A love for Ohio State's storied football program brings you to 11W but what else are you passionate about?
For me, a passion for live music, specifically by Phish, runs just as deep through my veins as my thirst for Ohio State football.
Interestingly, to me anyway, is the amount of parallels I can draw about both Ohio State and Phish fandom beyond just the sheer amount of energy I devote to both.
I really didn't even realize how much the two overlap until last Sunday morning when I was looking at my travel schedule for the rest of the summer to understand how it meshed against my writing duties and devotion to Ohio State football.
It's basically an annual tradition to plan my weekly 11W duties around upcoming summer trips to see Phish – this year the itinerary includes two shows in Chicago, one in Indianapolis, two in George, Washington and three in Denver – and fall/winter trips not yet known.
Anyway, as I thought through the logistics required to balance both loves, I began to think more deeply about why each is so personally meaningful.
Before I jump into what I think is so unique about these two things and how much I appreciate the way they overlap, almost in harmony, I again invite you to share your passions and the 'why' behind them.
MY FRIEND, MY FRIEND
I consider it a blessing that my passion for both live Phish and Ohio State football is shared quite strongly by the vast majority of people within my innermost circle. As such, I am afforded the ability to experience and appreciate the two things I enjoy the most with the people I enjoy the most.
Being able to share moments such as a big win over Michigan or a legendary live music performance affords the ability to romanticize about each as an emotional experience because not only was the event amazing but we experienced it together.
More than a few times, most recently in Las Vegas from October 31st through November 2nd during the national championship season of 2014, Ohio State football and live Phish were set on a collision course where the game and a concert shared the same start time or came dangerously close.
That year, me and a buddy were forced to watch the last 10 minutes of Ohio State's 55-14 spanking of Illinois from the backseat of a cab on my phone or else on the outskirts of a bar at MGM Grand.
The greatest overlap of passions however occurred way back in January of 2003. Having won the opportunity in early September for the right to buy tickets to see Phish shred the Hampton Coliseum, I honestly wasn't expecting Ohio State to be in the national championship game against Miami on what would be the middle concert of a three-night run.
With Ohio State set to battle for the first national title of our lifetime, it was a no-brainer to sell my Friday night tickets so me and my brother could watch the game from a dank hotel off I-64. It was also a no-brainer for us to bring the framed 16x20 of Woody that usually leaned up against the coffee table (so he could watch the game) of a buddy's house where we would usually congregate as a group to watch big games. Woody served as the connection between us in Hampton and the rest of the crew back home in Columbus because it was already considered bad luck that we weren't at the normal viewing party.
You know what happened from there. The Buckeyes justified our decision to skip one of what were considered to be fairly historical concerts following a live concert hiatus that stretched from October of 2000 to just four nights earlier.
Expecting an upset win all along, we glided into The Mothership the next night for Phish's final performance in enough Buckeye gear to make Buck-I-Guy blush. The camaraderie from fellow Buckeyes who employed the strategy as us the night before was outstanding. We encountered at least 50 fellow Buckeyes basking in the glory.
Considering the game, the shows and who I was with, I'm confident putting this up there as one of the top five trips of my life.
HEAVY THINGS (OR, PUNCH YOU IN THE EYE)
Another interesting parallel between these two loves is the amount of negative things intertwined with the more celebratory parts of being a rabid fan and how those unfortunate events make the highs that much sweeter.
Specific to the Buckeyes, I'm 42 so I grew up during the John Cooper's tenure and therefore know a thing or two about heartbreak. All those losses to Michigan, Jim Tressel's blowout loss to Florida followed up by the LSU defeat, Tressel's resignation as a result of Tatgate, the 6-7 shitshow of a season that followed. All of those events, as painful as they were at the time, only galvanized my love for the program and made Tressel's dominance over Michigan, that night in Tempe, and the magical postseason turned in by the 2014 squad, among other happenings, that much sweeter.
Similarly, Phish has seen struggles ranging from the crowd becoming a little unseemly in the late 90's - early 2000's to more major items such as band leader Trey Anastasio's bottoming out thanks to drug addiction (and recovery), a band hiatus lasting over two years from October 2000 to December 2002 and a breakup that thankfully spanned just 1,664 excruciating days starting August 2004 and running through early March 2009.
Without the hard times associated with each of these things, I think it's safe to say my appreciation and love for each would not be quite as high on the pedestal I put them on today and certainly, the peak times associated with each would not seem nearly as euphorically special.
Beating Michigan or winning a national title or witnessing a historic concert where the music is on point, the setting is just right and the crowd forms a bonded community is a wondrous celebration of life that can't be replicated and is only made sweeter by having perspective of what the opposite end of the spectrum feels like.
ALL THINGS RECONSIDERED
Reflecting on the fun times provided by both the Buckeyes and Phish is no different than thinking back on other great memories in that doing so makes us feel good and reminds us to enjoy the precious times we have knowing that tomorrow isn't promised today.
Specific to these two entities however is how statistics, or keeping score, helps feed the beast and I wear them like a badge of honor.
As diehard Buckeyes, most of us are aware of how many national titles have been captured during our respective lifetimes, how many wins over Michigan "we" have, how many Heisman performers we've witnessed and on and on and on.
It's the same with Phish fans, maybe even more so believe it or not, as stats consume most elements of the fandom. There are sites out there to help you compile all your pertinent show statistics ranging from how many shows you've attended (68 and counting for me) to the number of times each song has been played to how many states you've been to (20 and counting) and everything in between.
Stats are so pervasive in the Phish community that upon meeting someone at a show the most logical first step is to ascertain what show number this will be for him or her and then see where you've overlapped and discuss the finer points of those shows while highlighting the most historical shows you've personally witnessed.
It's truly no different than mingling with a group of previously unknown fellow Buckeye fans at a road game and striking up a conversation that leads to breaking down the key moments in a big win the last time the Buckeyes invaded that particular stadium.
Count me as eternally grateful for having parents that instilled in me a love of sports and music at an early age. Without that, I wouldn't have the unbridled passion I have today for Ohio State football and the music created by Phish.