THE GAME for me is one of the most important things in life. To me, it holds an almost mystical, metaphysical-like aura. THE GAME at home only happens once every 730 days, in even years. When we play in Ann Arbor, I feel toward the team much like when I sent my first-born off to college: I knew he would come back, but I couldn't help wondering if I were sending him off to something wonderful, or into the lions den.
To understand my feeling toward THE GAME, I need to explain how I first became acquainted with it. The first I can remember following Ohio State football was 1967, when I was still in high school. In 1968 we won a national championship and living in Columbus, I went to campus and partied with everyone. HOW COOL WAS THIS, I thought. I knew after that where I was going to college and who MY team was.
Then came this ugly thing. A terribly ugly event in 1969. We went into Ann Arbor, undefeated, unanimous number one ranking in all the polls, and marching toward a showdown in the Rose Bowl for another national title - back to back titles. There was only this one, little, teeny tiny problem; it was Bo's first year at UM and someone forgot to tell him to roll over and play dead against us.
To start with, Bo had just become a traitor. He was a former assistant to Woody Hayes, then turned around and accepted a job as head coach of our most hated rival. The kettle was starting to boil even before the season started. For costing us an undefeated year in 1969 and back to back national champions, EVERYONE in Columbus wanted more than just a win; they wanted blood.
You must remember the social climate in my freshman year, 1970; riots, unrest, protests, Vietnam, hippies, etc. General unrest was rampant. So it took little to light the fires of unrest for this game. As a freshman, we held pep rallies all five nights before THE GAME, closing down High St from Lane to 15th EVERY NIGHT.
On Friday night, my fraternity brothers stripped me and another pledge down to our underwear and placed "Beat Michigan" bumper stickers over our entire body from hair to feet. We then paraded down 15th through Fraternity and Sorority Row gathering hundreds of students along the way. Upon winding through south campus and arriving at the Oval, police estimated there were about 5,000 people holding a highly spirited and loud pep rally. There was no damage done and we were allowed to gather on the oval and cheer along with TBDBITL. Getting dozens of those damn bumper stickers off later that night hurt, but I was only too glad to do it.
Unfortunately, there were some people with Michigan license plates who had their cars pushed into the Olentangy. As I said, people wanted blood, not just a W.
In 1970, even more so than 1969, Michigan was loaded for bear talent-wise. It turned out to be a harder fought game than anticipated, including several memorable defensive stands that saved the game. The good guys won an incredible game 20-9. The stadium was so loud at times I couldn't hear the person next to me who was shouting at me. At the end of the game I went on to the field and climbed the goal post and was perched on top of the cross-bar. The goal post was torn down and we carried it down High St. to the state capitol building WHILE be escorted by Columbus Police who had their lights and sirens on in celebration. I was fortunate enough to following the marching band all the way down.
As I said earlier, this was my first in-person Michigan game. I thought that's how all Michigan games were going to be. For me, as they say, the rest is history. Thirty five years later the game means just as much to me as then. Yes, I still party on campus. No, I don't let people cover me with stick-on bumper stickers anymore.
In 2004, I attended here in Columbus on the Thursday night before THE GAME, a special Dinner for Diabetes which supported Jack Tatum. There were many distinguished former players speaking both from Ohio State and Michigan. This included former Wolverine standouts Rob Lytle, Rick Leach and John Wangler. I had the opportunity to meet and talk with all three one on one. I was very impressed with each one personally and athletically. However, I was even more impressed with the genuine and deep respect these three guys had for our players and team.
I realized that these two teams hate each other during one week each year and have a deep and utmost respect for each other the rest of the time. These three guys very simply, were great and impressive people. I now respect TBGUN more than ever, which is why I use the acronym The Bad Guys Up North, instead of the clearly derogatory SCUM or other.
Please spend your time on our site for THE GAME. Also, enjoy all of the rest of the celebration and pageantry of this game. There is literally, nothing else like it.