A Big Game

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By Chris Watson

I am not an OSU fan…or a Michigan fan…or a fan of the Big 10…or really NCAA football. However, living in Toledo Ohio is like being at ground zero of a war zone when it comes to college pigskin competition. There is no other rivalry in all of college sports that generates the vitriol, both playful and angry, that surrounds the Wolverines and the Buckeyes.

If you live in Toledo you had better have an opinion. Much is determined by whether you wear Scarlet and Gray or Maze and Blue. I actually have objections to both. I think “Maze” is a fancy way of saying yellow and I don’t care for people being pretentious. I also don’t like the Buckeye “plants” on the helmets of OSU players. I think at the college level we can stop giving “gold stars” like on a first grade report card. Honestly, do the players get juice boxes and a snack at the end of the game along with their helmet sticker?

That being said I really don’t have any loyalty or opinion of OSU vs Michigan. This disturbing lack of gravitational pull toward a Buckeye or a Wolverine does not get me invited to many “Big Game” parties. I am comfortable with those lack of invitations. If there was some way to enjoy the game day food without all the drama I would do it.

Of course, I knew that this was a big, BIG game. The teams, rated number two and three, colliding in what many sports commentators said was THE game of the season…in any conference. And neither Michigan nor OSU disappointed. Two overtimes resulted in one of the best college football games in recent memory. “Instant Classic” has been bandied around the sport blogosphere but I think that an event should be given at least a week before gaining classic status.

One doesn’t realize how big these events are until you are close to one. I had reason to be driving through Columbus OH on the day of this game. A friend said, “Are you crazy? What ever you do get outside of the orbit of the stadium well before or after the game.” What I did was drive by the stadium DURING the game. You would have thought the entire City of Columbus was under Center for Disease Control quarantine. The only things moving on the road were my Prius and emergency vehicles. There was more traffic on the road Sunday morning than during that game.

We went to dinner in Columbus a couple of hours after the game and sat across from a couple, the woman resplendent in her blue and maze and the man in scarlet and gray. She looked mad (Michigan lost if you hadn’t already heard) and he looked miserable. I wanted to tell him, “Dude, just defect. Just leave the OSU fold and go over Michigan. It is a thousand times better to be a consoling presence in defeat than have to sleep on the couch in victory.” I chose not to interrupt their meal with my wisdom. I suspect they had a long night ahead.

And so, as we all recover from a weekend of food over indulgence and football highs and lows, let us celebrate another game that went into double overtime: the Kansas 5A state championship game between the Mill Valley Jaguars and the Goddard Lions. As reported in The Kansas City Star, Mill Valley battled its way back from losses mid season to reach the 5A finals and, in an unusual feat, repeat its championship win for a second consecutive season.

Who cares about Kansas football? Well, I do. My nephew is the offensive coordinator for the Mill Valley Jaguars, which, with all respect, is much more interesting to me than some college game Thanksgiving weekend. So, to all of you Big 10 fans, enjoy your victory, or nurse your defeat as is appropriate. But remember, it is just a game.

Lack of perspective is a miserable thing. It makes us overly sad, falsely happy, and inappropriately loyal. On the other hand, it is important for me to focus on genuine accomplishment. My nephew was part of a team of coaches that helped high school boys win back to back state championships, something I will always congratulate him for and a success he and his students will carry with them the rest of their lives.

Here at the DMZ of one of college football’s greatest rivalries, I am thankful that my nephew and his team brought perspective back into my life.

Go Jags!