The Blue and the Red and the Scarlet and the Gray

By Johnny Ginter on April 22, 2014 at 11:00a

Yesterday the reigning monarch of Ohio sports took the time to throw some bread crumbs to his starving, naked subjects:

"Ho ho ho!" bellowed Urban the Good, "Mayhap the poor fools in Nationwide Arena will find warmth in my succor! Now, onward to the great annual rage hunt, where we fill our bellies with imagined slights and half-forgotten taunts from Alabama fans! ON, BUBASTIS!"

And with that, the king urged his mighty steed toward the club house of whatever Columbus area golf course he was currently whiling away the offseason in.

The king has had no need for worry, nor has any other king of Columbus area sports, because Ohio State football has gone completely unmatched in popularity for the past hundred plus years. And it's never been even remotely close; Ohio State football at this point is pretty much Krusty the Clown giddily reminiscing about the time that he demolished the Special Olympics in the ratings.

But what if that changed?

The Columbus Blue Jackets are a professional sports team. I mean, apparently. They're a member of the fourth most popular league in the country (comin' for ya, NBA!), the 32nd largest media market in the country, and a city that recently had to strike a rather plum deal with the team to make sure that they didn't end up in Branson or Quebec City or Yellowknife or where the hell ever. Oh also, the team is bleeding cash like a man made out of money that bleeds cash when you cut him.

So they've got that going against them. On the other hand, the team is pretty okayish now? They're in the playoffs, they recently won their first postseason game, AND one of my coworkers wore a Blue Jackets jersey yesterday, so that has to count for something I guess.


But the truth of the matter is that no matter what success that the Blue Jackets have, they're going to play second fiddle to a good Ohio State football program. And good might be overselling it, because mediocre is all Ohio State football merely has to be to stay supreme in Columbus sports. Even the existential angst of a string of crappy seasons in a row would be enough to prop the Buckeyes up in a city that feeds on football to sustain itself like some kind of ancient lich-king.

But what if that changed?

See, I can (with difficulty), envision a Columbus where football takes a backseat to professional hockey. The hazy glaze that is the future tells me this won't even come close to happening, but bear with me here, because this is what a Saturday in October looks like in this horrifying alternate universe:

  • You pop out of bed at 8 am, giddy with excitement about the prospect of watching Artem Anisimov and Mark Letestu mix it up in the middle.
  • After several hours of pregaming with your friends, you stumble down high street, high fiving everyone you see. The main drag of Columbus is awash in blue and red; little children are clutching their prized Blake Comeau bobbleheads, and grown men proudly sport poorly drawn tattoos of that mascot bee thing I dunno it's weird.
  • Someone tries to ask you about the Buckeyes game going on over on campus. "BUCKEYES?!?" you shout incredulously, "Why don't you watch a real man's sport, like curling or speedskating or obviously hockey?"
  • Ten minutes into the game, and you have removed your shirt with the intention of taking off your pants, partly out of giddy glee and partly because since they expanded Nationwide Arena to accommodate 65,000 fans, security has gotten a little lax.
  • A score flashes on the jumbotron during intermission: "OSU university Bluckeys defeat Purdue 6-3. OSU raises record to 1-4." A smattering of applause.
  • After the game, which the three time reigning Stanley Cup champion Columbus Blue Jackets win by a score of 6-1, you contemplate how Columbus sports could've changed so much in the last 15 years. Sure, Urban Meyer's arrest for financially aiding Edward Snowden was unexpected, but the real blow was when Gene Smith went insane and revealed that the football team was really a hundred year front for the manufacturing and selling of counterfeit purses. Ever since the program penalized itself by restricting all recruiting to Nova Scotia, the team hadn't won more than two games in a season (but was still considerably better than Purdue).

Last night, in real life, the Blue Jackets blew a two goal lead in the third period by giving up three goals in approximately the same amount of time that it takes to make a Hot Pocket.

At the game, Urban Meyer folded his arms and grimly nodded. "A terrible price to be sure," he thought, "but one that must be paid." The integrity of Ohio State's stranglehold on Columbus sports must never be threatened. And, as long as Ohio State remained at least semi-competent with a massive alumni base supporting it, it never would be.

Still, I wonder what this city would look like without the massive influence of Ohio State, if it were more Cleveland or Cincinnati than central Ohio. Selfishly, as a fan of hockey in general and the Blue Jackets specifically, I might trade a little Buckeye influence for some CBJ success, but that implies that we can't have both. I think we can, and I look forward to the day that Columbus celebrates the first day of hockey with the same intensity that it celebrates the symbolic first day of fall.


Comments Show All Comments

Mark's picture

Hockey is the perfect sport for this city.  It can succeed if it has any success on the ice.  If the CBJ somehow wins these series versus the Pens, it would be the first stepping stone to that success and would build a nearby rivalry with the Pens (currently, the Pens dominate the "rivalry").  There is already a small, hardcore following.  A little success with a gritty young team & a great goalie, and the future is bright for the CBJ.

+5 HS
shadybuck's picture

Good points Mark, I personally love how hardcore the hockey fans around here are for the blue jackets, though actual hockey fans are not the most common people to encounter, I still have a ton of friends (having grown up playing hockey in northwest ohio) who are red wings fans, but it's a great feeling to have been a blue jackets fan since the beginning and watching all the non-big-name talent blossoming in the last couple seasons, I'm proud to rep the CBJ and it's great to see the success finally start to turn the hockey market around in central ohio

+3 HS
Jason Gruber's picture

I don't see anything replacing Buckeyes football in this area ever. Too big of an alumni base and too much history. The only thing that could rival it would be if the Jackets could somehow win Lord Stanley's Cup this season. Columbus, and Ohio for that matter, is thirsty for a champion (sorry tennis, not enough to satisfy the hunger this area is feeling.)

"You win with people." Woody Hayes

"If winning isn't everything, why do we keep score?" Vince Lombardi

"¯\_(ツ)_/¯" Joey Bosa

shadybuck's picture

Woah! Huge slam on curling out of nowhere!


+6 HS
Johnny Ginter's picture

it doesn't really dopple my fingal

Ethos's picture

MST3K Auto-upvote enabled.

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

+1 HS
Ugly Hour Chazz Bear's picture

Unless the CBJ win 10 straight Stanley Cups, no way they pass OSU ever.

CBJ is really just a middle of the pack team in the NHL.  I would not consider them great at all.  They've only won 1 playoff game in the 10 (or 11, I can't remember) years they've existed.

Hockey is the only pro sport that can work in Columbus.  Doesn't take away from OSU football at all considering most of the season is from December to early April (longer if in the playoffs).

I like the bux.

+1 HS
ULuvLucy's picture

The main drag of Columbus is awash in blue and red;

This is where the fantasy ended for me. BLUE? CBJ gonna hafta change they colors stat.

BrutusBlock O Proponent of the ladies XS v-neck tee.

BoFuquel's picture

Blasphemy,TOSU football is and will always be king. Ol' UM didn't even know C-BUS had a hocker team a month ago. Dementia is a terrible thing. GO BUCKS!

I wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then.

+1 HS
CarolinaBuck's picture

The CBJ can have their place, but I don't think they will ever surpass the Buckeyes.  I can see a cooling off for the passion of Ohio State and college football in general. We just added two teams we will be forced to play every year that no one cares about. How many of these body bag games do TOSU and the B1G think we are going to watch while paying upwards of  $100 per ticket before even the most die hard fan begins to revolt?

SeattleBuckeye20614's picture

I've watched all the playoff games at bars in Seattle and every game someone has asked me who the "CBJ" is... most people don't know Columbus even has a professional hockey team.

shadybuck's picture

the seattle area of coarse being known for their intensity and passion for the sport of hockey

-1 HS
William's picture

Actually the Pacific Northwest is pretty crazed when it comes to hockey. They have several WHL teams in the region. 

shadybuck's picture

I was just kidding, i know just off the top of my head the portland winterhawks are a prolific team in that region, I believe Joey played some junior hockey there

William's picture

Yeah, Johansen and Dubinsky played for Portland, and one of the CBJ's better prospects, Oliver Bjorkstrand, also plays for them. Other WHL teams in the Pacific Northwest are Seattle, Everett (Murray played for them), Tri-Cities, and Spokane. Seattle was also the first American franchise to win the Stanley Cup, all the way back in 1917. 

+1 HS
shadybuck's picture

some really interesting stuff william, wish i could upvote that post more than once, keep carrying the flag brother!

BucksfanXC's picture

I think the hockey post season being during the Spring/Summer while there is no football, or even college basketball, helps a lot. I think Ohio will be over taken with hockey soon enough. Right now it doesn't have the youth programs that states like Minnesota and Michigan have that make hockey a goal for kids growing up. That's the groundswell kind of interest it takes to get a real passionate fanbase in the state.

“Any time you give a man something he doesn't earn, you cheapen him. Our kids earn what they get, and that includes respect.”  - Woody

+1 HS
Crumb's picture

I think the Jackets can exist well with the Buckeyes. And I hope they do, I like having an NHL team in Ohio, I'd hate to have to go back to rooting for the Red Wings again.

"The only good thing about it is winning the d*** thing" - Urban Meyer on The Game The War

+3 HS
Buckeye Chuck's picture

I graduated from Ohio State and I live in Columbus; therefore, I support both the Buckeyes and the CBJ and will continue to do so. 

The most "loud mouth, disrespect" poster on 11W.

+4 HS
hetuck's picture

I'll never forget the frustrated post-game caller after a Blue Jacket loss. "They looked like five Steve Bellisaris out there." That spoke volumes.

Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.

Vince Lombardi

+1 HS
xrox's picture

I'm a Crew fan. And a CBJ fan. And an OSU fan.

There's room for all these teams in Columbus. And if they win consistently, they'll get all the support they can handle. Did you see the Arena on TV (or in person) last night? Absolute insanity for most of that game. The Crew's supporter section, The Nordecke, has been sold out or close to sold out every home game so far. Not to mention the efforts they make to go to away games. Columbus has the best sports fans anywhere.

This article was also hilarious.

+2 HS
741's picture

First and foremost, I am a Buckeye. (I could take or leave all of professional sport, but I will never cease to be a fan of OSU football.)

That said, Ohio State Football is the relative equivalent of the New York Yankees in terms of resources, and fan expectations are extraordinarily high has a result - and rightfully so. Excellence is expected, and it's not crazy to say we should have experienced more over the last 45 years.

On the other hand the CBJ are the... well, they are the CBJ of the NHL. If they were to win a Stanley Cup it would surely and deservedly be the biggest thing that has ever happened to Columbus, Ohio.

PoKeY21's picture

Grew up near Pittsburgh but have lived in Cbus for the last 5 years now and would love too see the BJs get some love in the city. It's almost a 180 from pittsburgh to cbus when talking sports. Obviously Pittsburgh is a pro town where Columbus is the biggest college town in the county. I'd still love for the jackets to even get a tenth of the love the buckeyes get. When I first moved I swear there was more love for  the Clippers than the jackets. Hell OSUs ultimate frisbee team got more respect than the jackets. Hopefully Jarmo can keep em relevant and Richards keeps getting the   Best out of them. Winning will be the only thing that gains this cities respect.

"It was a woman who drove me to drink, come to think of it I never did hang around to thank her for that"

gm3jones's picture


 "OSU university Bluckeys defeat Purdue 6-3. OSU raises record to 1-4."

 I have a hard time envisioning this going across there screen lol

There is nothing more remarkable as learning to think better.