Extra Blessings

By Ramzy Nasrallah on March 24, 2021 at 1:15 pm
Ohio State Buckeyes guard Duane Washington Jr. (4) reacts to their loss to Oral Roberts Golden Eagles in overtime during the first round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament on Friday, March 19, 2021, at Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, Ind. Mandatory Credit: Robert Scheer/IndyStar via USA TODAY Sports

Losing to Purdue in football has been a crime for most of recorded history.

Ohio State football nightmares can define an entire damn season. No Buckeye fan should get twisted up hearing hey, we have an unhealthy way of handling bad losses. This is who we are.

It's a perk of cheering for an athletics powerhouse where winning is expected and tough losses are at least explainable. Tolerating bad losses is where fans of lousy programs excel.

You know the last two times the Buckeyes got embarrassed in West Lafayette they went on to destroy Michigan, win the Big Ten and the Rose Bowl? No, you mostly remember Terrelle Pryor committing four of the worst turnovers you've ever seen in your life and Rondale Moore pin-balling off of four and five-star recruits all night.

When you have a nightmare, that's all you remember. You don't wake up from one and think about the non-nightmare parts of your otherwise peaceful slumber. Football clunkers linger, and in Ohio State's case - outside of The Game and The Postseason they've generally been painted gold and the dirty deed went down in Indiana.

Ohio State's historic 1st round exit FROM THE 2021 NCAA TOURNAMENT BEGAN ON A FATEFUL NIGHT IN 1977.

That brings us to the ORU Golden Eagles - the worst defensive team in this year's NCAA Tournament - which ended the Buckeyes' season last Friday in West Lafayette. That is one we will remember for awhile, and not just because ORU can't guard anyone yet still beat the Buckeyes.

Ohio State basketball horrors aren't nearly as elegant, demarcating or - let's just say the quiet part aloud, devastating - as our football ones, partly due to the hoops season being three times longer but mostly because roundball religion is not quite the death cult Ohio State football is.

Which means losing to Michigan once in November is worse than getting bounced by Utah State, Dayton and Siena in March, combined. But losing to Oral Roberts hits differently. You cannot lose to Oral Roberts for the same reasons you cannot lose to Austin Peay, Morehead State or Coppin State.

It's a joke with no expiration date. You beat the joke team or else you become the joke. Do you like the Butterfly Effect? Strap in, we're going to lean into it - it's too late, Ohio State cannot un-lose this game.

Oral Roberts, for those who don't know, is named for a televangelist who in 1977 claimed a 900-foot Jesus appeared to only him and commanded him to build a hospital. In 1983, a regular-sized Jesus rolled up and commanded him to cure cancer. Healthcare is expensive and Oral was obedient - but he had no intention of taking on those construction or R&D costs by himself.

Delegating healthcare miracles to a college dropout in Tulsa passes the sniff test, since messiahs notoriously have busy schedules. Oral built his hospital with funds from enthusiasts of his literal tall tale. He told them if they gave him money in multiples of $7, they would receive extra blessings as a bonus.

The hospital's first patient was admitted in 1981. By 1986 it was losing $10M a year, or around $24M in today's dollars. In 1987 Oral told his fans he needed more money to keep it open, because Jesus showed up again and said he'd have to die if he didn't.

It shut down for good in 1989. Oral lived 20 more years. Time is relative. Technically, he was right. Your butterfly effect is that without 900-foot Jesus' arrival in 1977, Ohio State's historic 1st round exit would not have been possible. That hospital - which is now office space - is the defining structure of the ORU campus.

In 2021 the university that bears his name (and doesn't even have the humor to print ORAL on its jerseys) became the worst tournament loss in Ohio State basketball history. Oral Roberts took down a 2-seed before it cured cancer. Nothing is impossible.

Ohio State not only validated Oral Roberts, it verified Oral Roberts. He chuckles from his eternal sauna, having won yet again. Final score, 75-72. He even got a couple of sevens on the final scoreboard. Extra blessings all around.

Losing to Bama in football with 3/4 of a team is a forgivable sin. Losing a basketball game in this year's Big Ten - even in the manner that the Buckeye gagged away several of them this season and before the conference petered out in March - was in the realm of acceptability.

Getting blown out at Purdue in 2018 (those Boilers went 6-7 and lost their bowl game by 49 points!) was not in that realm. And neither is losing to Oral Roberts in any competition other than the Grift and Swindle Steeplechase, which isn't even an official NCAA sport. Yet.

You cannot lose this game, or else it will be the only thing that's ever remembered about this season. You will hear about Oral Roberts for the rest of your life. That should have been the entire pre-game pep talk.

Hindsight suggests the Buckeyes - and the conference at large - was a little too beat up to play basketball in April. But Ohio State, with its athletic department, talent, offense, expenditures and foundation in being a land grant university dedicated to research and advancing knowledge should have at least gotten the chance to lose to Florida, as is our sad custom.

Alas, ORU took down the Gators too. Congratulations, Oral Roberts. You're a tough pill to swallow.

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