The Gift of Bowls

By Johnny Ginter on December 27, 2013 at 2:30 pm
Ohio State's first Orange Bowl

Once upon a time, Ohio State was not super excited about a bowl. Not necessarily because they felt that they should be in a better one, or because they thought that the team was going to get killed, or because the BCS system was inherently flawed attempt to make sense out of something fundamentally insane like college football.

No, the larger issue was that it was 1920 and the student population was more concerned about the rising cost of pomade and preoccupied with daring each other to swallow goldfish and sit on top of flagpoles while investing heavily in a stock market that they didn't understand the actual workings of.

I'm not joking about that pomade thing, either. On December 17th, 1920, Ohio State President William Thompson (who the library is named after), stood in front of a small and skeptical crowd of football fans to convince them that playing a football game thousands of miles away was in fact in the best interests of the school and not a silly distraction from the important business of smuggling hooch though Columbus to Cleveland.

"There is probably a no more beautiful event in the world today, and it is an honor that Ohio State should be asked to participate as a representative of the people of the Middle West," [Thompson] said. "Whether we win or lose, it is an honor that has been well won by the members of our team."

This year, almost 100 years later, Ohio State is not going to the Rose Bowl. Or the National Championship. We have been consigned to the apparently lowly Orange Bowl, and some seem to be struggling with the indignity.

One thing that might be important to point out is that after that 1921 destruction at the hands of the Cal Bears, Ohio State didn't participate in another bowl game until 1950. We've been clutching at our pearls because we were forced to sit out an entire season because of the bowl ban, but there were people who were too young to read the box score in the newspaper the next day, lived through the Depression, fought in World War II, came back home, got married, had kids, bought a house, and still hadn't seen the Ohio State Buckeyes participate in another bowl game.

Now, of course, bowl games are a given. Pat of that is because there are a billion of them, part of that is because the logistics of getting a team thousands of miles away in short order is a lot easier, and part of that is because Ohio State football is so consistently good.

SWAGCoach Wilce, right before the Rose Bowl in 1921

Of course, that's the double edged sword that I want to address today.

As of the 23rd, Ohio State had only managed to sell about 7,000 of its 17,500 allotted tickets for the Orange Bowl, which is, uh, bad. And also doesn't make a lot of sense to me. I'm no big fan of Florida in general, what with the venomous mosquitoes and the alligators that can open doors and the anacondas that con people into pyramid schemes, but for a lot of people Miami in January beats Columbus in January.

Or not:

“We have a large population of alums down in [South Florida] that are slowly starting to buy tickets through us,” (Ohio State AD Gene) Smith told The Blade this week. “We’re starting to see a little more activity. It’s a hard hard sell every single year.”

Really? It's odd to me that one of the largest, most rabid fanbases in the country would have trouble selling out their tickets for a BCS bowl game. So what is it, Ohio State fans? Yeah, flights are expensive, but does anyone really think we'd have a hard time selling out the National Championship? Are people really that disappointed with having to go to the Orange Bowl (as if we're kids being forced to take a bath after rolling around in the mud of failure at the B1G championship)?

The first time Ohio State played in a non-Rose Bowl bowl was actually in the Orange Bowl on January 1st, 1977, and by all accounts it was awesome. The Buckeyes beat Colorado 27-10, and The Lantern documented some of the fun that the players had:

  • A tour through the Everglades
  • A fishing boat trip
  • A Jai Alai match
  • Gambling?? ("'I almost won an $800 trifecta,' said sophomore quarterback Rod Gerald.")
  • Chartered buses that took players to discos and bars???
  • Aaannddd "The Buckeyes were also invited to the Bath Club, a private club in Miami Beach, by John W. Galbreath, a Columbus financier and sportsman."
  • Hahaha WHAT

Okay, so I really hope that Braxton Miller and company don't do like... 2/3rds of the things on that list. Especially that last one, that sounds like an automatic NCAA violation for even being within 500 feet of the place.

But you can! And should, because there's nothing sadder in bowl season than a fanbase so spoiled by success that we can't even enjoy a game that 95% of the rest of the country would absolutely kill to be able to attend. Bowl season, for all its bloated excess and unnecessary matchups between two teams that couldn't care less about each other, still shines when a team has fans so devoted that they turn places like Memphis or nowhere New Mexico into seething cauldrons of fury, even just for a few hours in late December.

The 2013 Ohio State Buckeyes deserve a good show of fan support on the 3rd, not just because they had a great season, but because this is great event and a chance to legitimize a team that we think is generally as good as any in the country. Sometimes. I mean, ignoring our secondary and most of our linebackers. Look, shut up and go to the damn game.

On December 17th, 1920, after President Thompson gave his speech, one man was very unhappy. Cheer leader (you know, the guy officially designated to lead the cheers, duh) John Creps "...expressed disappointment in the turnout. He asked that better spirit be shown during the basketball season, just beginning." At the very least, let's not let Mr. Creps down.

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