation several times before.

YOU LOST. GO OVER THERE.Craft extinguished Iowa State's tournament run in a game for the ages.

I was in London over the week of Thanksgiving in 1996, when the entirety of my Internet connectivity consisted of collecting AOL free trial CDs. Reliable online streaming had not yet been conceived and the prospects of finding that week's Ohio State-Michigan game – in which the Buckeyes were undefeated as 17-point favorites – was pure fantasy.

So I placed very expensive phone calls from a landline to America to get updates. That proved to be more agonizing than being blind.

After a 3rd quarter update had abruptly tied my stomach in knots (something about Shawn Springs falling down during a routin-**END TRANSMISSION**) I decided to wait until the following week to discover who had won the game, knowing the Buckeyes were already heading to the Rose Bowl regardless.

Two days later I was standing at the Tube platform on the West end and saw a man reading the international edition of USA Today. The front page was a wall of red jerseys jumping up at scrimmage to block either a field goal or a PAT, swallowing a slight kicker in a white jersey and a winged helmet.

The headline read, "Michigan Does it Again." And that's how I found out what had happened to Ohio State's perfect season, standing shocked on a suddenly freezing train platform filled with dozens of people but no one to talk to.

It's a lonely feeling when the Buckeyes lose while you're on your own somewhere strange with no outlet for catharsis. That's how social media has significantly improved the curse of our unrequited love for an unforgiving team, regardless of how much you cringe at athlete tweets or status updates. You're never alone, whether in Seoul or on Jupiter's seventh moon.

As Ohio State ended Iona's season on Friday, those two ladies who had coached Amir from 2,000 miles away welcomed me to celebrate with rum and more fried plantains.

We regaled our glorious stories of past Ohio State triumphs that we had all watched in other strange places, like Beijing, Barcelona and the Varsity Club basement (they don't have doors on the bathroom stalls down there – it's basically a Bangkok bath house with loud marching band music). 

It was a nice memory that was made better by the Buckeyes winning, and I've already lined up a place in San Juan to watch the Arizona game Thursday night. Thanks, Internet.


Comments Show All Comments

Ethos's picture

My greatest concern will be I am in China in August and again in November.  I have no idea how i'm going to get the games

"I spent 90 percent of my money on women and drink. The rest I wasted." - George Best

BuckeyeGrl5's picture

There is a program called Hide My Ass that I used when I lived in Italy to watch the games.  It allows you to disguise your IP address or use one in the US so you can watch games on ESPN3, ect.  There is also something called a slingbox that you can use (i never had one, but my neighbor did).
I was in Canada last weekend and they were being huge a-holes about putting the games on.  I'm glad I will be in the US this weekend at my local b-dubs where I know for sure the games will be on.

"I love football.  I think its the most wonderful game in the world and I despise to lose" - Woody Hayes

osu07asu10's picture

Slingbox is neat, and it has started to get better in regards to picture quality. Often times, my slingbox was actually AHEAD of the local cable broadcast.

However, quality is still not up to par to watch a football game (only in dire needs). The problem is, that during live play, the camera is zoomed out which makes it tough to see players which come across as pixilated. 

The next thing the slingbox doesn't like is motion. Watching a commercial, focused on 1 person talking, with very little motion, it can come across near HD. However, when it has 22 players moving, quality degrades down to a green blob with barely identifiable players and, well..good luck seeing the football.

Again, if it is the only option, it is better than nothing. However, I watched the entire 2009 football season on a slingbox and I couldn't tell if Pryor completed a pass the entire year, not until instant replay.

CJDPHoS Board of Directors // Best friends with Homey Hache

The 0 is silent.

dan_isaacs's picture

Where in China?  If it's Macau, just walk into the nearest casino and head for the sports book. :)

Dan Isaacs

Earle's picture

I have vivid memories of jockeying for position with the other turistas for a view of the one TV that had basketball among the many others showing futbol (and the wrong kind, at that) in a sports bar in Puerto Vallarta during March Madness circa 1995.  Alas, no platanos fritos, but the margaritas were pretty darn good.

Snarkies gonna snark. 

ssant's picture

I was in Puerto Vallarta in 2006 for my honeymoon during the Ohio State/TSUN game.  Found a dinky sports bar in their downtown to watch the game.  Best part was we won and there were TSUN fans there too!

MaliBuckeye's picture

Famously missed the 2007 version of The Game flying back from Ethiopia... no one in the flight crew was willing to contact the tower at JFK to get me a score.
The picture on the left there is my (new) daughter, in the airport, after I finally got my hands on a newspaper.

"Sarcastically, I'm in charge."


Becky in Cleveland's picture

The Marriott Resort and Stellaris Casino will have the game on.  They have new TV's in their lobby and beach bar too.  We were just there...
San Juan Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino 1309 Ashford Avenue,
San Juan, 00907 Puerto Rico Phone: 1-787-722-7000 Fax: 1-787-722-6800

Becky in Cleveland

Ramzy Nasrallah's picture

That's where I am now. Watched the Iowa State game in the pool.

Earlier last week (for Iona) I was in Luquillo, which is about an hour west - and had no vehicle. Finding the game was a lot more challenging.

German Buckeye's picture

While stationed in Germany recently, all I can say is thank God for Slingbox...AFN is nice and has come light years since the wall fell, but nothing compared to what you get in the States.  Staying up to 0200 to watch live prime time sports a downer anyway you look at it.  Also, I could only take so much of their ESPN equivalent - Eurosport - so much "football" - excuse me, removing ice pick from left eye...  

LadyBuck's picture

Where are you in Puerto Rico? We tend to go, and I could only get the main ESPN where we were, and missed out on games.

Unky Buck's picture

Throws in a Varsity Club basement reference. Being a former employee there, I can't help but love that. Spent many days roaming the corridors there and have so many memories.

Rock over London; Rock on Chicago. Timex: It takes a lickin' but keeps on tickin'

Seth4Bucks's picture

I know the feeling of being stuck in the middle of nowhere and trying desperately to find a way to catch the game. I was in Iraq during the 2009 CFB season and I also missed march madness that year. My unit flew out on 9/11 and I didn't find out the score for the USC game until a couple of days after. I caught part of the PSU game and most of the bowl game against Oregon as well. Thank you AFN for at least that much!
The rest of the season was pretty much just me trying not to lose track of which day of the week it was so I could try and get the score after the game, no small feat in a monotonous grind with no off days, maybe see some post game highlights, and read 11W for their post game analysis.. Even the two games I did catch were playing at like 2am or some such.

Buckeye1996's picture


salberico's picture

While in PR in 2010, I watched the Buckeyes lose their only game of the year to Wisconsin at Nono's in Old San Juan ( Miserable memory. Decent dive bar to watch the game but bad luck. The opening kickoff was a sign of things to come that night.
I also remember being in Signapore and Thailand in 2007 and continually hitting refresh on as the Buckeyes narrowly escaped Xavier and Butler on their way to the final.

Evansvillebuckeye's picture

Be glad you're in Puerto Rico instead of where I am - smack dab in the middle of Hoosier Hystericals and Louisville Lunatics.  These people always make me feel like I'm flipping off the pope when I fly the colors - well, jokes on them because I'm just going to keep flipping it....Go Bucks!!

Dougger's picture

serious question - varsity club has a basement?
We've come a long way baby. Now if only would let me watch more than 2 hours of madness without signing up for crap, I'd be a happy camper.

I like football

Squirrel Master's picture

did they limit the games you can see on there? That is BullShit!
I've been lucky, I work at University of Louisville. March Madness is manditory viewing, even during working hours.

I saw a UFO told me to have a goodyear!

Maestro's picture

I have mentioned this story on the site before but this seems like the appropriate place to revisit it in cliff notes form.  I watched the 2003 Fiesta Bowl/NCG in Canada during the US-Canada World Junior Hockey Championships.  Got booed when I asked them to turn 1 TV to the American College Football game.  On my honeymoon to boot.  Ended up being a great story, but could have been a disaster.

vacuuming sucks

Alhan's picture

The thought of trying to find a place to watch a Buckeye game outside of the country makes my plight of making sure I can watch all of the games after I move from Columbus to Tucson next week seem laughable by comparison. Especially since I can get B1G through the cable company there.

I still need to find a good Buckeye bar for the few games that will be bumped from my cable options for some west coast team I don't care about. Look for an inevitable forum post near you this fall!

"Nom nom nom" - Brady Hoke

Squirrel Master's picture

That is odd because out here on planet D6Epsilon we had no problem getting a quality feed! You just need to know the right prober...(did I just say that out loud?)...Er, I mean here in France, that's right, I come from France, we had no problem! :)
P.S. Hence why the wife knows there is no way possible I will be traveling between mid August till the end of May to anywhere outside of the continental US. Even Canada sucks and they have TSN (canadian ESPN).

I saw a UFO told me to have a goodyear!

doodah_man's picture

Lots of good Buckeye Bars on Jupiter's seventh moon just be surrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr ................

Jim "DooDah" Day

"If I were giving a young man advice as to how he might succeed in life, I would say to him, pick out a good father and mother, and begin life in Ohio.” --Wilbur Wright, 1910

MediBuck's picture

One need not leave the country (or contiguous 48 states) to experience this horror. Being a clinical med student or resident is just as painful--there is no torture worse than standing at full attention listening to your attending physician blab on and on about some obscure physical finding you have no interest in during Saturday morning walk rounds while you know the OSU-Michigan game is in its final dwindling minutes. It's sorta like holding in severe diarrhea on a road trip with your boss. :/
I'm not proud of this, but I once joined a nurse and hid in a comatose patient's room to catch the end of a game. #O-H-ddicted...

"There is a force that makes us all brothers, no one goes his way alone." --Woody Hayes

spqr2008's picture

Well, if it is true that sometimes comatose patients can see and hear things, then you gave the patient a good memory hopefully.

DefendOhio's picture

As someone who has lived abroad during important football and basketball games, I can certainly attest to what Ramzy is saying. The things we take for granted living stateside.