Columbus, Ohio: Where Football Isn't a Sport, It's a Religion

Aaron TomContributor INovember 15, 2009

COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 14:  Kicker Devin Barclay #23 of the Ohio State Buckeyes is congratulated by his teammates after kicking the game-winning field goal in overtime against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Ohio Stadium on November 14, 2009 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

It's not easy living in Columbus and not being a Buckeyes fan, but I'm not.  I don't know why, but I never have been, despite having Buckeye football emblazoned in my psyche ever since the day I came into this world. 

I was born in Columbus, I've lived in or near the city all my life, but I have never been and will never be, a Buckeye.

I think part of the problem is the fact that I am also not a religious person, despite being raised as one, and the two go hand-in-hand rather uncomfortably:  Just as religion is passed through generations, forced upon impressionable youngsters far too early before they can decide the truth for themselves, so too is Buckeye football. 

And just as the religious gather together into their weekly place of worship, so too do Buckeye fans pour into any available crevice with other Buckeye fans, whether it be a bar, a crowded room, or the stadium.

And just as religion often teaches us to tolerate, almost encourage, the hatred of a specific race, or kind of people, so too does OSU football require anyone to snicker or sneer at anyone with a Michigan license plate, or car decal, or T-shirt. 

On game days, stores and streets are littered with red shirts, all of which feature the famous, octagonal "O" that is the school's logo, and many of which feature words that either throwback to the team's glory days, such as "National Champions, 2002", or that vaguely avoid an epic bowl loss by reverting back to the mindset before said loss, such as "Big Ten Champions, 2007." 

After a championship, which come around about once a decade, if that, sports shops and department stores that once carried a wide variety of sports paraphernalia from all local teams, become nothing more than a disgusting Sea of Red, in the hopes of cashing in on the unwritten rule that everybody in this damn city has to own at least one Buckeye shirt.  Only this is one that not even Moses could part.

There are no other options:  Ohio belongs to the Buckeyes, and the Buckeyes belong to Ohio.  You can have other teams, as long as the Buckeyes are one of them. 

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It's almost looked upon as a crime to denounce the Buckeyes:  If someone asks you whether or not you're a fan, and you're not, it's much easier to smile, nod, and keep walking, lest you have an hour for the ensuing interrogation and persecution.

Somewhere along the lines, Buckeye football has stopped being merely a game; it has become a way of life. 

It's almost as if people have forgotten what they're cheering for; the act of sitting down every Saturday and watching the team has become ingrained in the community, just become part of the routine. 

Wives sit down with husbands, who throw their remotes through the TV and curse the officiating, or the quarterback, when they lose. 

Oh, and here's the kicker:  They're really not as good as everyone here make them out to be.  But don't tell any of the fans that, unless you want to be attacked by a lynch mob. 

They won't listen to reason, they will just believe what they want to believe.  Tell them a great team wouldn't consistently lose to teams like USC, and they'll come back with some comment about how the officials blew a dozen calls. 

Tell them a great team wouldn't have lost to Purdue, and they'll single out a specific player, or person, that blew the game for them.  The team has never lost; they are always defeated by one player who has an off game.

They will defend the team with "facts" that do not exist, or that cannot be proven true ("The ref was against us the entire game") then get angry that you don't see it their way. 

They may even try to get you to "convert" to Buckeye-ism, by belittling your favorite school and telling you just how much better the Buckeyes are, basing it pretty much entirely on the number of Big Ten championships they won, oblivious to the fact the Big Ten is one of the weakest conferences in football. 

They'll throw meaningless stats in your face that they've memorized by hanging out with "the guys" for the last 20 straight football Saturdays, the way a religious fanatic tosses around Biblical quotes.

I may be in the minority here, but I'll risk my life to let this be known: I don't believe in Buckeye football.


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