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In '95 I dragged my girlfriend to her first game. I made her stay to the bitter-cold end of a 41-3 blowout because Eddie George was shredding Illinois for 314 yards, breaking Byars's single-game rushing mark. She cheered much louder for The Best Damn Band in the Land, but despite her football apathy, she married me on a Friday in 2000, which I'll never forget because that was the year even Cooper supporters like me realized he needed to be sacked.
A year later—14 football seasons after I'd first enrolled at Ohio State—I finally earned my diploma. But I'll always think of '01 as the year Jim Tressel came from Youngstown to restore faith in the program.
Coach Tressel promised Buckeyes fans we'd be proud of our young men—especially, he said, on the field in Ann Arbor. And he kept this promise with an upset win in the Big House. But the sweetness of that victory was soon eclipsed by the magical run of '02.
Colin and I watched the BCS championship game in a Columbus hotel suite with a group of guys we'd known since the front-yard football days. Not one of us had been alive in 1968 when Ohio State had last won the national title. As far as we knew, national championships were never-in-a-lifetime events. But that changed when Singin' Cie Grant pressured Miami's Ken Dorsey into an errant pass on fourth-and-goal. When that ball hit the turf, we cheered so violently that one guy separated a shoulder. Another ran down High Street to the statehouse lawn, where he stripped buck naked and climbed the capitol steps like a streaking Rocky Balboa.
The '02 championship felt like the ending of the chapter the Bucks and I had been cowriting since Colin brought me into the fold in '79. But I'd joined the story already in progress.
After nearly 120 years on the gridiron, OSU's tradition of success is unsurpassed. But we are living the glory days of OSU football right now. In the last six years Ohio State has appeared in five BCS bowls, three of which were national title games, and it has blue-chip recruits stacked atop blue-chip recruits. It's a damn good time to be a Buckeye.
Colin lives in a different Columbus suburb now, and he's got a son, Owen, who is just about old enough to appreciate the importance of the Buckeyes. So maybe this will be the season he'll start pinning his memories to the highlights in the Horseshoe. Maybe decades from now he'll remember '08 not as the year he started kindergarten but as the season the Bucks ended their long drought against Southern Cal. Perhaps he'll think of '08 as the year OSU beat Michigan for an unprecedented fifth straight time. Or as the year Beanie Wells won the Heisman. Maybe he'll learn what his dad taught me: In Columbus there is no calendar, there's just the Ohio State football schedule and a whole year of Saturdays. In any case, Owen, welcome to Buckeye Country. You'll like it here.