Saturday, November 18, 2006


I was born in Akron, Ohio, and grew up in Cuyahoga Falls - a 'burb of the Former Rubber Captital of the World (home of the Soap Box Derby, the World Series of Golf, the Firestone Bowling Tournament, and the Inventor's Hall of Fame - and former home of the world's largest aircraft hangar). Now, I haven't lived there in many, many years. But I suppose the last tie I have to the Buckeye State (aside from my father, who still lives there) is my loyalty to the Browns and the Buckeyes.

All in all, I think our culture is way too sports-crazed. Far too many resources at our universities are spent on athletics and not enough on academics. Having said that, I'm not entirely opposed to sports. They can provide a wonderful distraction to the daily grind, and provide families with a lot of fun being together. It's a matter of balance and perspective.

When I was a kid, my family spent many a Sunday watching the Browns on a small black and white TV (having driven to various parks for picknicks beyond the range of the local stations on which the Cleveland Browns had been "blacked out"). Until the mid 1980s, there was little to cheer about - but we hung in there and never gave up on our team - win or lose. We'd gripe and curse Art Modell, but we'd keep coming back for more next Sunday.

In 1986, when the Browns actually made the AFC Championship, the unthinkable happened - my dad, brother, and I actually made the trek to Cleveland Lakefront Stadium (in the Dawg Pound) for a playoff game! It was pure orange and brown canine mayhem!

Overall, the Ohio State Buckeyes provided more victories than the Brownies. And these were the days of the late Woody Hayes and the late Bo Schembechler. Coach Hayes, clad in short-sleeves and a tie - no matter the weather - was the stuff of legends in Ohio. His antics provided as much entertainment as the players - and the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry grew under his stewardship of the Bucks.

I saw a game at the Horseshoe once with my dad - and it was simply unforgetable to see 100,000 fans clad in red (it could have been Moscow on May Day!), the band doing the "Script Ohio," and the great players of that era.

Today's game was quite different than the old days of "three yards and a cloud of dust." But Coach Tressel, a much more calm and humble coach than Woody, shares Coach Hayes' commitement to victory. Although I watch very little football these days, it was a real treat to watch the Buckeyes, under the field generalship of Heisman-trophy candicate QB Troy Smith, play a nail-biter to defeat their Big-10 rival Wolverines. In their more than 100-year old tradition, this game has never pitted a number 1 against a number 2. In the old days, the winner of this game typically went to the Rose Bowl.

So, in spite of my enthusiastic adoption of the Big Easy as my home, and although I'm happy the Saints are doing so well, and although I appreciate how much LSU means to the locals - I still pull for the Orange and Brown, and especially today, the Scarlet and Gray!

Go Buckeyes!

1 comment:

Past Elder said...

It looks like we share, besides confessional Lutheranism, an atypical relationship with football. I was born in Chicago but grew up in Minnesota, well stocked with Lutherans, which began my course to eventual conversion. This was in the glory days of the Vikings. Bud Grant, Fran Tarkenton, no bench heaters, real men playing real football outside. I loved it. College football was a nice warm up for the real thing. The glory days of the Big Ten, or as they said the Big Two (you) and the Little Eight (me).

Then I moved to Lincoln, Nebraska, for a job. Before I held the general opinion that while their devotion to their team was legendary, there must be very little else to a place where they talk about college football after Saturday. Then I went to my first Big Red game. It was baptism by total immersion, and I came up a true believer! Go Big Red!

At the same time, professional football moved just too obviously from a sport to a consumer product (not that college football is all that far behind)and I lost interest in the Vikings or any other team, though to some extent like many locals I root for the KC Chiefs.

So I don my Big Red gear and watch, Bill Callahan, West Coast Offense and all, and that's about it for me and football. Being a Spanish speaker, I watch what the rest of the world calls football -- you know, football where you actually play the ball with your feet, not just speacial teams -- on Univision.

It's all good. But really, my real sports love is sports as it happens in the mind of God, outside of time (no clock as the third team), sports as an athletic version of page 15 in the red hymnal, a pathway into the great realities. This is of course baseball! Go Royals!