By BuckeyeInBoca on 08:48:19 11/18/08
In a little cemetery in Upstate NY is a gravestone shaped like a bench with The Ohio State University logo etched on top of it. It has my Dad's name and lists his wife, children and that he lived from April 11, 1941 until December 11, 2003. My Dad was born and raised in Portsmouth, Ohio. He joined the Air Force and was stationed at Griffiss AFB in Rome, NY, where he met and married my Mom. After his time in the service he moved back to Portsmouth to raise his family in the greatest state in the Union, and among the best people you'll find anywhere. As a kid, I remember him talking about the great OSU teams of the 50's and 60's; Stillwagon, Kern, Tatum, all those guys. He told us of the joy of the super sophmores and the '68 season and the heartache of "The Game" in '69. We moved to Columbus in the early 70's and I swear from our house I could hear the crowd at The Horseshoe cheering on Archie Griffin and the great Woody Hayes teams. We moved to Marion, then Waldo, Ohio, then to Upstate, NY to be near Mom's family towards the end of High School.
My brothers and sisters and I have lived in a lot of places around the country, experienced a lot of different things, but one thing that has never changed is our love for Ohio, and especially Ohio State football. No matter where we are or what we're doing, my brothers and I still meet every year for a Buckeye game. If it's a year when the Buckeyes are highly ranked and home tickets are nearly impossible to get, we go to an away game.
In 2005 my older brother and I took our daughters to their first Buckeye game. My daughter and I flew up to New York, met my brother and then we drove to Columbus together for the San Diego State game. We wanted to do the ultimate road trip and tail gate for the girls first game. We stopped at the first "Bob Evans" we saw when we got into Ohio for biscuits and gravy, then of course to "White Castle" in Delaware for our pregame meal on the way to Columbus. The girls were big hits with the T-shirts we made for them that said, "I AM NOT ALLOWED TO USE THE 'M' WORD - GO BUCKS!” Now that's a rivalry, when grown men make T-shirts for their 5 and 7 year old daughters just to insult their arch rival at a game that has nothing to do with them. The only things the girls seem to remember from that day are; getting their picture taken with Brutus, that boys can be cheerleaders too, and that we wouldn't buy them cotton candy at the stadium. Oh well, I imagine some day they'll be writing a story like this about their Dad and their first Buckeye game.
In 2002, Mom, Dad and my family were living in South Florida. My Dad got sick that year and was limited in what he could do and where he could go. I won't blame his condition on all the close games that season because I honestly don't know if they shortened or extended his life. I think he really had to stick around to see how that wonderful season was going to play out. We watched every game together except for the Cincinnati game. Assuming a blowout, I was tailgating at the Orange Bowl with some Miami friends. My Dad called me all afternoon with score updates. He was yelling into the phone inaudibly and I finally made out what he said, "He dropped the ball, he dropped the ball. Buckeyes win!"
We watched the Fiesta Bowl, the greatest game ever played, from my condo on Miami Beach. After the game, like everyone, we were ecstatic, elated, exhilarated, and exhausted. We decided to walk over to my favorite local pub and celebrate. A few days before I had met some Iowa fans in there who were in town for the Orange Bowl. They made a point of telling me how lucky we were we didn't play them that year. I wanted to "celebrate" the Buckeye's win, and "console" them on their thumping at the hands of USC. On the way to the pub, my Dad was out of breath and had to stop and rest several times. That's when I first realized his condition was more serious than I thought, and he wasn't doing very well. That night was the last time we had a beer together. He passed away in December of that year.
So once again it's OSU vs. Michigan, "The Game", what most of us wait for all year. Bragging rights on the line for two states and millions of fanatically dedicated fans all over the World, the Big 10 Championship and Rose Bowl once again the reward for victory, ........... and I still can't help but think, "Man, Dad would love this".
Rest In Peace Dad and Go Bucks!