A new nickname, and a thrilling finish in Columbus
Posted: Tuesday September 13, 2005 4:42PM; Updated: Wednesday September 14, 2005 10:22AM
The 'Shoe was rocking on Saturday night, but Vince Young couldn't be rattled.
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John Walters chronicled his adventure from Ann Arbor, Mich., to Columbus, Ohio, on Saturday for an epic college football doubleheader. This is the third of three parts; follow these links to read the first and second installments.
At 3:52 p.m. Dave and I climb into our rental that we'd parked for free on Westminster Place, just a hundred yards from where folks were charging $20 for parking on their lawns (loved that, because, let's face it, I doubt any of those homeowners on E. Stadium Boulevard were handing out receipts).
"Dave," I ordered, "find us a sports talk station."
Ordinarily, I never listen to sports radio, but I needed something, anything, to erase the infernal melody of We Built This City from my brain. Ever since the second quarter of the Notre Dame-Michigan game (when Dave and I, it should be noted, were "knee deep in the hoopla"), the lyric "Marconi plays the mamba" has been running through my head. Also, nothing says schadenfreude quite like listening to Wolverines fans blast their team after being upset by the Irish. Dave tuned it to 1130 AM and immediately the bitching commenced.
"Lloyd's gotta go!"
"I'm waiting to see when this Steve Breaston, who we hear is all-world, is going to show up for a game."
"Lloyd's gotta go and [defensive coordinator Jim] Herrmann's gotta go!"
"Every year, we line up more talent than the other team and we lose an early-season out-of-conference game. Every year!"
"Lloyd's gotta go, Herrmann's gotta go, and [special teams coordinator Mike] DeBond's gotta go!"
The level of ire continues to rise, inching toward profanity, and threatening to give an entirely new meaning to the term "Go Blue." So, after half an hour of hearing that Carr has to go, we gotta go. Our college buddy Mike Smoron (a.k.a., "Smo") calls and shares with us what we missed on ESPN's College GameDay from Columbus this morning. "Some guy held up a sign," says Smo, "that read: 'BILLY TIBBETS IS A FAT GUY IN A LITTLE COAT'."
Hey, any time you can get a Tommy Boy reference in.
So now we are driving southbound on I-75. We have a little more than four hours to make the kickoff between No. 2 Texas and No. 4 Ohio State at the Horseshoe (this is the exposition part, folks). I am so fired up for this one. Unlike Notre Dame-Michigan, I have no emotional investment in this game. I'm just going to sit back and watch two awesome college football powerhouses line up and smash one another. I honestly don't care who wins. It's like that Christmas when, as a family present, my parents gave us tickets to the 1987 Fiesta Bowl, the de facto national championship clash between Miami and Penn State. I did not care who won that game ... as long as Miami lost.
Hey, I was only 20 years old then. I was allowed to root for and against teams then. I was a pre-med (as opposed to a journalism major) with designs on becoming the world's first otolaryngologist congressman (Damn you, Joe Schwarz!). Who knew then it would all turn out this way?
We pass through Findlay, Ohio, where signs advertise that today is "Hamfest." Signs such as these -- and scenic back roads where farm land has yet to be spoiled by strip-mall developers -- are why I love the Midwest. Yesterday, outside of Elkhart, Ind., for example, we passed the RV Hall of Fame. Now, I'm not sure what RV's are enshrined there, but I have to hope that the Winnebago from Space Balls was a first-ballot shoo-in.
"Dave," I say, as we head south on Route 23, "how about some tunes?"
"Whatever you want, Cracker Bitch," Dave replies.
Let me back up. All weekend Dave has alternated between calling me "Dubs", my old nickname, and "Cracker Bitch," my new one. The latter comes from a letter I received after writing last week's column defending a certain Catholic university's gridiron relevance. I reproduce it here, for you, in total (with selected profanities edited out):
Bleep you and your racist Indiana Aryans! Any African-American who goes to the place of pure racism is a complete Uncle Tom and that includes Tim Brown and J Bettis. Charlie Weiss (sic) is not the SAVIOR of bleep but an ass whopping to the brothers in Michigan. Put a bullet in your head and make the world a better place cracker bitch!!!!
I mean, really, who knew Public Enemy followed college football?
Anyway, I think "Cracker Bitch" not only has potential as a nickname, but as a caramel-coated candy confection. I've even composed a song, the ultimate non-partisan college football jingle, to complement it:
Take me out to the bowl game, Take me out to the crowd, Buy me some bratwurst and Cracker Bitch, I don't care if I ever get rich
"What do you think, Dave?" I ask.
"I'm gonna put some Guns n' Roses on," he replies.
And then, what follows, is the first legitimate, unapologetic road trip sing-a-long (just like in Almost Famous) that I've ever been part of. As the sun sweeps low across a cornfield to the right of our SUV, Dave and I, our voices hoarse from the game, sing along to Sweet Child o' Mine at the top of our lungs. The raspyness in our voices only helps mimic Axl Rose's vocals. At least in our minds.
"This is appropriate," says Dave. "Wasn't Axl Rose a high school quarterback?"
I am not sure about that, but I do know that he used to date Stefanie Seymour and that he had a habit of showing up for gigs three hours late (and I assume that the one had something to do with the other).
Anyway, there we are singing, "Her hair reminds me of a warm safe place/ Where as a child I'd hide/And pray for the thunder/And the rain /To quietly pass me by," and I know what, if you read yesterday's installment, you are thinking: These guys spent too much time in the Jacuzzi Room last night.
Eventually we arrive in Columbus and at 7:57 p.m. find another free parking spot (sweet!) near the corner of Indianola and 11th. House parties and students clad in Buckeyes jerseys (A.J. Hawk's number 47 is by far the most popular) are ubiquitous. Honestly, Ohio State could have easily sold another 30,000 tickets to this game. And, yes, we spot a few more games of Cornhole taking place (and I've since learned the etymology behind the name, I won't share it here other than to ask, Do you remember Ned Beatty in Deliverance?).
At 8:29 p.m. I finally arrive inside Ohio Stadium, courtesy of a media credential from Ohio State's overly besieged associate athletic director, Steve Snapp. Dave is not so lucky. Whereas scalpers abounded in Ann Arbor, no tickets are to be found shortly after kickoff in Columbus. Dave has heard people say the going rate was $400, but he cannot even find someone willing to sell a ticket now. He settles down at a beer garden with a big-screen TV just north of the Horseshoe.