Sports are wonderful thing. For many people who watch, they are metaphor for our lives, really.
When our team wins, we are elated. When they lose, we are crushed. We embrace the athletes who represent us, and pin our hopes and dreams on the achievements they reach on the field... court... ice... you get the point.
Well, like I said... that's for most people.
However, I graduated from Ohio (the State University, not to be confused with Ohio $tate, Inc.).I chose Ohio because of it's top-notch journalism school, which still stands as one of the finest in the nation. I worked at a couple of the fine publications in Athens, and later returned to get a Master's degree and begin a radio and television career as well.
I also attended quite a few athletic events during my time. However, that whole "pinning-our-hopes-and-dreams-on-our-college-athletes" concept was pretty foreign to OU people until recently.
My first football season was in... well, it was a long time ago. I hadn't read up much on the program before I arrived in Athens, but I knew it had been a few years since they had had a winning season. It would be a few more.
My first football game was against Miami... it was a 31-7 loss in a homecoming game. I also learned for the first time that leaving right after the Marching 110 left the field at halftime was apparently a time-honored tradition. That first game was in the midst of an 0-11 season... which was the last four head coach Tom Lichtenberg. That "oh" included the loss in the final week of the season, between the 0-10 Bobcats and an 0-10 Akron Zips team . In hindsight, I'm glad that was a road game, because that could not have been pretty.
The next year, I attended the Bobcats' game against I-AA Illinois State. The Bobcats' overall losing streak was at 14 or 15 games at that point. After the fairly unimpressive win, I was one among the group of about 30 to 40 students who stormed the north end zone.
No, I did not participate in any sort of property destruction.
A) My vertical jump was decent, but otherwise unimpressive, and B) OUPD was standing right there. The police in Athens tend to overreact, so I wasn't taking any chances.
However, the rocking of the goalposts eventually caused the crossbar and uprights to tip over to one side. One of my rabble-rousing colleagues (no I didn't know him) managed to very impressively shimmy his way up to what had been the left upright. After hanging and bobbing for about 30 seconds, the post worked its way out of its socket.
As heaven-knows-how-many years worth of rainwater, gunk and crud poured out of the socket where the upright had been, I and my fellow hooligans discovered that our goalposts were still made of wood. Yeah, it had been a long time since the Bobcat football team had done anything really tear-down-the-goalpost worthy.
Anyway with the guy who fell with the goalpost apparently uninjured, we turned our eyes toward the south end zone.
A few OUPD officers were standing 20 feet away from us, glaring and shaking their heads.
Yeah, never mind. I grabbed a handful of grass and made my merry way home.
OU always seemed more of a basketball school, anyway. We made the NCAA Tournament every so often, but never really went far. There was a flash of brilliance, however, when Gary Trent led the Bobcats to a victory in the Preseason NIT in 1994... a run which saw OU beat Ohio $tate and even Virginia before going to New York to wrap it all up. That boosted the Cats to somewhere in the teens in the rankings, too. 14th or something, if I recall.
After that... sure there were some wins... an NCAA berth (and subsequent first-round exit) here and there. Hell, there was even a win over North Carolina. Sure, it was during that disastrous year UNC had, but it was huge. UNC is more than a basketball team... it's a brand. There are probably people who don't know what basketball even is, and wear UNC swag.
And then that upset of Georgetown happened two years ago. The Bobcats earned their first NCAA Tournament win in 27 years that night. And the "did that just freaking happen" chaos ensued.
Last weekend, they did it again as a 13 seed, knocking off Michigan... then dispatching South Florida in the second round. As a bonus, the Mrs. and I watched that second-round game at Byrne's Pub (which was also hosting the St. Patrick's Day Survivors' Party that night).
And look who was there to visit...
Why yes... our own beloved Burrito Buggy made the trip again this year from Athens. [It was stormy that night... I swear it's there in the picture, though...]
Stuff from the Buggy never tasted so good as it did that night.
And here our guys sit in the Sweet 16 tonight, getting ready to take on top-seeded North Carolina. Another upset? Who knows?
But we know that memories are being made. Hell, I defy anyone to watch Clark Kellogg's reaction to his son Nick making the Sweet 16 with the Bobcats and not feel joy.
Between this outstanding basketball squad with a record-breaking 29 wins so far, and a football program that wrapped a ten-win season with a bowl victory... well, his has been one hell of a year for Ohio.
A year that will be long-remembered... and is still being written.
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