You are shipwrecked.
A freak out of season typhoon popped up and scuttled your ultra-modern long distance canoe, 2/3rds of the way through yet another circumnavigation of the globe. "It was just 1200 miles to Auckland," you mutter ruefully as you sit on an unknown atoll in the south Pacific, dining on half-rotten coconuts and making small crabs fight each other to pass the time.
Three weeks later you are rescued by a luxurious ocean liner owned by the extremely effete heir to a bobby pin empire. He gives you access to a shower, his personal barber, and the most kickass cutting edge threads that look stupid now but will be super badass in like a year. In front of you he places a veritable smorgasbord of the finest foods his chef could conjure on the high seas, with wine pairings for each of the 37 courses you'll be tasting.
You weep with joy, and then begin shovelling handfuls of food in your mouth, horking down as much as you can, belching and using the tablecloth as a napkin.
Horrified, the bobby pin magnate has his well-oiled manservants throw you off his boat. As you bob up in down in the water, watching wistfully as the yacht heads off into the sunset, you wonder where it all went wrong.
Well, you got greedy. Instead of savoring the sumptuous feast before you, you treated it like a 20-pack of White Castle sliders and threw as many calories down your gullet as fast as you could.
Moral of the story? Savor life, even in the most dire of situations.
Fast forward a few years after your miraculous double rescue at sea and swearing off canoeing forever, and you're ready to attend Ohio State's spring football game. I'll be your guide for this weekend, steering you through the many flavors of this, our only oasis in the dead of the offseason.
AMUSE-BOUCHE: ANTONIO HENTON
Ah, just a taste to give you an idea of what the chef might bring to your plate. It is used to create an air of anticipation for the event, which may or may not be rewarded.
Anyway, here's Antonio Henton getting lit up in 2007:
Drink pairing? I recommend a cool glass of blue Gatorade to cleanse the palate.
FIRST COURSE: EVERYTHING IS COMPLETELY MADE UP
As you begin enjoying the spring game, note the subtle air of chaos and lack of planning. While disconcerting at first, eventually you'll be comforted to know that none of what you're witnessing actually has to make sense or follow some established rulebook. Points will appear and disappear. Statistics will be made up on the fly. Plays will be reset and run over and over again for little rhyme or reason. Two-hand touch rules will be forgotten at random intervals, with no punishment.
It's football, but it's not. It's all very avant-garde.
Drink pairing? Something cheap and portable, yet familiar.
SECOND COURSE: SOMEONE WILL MATTER FOR A SATURDAY, AND ONLY A SATURDAY
Every spring game, a player jumps off the field at you with a complex and intriguing aroma of competence. It is typically an illusion, an aperitif meant not to give you something substantial, but to encourage excitement for the season yet to come. Demario McCall, Ray Small, Torrance Gibson, and T.Y. Williams whet our appetite for things yet to come... and that's about it.
Drink pairing? A fancy (but gross) IPA you took a sip of, then took a few more sips to try and look cool, and then put down on someone's chair and forgot about forever.
THIRD COURSE: GOOFY SHIT
The most satisfying part of any spring game is the bombastic tones of the absolutely absurd. There is no reason whatsoever to take anything that happens particularly seriously, so why bother with the artifice? This is about having fun, man. If you're hoping for Justin Fields to go out there and announce his Heisman candidacy by looking like a combination of Joe Montana and Michael Vick, you're taking this a bit too seriously.
A soupçon of returning alumni, peppered with silly competitions like Who-Can-Throw-The-Ball-Longer and Who-Can-Run-Faster, makes for an entertaining and surprising afternoon, particularly after the novelty of sitting in the sun on metal bleachers and watching bad football begins to wear off after about, oh, 25 minutes.
Drink pairing? Something that you can play a drinking game with and not die.
FOURTH COURSE: FOOTBALL, KIND OF
I'll admit, the fourth course usually leaves a lot to be desired.
The two hand touch element of the proceedings startled people in 2017, which was as logical as it is boring (read: very), and going back to well over a decade you can see people bemoaning the fact that either the game itself kind of sucked or was too convoluted to tell if it actually sucked or not.
In truth? Don't worry about it too much. The football itself is rarely ever the point, and if you happen to find yourself in Ohio Stadium for the event, finding fun ways to distract yourself from what's on the field is sometimes a necessity.
Drink pairing? Something fun and bubbly, like Ale-8.
The most underrated part of the spring game is the recruiting aspect. If you're someone who buries themselves in a mountain of data about teens picking colleges, the spring game is a bounty of information and potentially juicy tidbits about who is going to end up where. It doesn't always matter in the long run, but recruiting is eternal and provides a crucial element of surprise to the proceedings.
Drink pairing? Whatever floats your boat.
Ultimately the spring game is what you make of it. If you're going into the thing hoping for elite football that'll tide you over for the next, oh, five months? You've come to the wrong place.
But, if you're looking for an increasingly weird and absurd event attended by tens of thousands of your fellow Buckeye fans, it's hard to argue against this being one of the best bangs for your buck. All it takes is an expert's nose for exactly what makes it so special.