November 18, 2005

We Who Are About to Win Salute You

IT WILL BE forty-odd degrees in Ann Arbor at game time tomorrow, not cold enough to cause frostbite but cold enough to make three hours on the football field a test of strength and endurance. It is in this weather that the evil Ohio State Buckeyes, presently ranked No. 9 in the nation, will attempt to defeat the glorious Michigan Wolverines. They will fail.

At least, they should fail, if only on general principle grounds. After all, this is what Michigan does when other teams have championship hopes and aspirations to play in nationally-televised bowl games: we beat them. It doesnít matter how we do that. We may beat them with a last-second play, or we may beat them through trickery and deception, or we may beat them like a steel drum right from the first kickoff. What matters is that we beat them. For ruining other peopleís seasons is what we Michiganders do, especially if our own season is shot. And when it comes to the Buckeyes of the Ohio State University, we are especially good at ruining their football seasons. Indeed, Michigan Stadium is where Ohio Stateís dreams go to die.

Tomorrow, the teams will meet for the 102nd time since 1897, and Michigan will surely earn its 58th win in the series, which it presently leads 57-38-6. This despite the fact that Ohio State has probably had a better football squad most of those years, and certainly does this year. In fact, were Ohio State to win tomorrow Ė as wretched and awful as the idea is Ė they would probably be eligible for a berth in the Fiesta Bowl or something. However, Iím confident Michiganís longstanding tradition of ruining Ohio Stateís hopes for a national title or a big bowl game will once again hold this year.

True, itís going to be a tough match, and no Michigan fan underestimates the menace which the Ohio State Buckeyes present, particularly since coach Jim Tressel came aboard. Thatís something which Detroit News columnist Bob Wojnowski explains particularly well in his essay on the game, with the ingenious and excellent title of ďOh, How We Hate Ohio State:Ē

You might recall Ohio State once had a fine coach by the name of John Cooper who won lots and lots of games. But astute Buckeyes fans noticed he was 2-10-1 against the Wolverines and demanded he be fired.

Cooper was replaced by Jim Tressel, who somehow is 3-1 against Michigan's Lloyd Carr despite wearing the geekiest sweater vest you've ever seen. We're never sure if Tressel is coaching football or teaching fifth-grade math. Put a sweatshirt on, man.

Almost immediately, Tressel swiped some of Michigan's trademark arrogance without even asking. When he arrived, he began counting down the days to Ohio State's first visit to Ann Arbor. Then he had the audacity to win that game. Later, he hired, er, signed a running back by the name of Maurice Clarett and won a national title.

Now, I realize itís somewhat tough for non-Midwesterners to grasp just how important this annual contest is, but Iíll do my best to explain. First, one must understand the history behind the teamsí mutual hatred, and second, one must understand the places from which both teams hail.

(It seems that many people, particularly on the East and West Coasts, have a tendency to lump Midwestern states into the same basket. It is astounding ignorance, to be sure, and many Midwesterners take great offense when outsiders make the mistake of confusing, say, Michigan with Wisconsin, or Indiana with Iowa. They wonít say anything about it, of course, because theyíre too polite to do so; but back home it really gets on peopleís nerves. But anyway).

Michigan and Ohio have long hated each other. How much so, you ask? Well, back in 1835-1836, the two states fought a war.

A war over Toledo.

In retrospect, this probably wasnít a good idea. Fortunately, though, it wasnít much of a war: both statesí militias got lost in a giant primordial swamp, and the only combat took place during a bar fight (an Ohioan stabbed a Michigander). Still, they actually had a war, and it was in wrapping up the war that Michigan scored its first victory against Ohio. Namely, we tricked them into keeping Toledo.

You see, when Michigan entered the Union in 1837, we had to give up our claim to the Toledo area as a condition of our signing up. In exchange, we got most of the Upper Peninsula, which has mining and timber resources. Plus, itís great for vacationing too. Ohio, meanwhile, got stuck with Toledo. So it was only natural this long-standing bitterness would transfer over to a football rivalry between the two statesí flagship educational institutions.

What a rivalry itís been, too. Itís exacerbated because of the stark gaps in educational quality and general coolness which exist between Michigan and Ohio State. Youíll see that this weekend when the two schools run their promotional commercials.

Ohio State will almost certainly run some lame-o, cheaply produced, politically correct snoozefest about how some liberal arts major is making big strides on some mediocre research project. Michigan, on the other hand, will almost certainly point out our key involvement in the Apollo 15 space mission, in which all of the astronauts on board were Michigan alumni. Yeah. They put Michiganís flag on the Moon too, which rules.

Oh, and what kind of a school has a frickiní acorn for its mascot? Jesus Christ.

But anyway. Itís sure to be a hard-fought, tough battle at Michigan Stadium this Saturday, and I must salute the Buckeyes in advance for the excellent and powerful athleticism which theyíll undoubtedly show during the game. It wonít be enough, of course, and weíll break the Buckeyes like Octavian broke Antony, but I will say they always put forward a great effort.

Besides, it could be worse. They could be from East Lansing.

Hail to the victors valiant!
Hail to the conquering heroes!
Hail, hail, to Michigan, the leaders and the best!
Hail to the victors valiant!
Hail to the conquering heroes!
Hail, hail, to Michigan, the champions of the West!

Go Blue!

UPDATE, 4:26 PM, 11/19/05: Dammit! Dammit! Dammit!

HOW did that happen? We had them where we wanted them and SOMEHOW, evil Ohio State won! GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH. Clearly Coach Carr must be held responsible.

It's time for him to retire.

I mean, what does it say when Coach Carr's supporters are ... Notre Dame fans?!

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at November 18, 2005 11:28 AM | TrackBack

Good luck tomorrow in the battle with the Buckeyes. While I can't speak for the entire state, as far as I am concerned this is one Ohioan who says Michigan can have Toledo back any time they want it.

Posted by: Swammi in Solon at November 18, 2005 02:45 PM

silly northern midwesterners, those from near those puddles termed "great" lakes and from a place called ohio-michigan-indiana-iowa-illinois-whatnot-and-whatevuh, who take football far, far too seriously and think folks should lose their jobs over a bad day at the races (though they're far too polite to actually express anger, except to stomp feet and utter that obscene four-letter word, "darn") might be a tad irked today regarding yesterday's "loss" and be predisposed to poo-poo moral victories.

But Ol' Mich had one yesterday, which calls to mind that great and classic journalistic question from the heartland:

Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?

Posted by: samuel clemons at November 20, 2005 09:22 AM