THE SITUATIONAL: Inventing the Enemy

By Ramzy Nasrallah on November 8, 2023 at 1:15 pm
Dec 7, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Braxton Miller (5) runs the ball during the second quarter of the 2013 Big 10 Championship game against the Michigan State Spartans at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
© Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

I had a degenerate fraternity brother whom we’ll call “Dan.”

It's his real name, I just felt like using quotation marks. Ordinary, decent-looking Indiana kid. Finance major. Owned seven shirts on purpose, otherwise he would never remember to do laundry. Had a haircut that could not have taken longer than four minutes to complete.

Dan was quite confident of who he was, even as a teenager away from home for the first time. Cigarettes always found their way into his mouth at 3pm, 3am and every hour in-between. He was a couple of years older than me, so he had a head-start in the worldly wisdom department.

But I never solved if Dan was a Socratic genius who could see what mere mortals were blind to, or if he was just a garden variety degenerate frat boy. I went with the latter because it’s more comforting. Maybe it’s a bit of both.

Dan had a nickname I’ll keep shelved because this column aspires to be Content the Whole Family Can Enjoy™ and I refuse to believe wholesome, G-rated families are a figment of America’s limitless optimism. The gist of that monicker was Dan had an uncompromising taste for explicitly tawdry and rugged women.

Wherever carbon-copy teenage fraternity boys zigged, Dan would predictably zag. We’re all deeply flawed creatures on the inside, but Dan preferred deficiencies to be worn on the outside. A luminescent sign flashing STAY AWAY FROM ME DAN THERE’S NOTHING REDEEMING FOR YOU OR ANYONE ELSE HERE on a woman's forehead was his dream girl's presentation.

There’s a great team trapped inside OF this chaotic one, and every now and then we get a glimpse of it.

He never stopped looking for her. We barely knew each other but I gathered up the courage to ask him about his legendary preferences once and he flatly told me safe, attractive, fun and conventional college girls were boring to him. He preferred irreconcilably chaotic women.

He believed he could spot a great girl incarcerated inside of a messy one, but only he could see it. That product carries low market demand on campuses, so Dan found fast success whenever he chose to leave his room.

He had no competition or enemies as a result. Dan would have made a terrible 1950s teenage villain even though he looked exactly like one. His brand was notorious, so he rarely had to explain himself - and when he did it was a full embrace of who he was.

You’ve waited patiently for this to tie into Ohio State football. I think we’d agree our inherited bar for Saturday acceptability is lodged at spread-doubling shutouts where crisp execution via flawless play calling is the summary for every drive. That team doesn’t lose or accept threats of losing. It doesn’t punt, either.

A safe, attractive, fun and conventional Ohio State team. Doesn't exist. It's what we want.

But it doesn’t sound much like the team we get every year. The 2023 Ohio State defense mines all of the dense metal superlatives we've always wished were standard issue, but this one has a few too many scars and lousy memories attached to it. Since we are nervous birds, it will be hard to fully enjoy and appreciate it until we know how this month ends.

The Buckeye offense currently features fledgling quarterback Charlie Checkdown, an offensive line gradually solving how to merge five giant teenagers into one violent blob, the exciting and mysterious Healthy Running Back of the Week™, extraterrestrial wide receivers who just need accurate projectiles to dominate games and tight ends who “block” more than they block. See, we’re full of purposeful quotation marks today.

And this team also punts. It participates in the entire special teams catalog. The unit takes your breath away worse than the “Dan” secondhand smoke industrial complex. Ohio State special teams are a pass/fail unit, and in this business there’s usually no full-time professor in that room - but this room has one, which just makes it so much worse.

All said, this team wins. It's been winning and it will keep winning, probably. There’s a great team incarcerated inside this messy one, and every now and then we get a glimpse of it. I see it whenever the defense takes the field. Offense, well sometimes. Usually in 2nd half. Special teams, I have no idea - I keep my eyes closed when it's their turn.

I can see a national title team in Columbus if I use Dan Vision to peel back the layers obscuring all of that excellence. Far worse fates than being 9-0 in November. Let's get Situational.


like a goddamn rocket
Getting the ball in space to a healthy TreVeyon Henderson should be as high a priority as targeting Marvin Harrison Jr.

I stood in the Las Vegas Caesars Palace sports book on Saturday morning watching the Rutgers game, which was tucked into a gigantic luminescent wall of other sporting events. Indiana-Wisconsin played to its left, Texas-Kansas State below, Notre Dame-Clemson above and a whole bunch of horse races were taking place to the right.

Watching games in a sports book requires you to detach your brain from your ears, because the screams and gasps rarely match what your eyes are seeing. Whenever ponies were rounding down the stretch, I knew I was in for a 20-second hyperventilation even if the Buckeyes were stuck in a media timeout.

Sports book attention is Situational, and most of the people around me turned their attention to the Buckeyes when Ohio State had the ball early in the 4th quarter on 3rd and 9 with a five-point lead. Rutgers had fought valiantly, and anyone unaccustomed to Greg Schiano's version of the Scarlet Knight might have believed the visitors were playing with their food for the game to be so close.

There were more eyes on the game at that moment than at any other time in the afternoon. Kyle McCord found TreVeyon Henderson in the flat with his back to a conservative zone defense, well short of the 1st down marker. He then spun around and sprinted toward the Rutgers sideline.

Henderson beat the closest defender to the edge and turned the corner. Then, an audible gasp consumed the sports book as he split two more defenders and accelerated downfield with tailwinds which were not aiding anyone chasing him.

A Florida fan standing near me who had been paying attention to the Gators and Razorbacks saw Henderson’s burst and quietly deadpanned holy shit to himself. Supernatural speed. TreVeyon was gliding toward a touchdown, circumventing everyone in Rutgers' fastest unit.

All except Max Melton, the field corner who had an inescapable angle - Henderson would have scored had he veered toward the sideline. The Buckeyes ended up doing that a few seconds later, but the points were not the point of that moment.

It was about that Burst, the fact that it exists and the reality it can be sprung to devastating effect whenever TreVeyon is used appropriately. An offense with a healthy Henderson and a tight end sitting a checkdownable distance from McCord is the foundation.

Swift security blankets Emeka and MHJ getting open one level away is the next layer. A diverse running attack with play-action passes which feed off of those formations is the final piece. This is the way. This is what they have been building toward.

That Burst is fearsome, but fear of the Burst might just be what finally untethers this merely acceptable offensive unit from its final, championship form. As long as the Burst is possible, defenses will be forced to defend it on their heels.


The Solo

CONTENT NOTE: This season Situational enthusiasts are controlling the Intermission jukebox, and as is the case in your local tavern - nobody knows who's choosing the songs. You have the right to get mad. If this goes off the rails, good.

Children are both brilliant and stupid, and when you blend those two behaviors together you get charming. Excused ignorance is privilege of youth. Pull a gun on a baby and it will coo at you because the only things babies fear are loud noises, hunger pangs and uncorked farts. That's brilliant. It's also stupid. Charming!

If this sounds like I'm prepping you to excuse a time when I was indefensibly naive, first of all how dare you. Okay, fine - I believed for a significant period of my childhood that Van Morrison and Van Halen were related because of the Van. I have functioning eyes and ears and didn’t grow up in one of those First Names are Last Names cultures like Korea.

My defense is that I was young and stupid, but the good news is today I’m only one of those things. I was familiar with both Eruption and Brown-Eyed Girl but still thought yes of course siblings definitely made those songs. Moondance by George Ivan Morrison - Eddie Van Halen’s older non-brother - features a piano solo. Let's answer our two questions.

Is the soloist in this video actually playing the piano?

Moondance concludes with Van Morrison scatting what's intended to sound like a sax solo, preceded by a flute solo all set up by an alto sax solo which springs from the piano solo. That's just too much to unpack for what is technically a sports column, and yes I realize the entire first section was about a guy named Trash Dick Dan who never played sports. Maintaining topic integrity is our priority.

Jef Labes, who was apparently born to staunch Letter F conservationists, plays the piano. He is unseen in this reader-submitted video. VERDICT: Verified but inconclusive.

Does this piano solo slap?

Effectively crooning is severely underrated in today’s sterilized and dystopian singing contest landscape. Crooning is the delicate art of singing for yourself and a nameless muse, not celebrity judges, not you, not me and definitely not an untrained television audience electorate.

Complementing crooning with a piano vibe like the one featured in Moondance is a composition piece you can hang in your audio library without it ever going out of style. VERDICT: Slaps

hey kids looks what's back in stock in all sizes

The Bourbon

There is a bourbon for every situation. Sometimes the spirits and the events overlap, which means that where bourbon is concerned there can be more than one worthy choice.

This Saturday is Eleven Dubgate Eleven, Eleven Warriors’ eleventh charity tailgate. Check the calendar for Saturday’s date is if that sentence didn’t provide enough elevens for your liking.

Panty melter. You're welcome.
Barrell Batch 24. Four bourbons, one bottle.

The Dubgate is largely a beer and barbecue festival for a great cause, and if you’re around campus you should definitely check it out. This tailgate is one of my favorite things we do as a little blog operating out of your mom's basement, and since we’re talking favorites I'm forced to discuss Barrell yet again - this time, the flagship.

It's hard to find another evolution like what Barrell has pulled off in the bourbon game. Eleven theme: Barrell Batch 11 dropped in 2017 and was sourced from a single Tennessee distillery. Sweet fire, 70/25/5 corn/rye/barley. Honey Nut Cheerios in a bowl of gasoline.

This year we're on Batch 24, an intricate combination of 9, 10, 13, and 15-year single-barrel bourbons. Label age grabs the youngest one by rule, so this is a nine-year blend. Extremely mature, we call this a storyteller bourbon. (we = I call it that, since naming stuff is fun and bourbon is both less expensive and disappointing than children).

Batch 24 clocks in at 113.9 proof and is bottled directly from the cask, so if you prefer your juice diluted you'll have to do that yourself. Tart apple pie, fondant and a fresh cigar. Less bite than the previous batches and significantly less than Batch 11, suggesting a comparative rye deficit across the four bourbons as there are no mash bills on blends like this. See you Saturday.


Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Garrett Wilson (5) works to break a tackle from Michigan State Spartans cornerback Angelo Grose (15) during the second quarter of a NCAA Division I football game between the Michigan State Spartans and the Ohio State Buckeyes on Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020 at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, Michigan. Cfb Ohio State Buckeyes At Michigan State Spartans
Garrett Wilson works to break a tackle from Spartans DB Angelo Grose at Spartan Stadium in 2020. © Joshua A. Bickel/Columbus Dispatch via Imagn Content Services, LLC

The 2013 Michigan State Spartans will not be playing in Ohio Stadium on Saturday Night.

Neither is MSU's 2015 edition, its 1998 team, the 1974 one or any of the others which regularly appear in nightmares or annually ominous Theeeey're Heeeeeere game previews when the Buckeyes face the Spartans.

What will be visiting is the hollowed-out carcass of a program which failed to survive the defining scandal of the B1G season from the state of Michigan - well, one of them - and is just trying to fast-forward to whatever comes next. This is a lost season for them.

They're looking toward the future in East Lansing, but when it comes to Sparty in Columbus, we tend to focus at the past. The 2015 MSU game is among a crowded field for Worst Ohio Stadium Moment Ever and serves as a grisly reminder that everything is possible whenever college kids are foolishly expected to show up as whatever we conceive to be the best versions of themselves.

I was alive but not lucid for the 1974 horror. The longest consecutive stretch of Ohio State wins over Michigan State in the history of the series was birthed from that afternoon. If the Buckeyes can win Saturday night, they'll match it. Eight straight. That's only happened once.

Sparty has failed to clear 16 points five times this season and are far more threatening to be shut out than to pile up points. The Buckeyes could definitely use a virtual bye week to get healthy, but sadly Ohio State is not a member of the conference which schedules those into every November. Starting fast and reaching a cruising altitude quickly would be a win within a victory.

Spooky history and college kid voodoo notwithstanding, if Ohio State's starters are anywhere but the bench in the 4th quarter on Saturday then something will have gone terribly wrong. Here's to the gray uniforms delivering a quick kill.

Thanks for getting Situational today. Go Bucks. Beat Michigan State.

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