This article is an annual tradition. It is run every week of The Game. It's in honor of the three men who introduced me to Ohio State football: My dad and both of my grandfathers.
In 1996, a politician wrote a book titled It Takes a Village. The title was taken from an African proverb with the premise that a village, town or city is responsible for raising productive citizens. I was raised in Columbus in the 1970s, '80s and '90s. During that time my village taught me to hate The Team Up North.
I remember watching my first Game at the age of three. I distinctly remember sitting with my dad in my grandpa’s 1960s styled basement. My grandpa, parked in a brown leather La-Z-Boy and sipping on a glass of Tuborg, said “Little man, that team in blue and yellow, with the ugly helmets, is the team you hate.” I asked him “Why?” and he replied “Because Woody and God say so."
That day the Buckeyes won 18-15 in Ann Arbor. Just as important, I learned that Bo, _ichigan and Wolverines were four letter words.
HE CREATED THE VILLAGE
I will never forget March 13, 1987. I was a fourth grade student at Indianola Alternative Elementary School and Woody Hayes was to be the featured speaker at our school assembly. My heart sank when the principal came across the P.A. to announce that Woody Hayes would not be able to attend the assembly that day. Woody Hayes passed away the night of the twelfth. I will always remember the sadness in my principal's voice as he spoke those words.
“Little man, that team in blue and yellow, with the ugly helmets, is the team you hate.” I asked him “Why?” and he replied “Because Woody and God say so."
HE LOST THE VILLAGE
As I went through middle school, high school and college my hatred for _ichigan was slowly replaced with fear. The dark days of Cooper were upon the land of Scarlet and Gray and The Game turned into The Shame.
Cooper tried to downplay the importance of The Game and the tradition behind it. The players and fans picked up on his apathy and the Buckeyes continually lost to teams with less talent from the land of stench.
The Buckeyes were talented during Cooper’s tenure as coach, but they could not beat That Team. 2–10–1 speaks for itself. An entire generation grew up watching the Buckeyes lose The Game to inferior teams from Up North. Cooper could not win The Game. Cooper did not understand The Game.
HE UNDERSTOOD THE VILLAGE
Jim Tressel respected the importance of the third Saturday of November. Jim Tressel recruited players that respected the importance as well.
At his 2006 weekly press conference Tressel said “…it's just a tremendous feeling to be a part of something that so many people are excited about and so many people count it special, I don't know who else gets to sit at home with their dad and watch that game, I got an email from a guy that he's flying to Las Vegas to watch the game with his son…he just wants to be with his son and I can relate to that and it's special.” Jim Tressel was 9–1 against That Team.
LIKE THE VILLAGE, URBAN MEYER LIVED AND BREATHED THE GAME
Only six coaches in Ohio State's history have been able to defeat Our Rival in their first game against them. Urban Meyer is one of those four. Only two coaches have defeated That Team in their first four games against them. Francis A. Schmidt and Urban Meyer. Tressel was able to have a seven-game winning streak in The Game, but Meyer is the only Ohio State coach to go 7–0 against That Team.
Like Cooper, Meyer knew how to recruit and sign the best players in the country. Like Tressel, Meyer understood the importance of The Game.
An Outsider In The Village?
For the first time since John Cooper, Ohio State's head coach is not a native son. Before that fact gives you cold sweats, there is a name to help calm your nerves...Francis Schmidt. The tall Texan was also an "outsider" and outscored That Team 114-0 in his first four games.
Like Schmidt, Ryan Day is known for his offensive fire power and winning by large margins. So, will Day be like Cooper or Schmidt? Neither. Day will be Day.
There's a second name to help the anxiety...Urban Meyer. Day took impeccable notes during his time with Meyer. Although he did not grow up in our Great State, Day has learned to respect the rivalry and understands how important it is to have the team perform at its best on this last Saturday game of November.
“You get here, you start to live it every day and you understand it. Coach Meyer certainly talked about it all the time, and I’ve learned that way,” Day said. “And then being in The Game twice (as an assistant coach), the respect that I have for the rivalry is off the charts. It's one of the reasons that makes it so special to be at Ohio State.”
Day continued, "To see what this means to the people of Ohio and the Buckeye nation, that's to me where it really hits home."
This "outsider" gets it. He is part of The Village.
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