Why so bad, Ohio?

Submitted by Nantucket Blue on November 20th, 2009 at 10:39 PM
I know I am not the only blog follower who has done hard time in Ohio.  Mine was from birth until the summer following my freshmen year at Michigan.  Then I got out.
(Needless to say, that was the summer of '98, when I had National Championship hangover.  it was a good time to say goodbye)

I think people have touched upon various aspects of Ohio State fandom, and have gotten their aspects quite correct.  As Brian notes, most fans resemble Woody Hayes, and can condone a childish immaturity and subsequent disrespect.  

Others have noted the lack of anything else notable in the Ohio sports world.  The repeated failure of Cleveland area professional sports teams - and the lack of one in Columbus.

Some say that it is a lack of more than one rivalry game.  While Michigan has bitter tests against MSU and ND as well, OSU has only the game.  Obviously, their focus remains exclusively on their one bitter enemy - not divided among three.

Yes, these are all contributing factors.  But the weirdest thing to me involves the role of non-student fandom in Ohio.  I have actually met few Ohio State student fans.  And those I have met, were mostly reasonable.  But there is something weird about the condition of being an Ohioan that forces one to irrationality.

1) Thanksgiving, 1998.
    I was at a party reunion over Thanksgiving with my high school class.  None of them went one to OSU.  My high school was a big funnel to Miami U (Not that Miami), and Ohio University (it was a private high school, and most kids were too smart to go to OSU).  We had just lost 31-16 in Columbus.  I arrived to the party to a chorus of jeering.  None of these kids went to OSU, but felt compelled to act as if they did.  When I called them out on it, all I got in return was "Fuck Michigan".  

2) Thanksgiving, 2000.
    My parents made a tradition of flying a Michigan flag over my childhood home for every football game, and every time I visited, a tradition they kept until they moved 2 years ago.  We won, 38-26 in Columbus.  I was working that weekend in Ann Arbor, and was watching the game at a friend's in Troy.  The neighbors ingrate children chalked some derogatory messages on their sidewalk - "Fuck Michigan" and "Michigan Fags".  My parents witnessed the chalking and confronted the parents.  But the parents shrugged it off, saying it was part of the rivalry, and giving tacit approval that semi-hate speech, if against Michigan fans, is OK.  BTW, the parents were not OSU graduates, nor did their children end up attending OSU either.   

3) Octoberish, 2000, The game 1997, and some random party 2005.
    In short, the three different episodes of substance I have had with OSU fans.  In 2000, I was part of the Michigan Big Ten Bass Fishing Team (Big Ten Champions).  We invited the lone OSU fisherman over for beers and had a reasonable evening with them before kicking their ass on the lake the next day.  
    In 1997, I was a freshman in Alice Lloyd.  I was coming home from a party several sheets to the wind in the early morning hours when I saw a DPS officer telling three OSU students they couldn't sleep in their car on Observatory.  I let them into the lounge on my floor and gave them a bathroom key, telling them that they were in Michigan now, and something about hospitality.
    During a party in grad school at Michigan Tech, some kid walks into my house in an OSU hat.  After engaging him in conversation, I find out that he is not only not an OSU alum, but only lived in Columbus for a short time.  I go out of my way to keep his glass full and introduce him to girls.  Point blank, I ask him if he would ever show the same hospitality to a Michigan fan.  "No."  was the answer.

Somehow, as great as the University of Michigan is, it does not inspire devotion to its residents.  The most vocal part of the fan base is its students and alumni.  In Ohio, every resident non-alum seems to display some sort of rabid, irrational defense of the football program.  The students, who have actually seen a bit of education, are not as bad (usually).  But what explains it?

Just Woody?  No.  He has been too dead and too irrelevant for too long.

No other game in town?  Yeah, OSU has been good.  But they have provided one National title, and a lot of tooth gnashing since. 

Lack of a rivalry?  Maybe some.  But in recent years OSU has done a good job of scheduling respectable non-conference home and home series.  It takes the early season focus off, at least.

So, yes, these initial 3 reason play a small role.  But unless you have done hard time in Ohio, you may not be able to quite put your fingers on its pulse.  

Ohio sucks.

Cedar Point if as far north as it could get away.  It's a state that struggles for a motto.  While the cradle of presidents and coaches, it also nurses a historical abundance of serial killers.  

It's a place with a huge inferiority complex.

Ohio knows it didn't deserve the rock and roll hall of fame.  But they will defend it in Cleveland, as they still smart from their burning river and giving birth to the modern environmental movement.  

Ohio still feels wounds from losing the Browns.  The state supported building a new stadium before fixing the crumbling school system.  Their reward?  Mediocrity.  And the Bengals.

But instead of the sports metropolis's of Cincinnati and Cleveland pulling the state apart, they are instead galvanized over the central location and figurehead that is tOSU Buckeyes.  

It is my belief that a state with an identity crisis follows basic psychology, and has turned itself inward.  They can circle the wagons around the scrap of identity that is OSU, and epitomized by a horseshoe.  Yes, Cincinnati may be good now, but it is a fad that Ohioans know will pass, like Drew Carey and Skyline chili.

So with every punch thrown, 'Fuck Michigan' shirt sold, and blogosphere comment submitted, Ohio fans are treading a simple line: that college football proves the worth and relevance of their state and lives.

As I said, I got out.  But I did some hard time.  

Michigan football means a lot to me.  But it is not my seasonal crutch to ameliorate my crappy life in a terrible state.

Go Blue!  


Senator Bluetarsky

November 20th, 2009 at 11:12 PM ^

Kudos. You captured nuances that help illuminate the kernel of "their" projected hatred. I did hard time for slightly less than one year in Marion, Ohio during eighth grade. I went from trig and Latin to adding fractions and diagramming sentences. I four-pointed without ever having taken my books home and my parents received regular phone calls from the school administration because I corrected my teachers, especially Mr. Sperry, purported science teacher. It was painful when I returned back to my home state of Michigan and needed to catch up for lost time. What a sh!t hole, Marion Pleasant, there in the "heart of Ohio." At least the Isaly Shoppe had decent ice cream.


November 21st, 2009 at 8:32 AM ^

is a joke. We watched a movie during my sophomore year in a history class about evolution, no idea why. When they put up opposing views of creationism vs. evolution they put jesus in the background for creationism and an effing swastika in the background for evolution. When my dad called and complained they didn't think it was a big deal. That was 5 years ago and they are still showing that video.


November 21st, 2009 at 11:09 AM ^

Oh. My. God. I had Mr. Sperry as well, and my memories of his class were his rants against firefighters destroying your house while putting out a fire and that you should sleep with your windows wide open all winter. He must have been 400 pounds, so any relief from the massive amount of BTUs that he was putting off probably felt like a blessing.

This thread does capture the kernel you note. Growing up, Saturday afternoons were devoted to listening to the Woody-led football team destroying Northwestern or Wisconsin by multiple touchdowns. Whenever tOSU lost (to a non-conference team), it was because that team cheated by buying off the refs or doing something called the "forward pass."

I'm glad you were able to get the hell out. Unlike you I couldn't escape until I graduated from that hell-hole that is known as Marion Pleasant. I went in the farthest extreme I could from Marion (obviously not geographically, but in about a zillion other ways), got to A2, and my life changed enormously for the better, although I still have to endure the near-psychotic obsession of my family members with all things tOSU. I actually view Michigan losing the game with mixed feelings - in the Cooper days, my family wouldn't talk to me for weeks after the game.

I don't think that this next fact is a coincidence - while I have plenty of friends from my Michigan days with whom I'm in contact constantly (going to a Cavs game Dec. 4 with two of them), I have not seen anyone from Marion in nearly twenty years, unless I accidentally run into them at a family function.

Thanks (I think) for the trip down unpleasant memory lane...


November 21st, 2009 at 11:38 AM ^

"I went from trig and Latin to adding fractions and diagramming sentences. I four-pointed without ever having taken my books home and my parents received regular phone calls from the school administration because I corrected my teachers, especially Mr. Sperry, purported science teacher."

There's nothing worse than a teacher who is wrong, except a teacher who is wrong and can't stand to be corrected or read up on their sh**.


November 20th, 2009 at 11:16 PM ^

Interesting how OSU fans tend to fit that general mold. Most Husker fans (I live in Omaha, NE) are huge fans because the Huskers are the only game in town, and despite the large number of people here who are huge fans, they generally tend not to have their life's purpose and self-worth revolve around the win/loss record of the team. Perhaps the Callahan era helped with that, but perhaps it's just because people here know their self-worth isn't contingent upon such a thing.

I sort of feel sorry for Ohioans in a way if what you suggest is actually the case.


November 21st, 2009 at 9:37 AM ^

id have to agree: nebraska fans are great, from what ive heard and when i was in omaha a summer 2006 post alamo bowl with a michigan hat...and on on two separate occasions groups of omahans(?) approached me and made some [civil] comment about the alamo bowl, the officiating, our team for the coming year, etc... ive also had good experiences with texas fans as well from the 2005 rose bowl, though ive heard mixed reviews of them.

Feat of Clay

November 21st, 2009 at 3:31 PM ^

I grew up in Nebraska, but not in Omaha--so I am more familiar with the out-state, non "city-slicker" (har!) type of fan. Like you say, there is nothing to root for except the Cornhuskers. I would say that Husker fans are definitely loyal, nutty, and obsessed.

By all normal expectations, you'd think Nebraska fans would be as obnoxious and rude as OSU fans. More obnoxious, even. But they're not.

I also think Husker fans don't get down about people making fun of the state. They're proud of being agricultural and they don't give a crap if you find it boring to drive through on your way to go skiing.

There is something about the OSU tradition that incites just plain old nasty, low-class fan behavior. Maybe it's a self-esteem thing, as the OP suggests.

Ty Butterfield

November 20th, 2009 at 11:39 PM ^

Nice diary, I would not be able to live in Ohio under any circumstances. I don't know if everyone knows the true story behind Tressel and why he seems to have UM's "number" so I thought I would pass it along.

After the 2003 loss to UM, Tressel was quite despondent. A week after the game he was sitting in his den late at night drinking a Bartles & Jaymes wine cooler and watching game film. He could not believe how Carr got the best of him and did not want to see this keep happening. He muttered to himself, "I would do anything to not lose to Michigan again." Right after he said this there was a knock at his door.

Tressel answered the door. There was an older gentleman in an expensive suit at the door. Tressel asked who he was and the man told him he could help Tressel with his "problem" with Michigan. Tressel was surprised and confused, but invited the man in and he offered him a wine cooler. The man laughed and conjured up a bottle of scotch seemingly out of nowhere. "Real men drink scotch." he said. The man and Tressel sat down and discussed football for awhile. The man mentioned he was a big Ohio State fan. Finally Tressel asked him who he was. "I am the Devil, and I am here to make you an offer."

Tressel was stunned but not surprised. "What is the offer", Tressel said. The Devil replied, "You sell me your soul, and you will never lose to Michigan again. I will return in 24 hours for your answer. Think long and hard before you make a decision." The Devil got up to leave. Before he got out of the den Tressel stopped him and said "I am in." The Devil responded, "Are you sure? There is no going back." Tressel responded, "I am so in." The Devil smiled and shook hands with Tressel. "Finish that scotch," the Devil said, "It will make you a man." Tressel said, "Scotch is too much for me, I will stick with my Bartles & Jaymes." The Devil left into the darkness never to be seen again.

It is hard for RR to beat Tressel when the Devil is on his side. Just sayin.


November 20th, 2009 at 11:59 PM ^

Having lived all over the state, the idiotic fanaticism which is rampant throughout much of Ohio is much less extreme in Cincinnati/SW Ohio . People there care more about the Bengals, the Reds or the various college basketball teams. Toledo (obviously) probably has as many Michigan fans as OSU fans. Most of the crazies seem to come from the Columbus or Cleveland areas or the more rural areas.

It's actually pretty stupid for Michigan fans to insult Ohio as it is resorting to the same level of ignorance as OSU fans when they generalize UofM to the whole entire state. There are plenty of Michigan fans throughout Ohio and people who hate Ohio State if only for the reason that OSU fans are so rude and obnoxious. Not to mention the fact that many of our best teams were led by Ohioans. It's only a small subset of the population which are complete, crazy idiots.


November 21st, 2009 at 12:05 AM ^

If I had to guess I'd say that a very strong majority of actual OSU alums I've met over the years have been cool people (this may be because I've lived outside of Michigan/Ohio for so long, but it is what it is). I had heard all the bad stories about Columbus (including one involving a dead rat being thrown at a group of Michigan fans). Going to Columbus in 2006 (a year in which the Buckeye fans were by all accounts better behaved than usual) I was blown away by the number of mouth-breathing yokels strolling around the stadium before the game. We got our share of F-You's and F-Michigan's, but I figured all the trashy folks in town were just looking for a party and that things would be better when we got into the stadium. I could not have been more wrong. Countless people muttered comments about wanting to kick me and my buddy's asses every time Michigan scored or we sang The Victors (all of them of course backed down after receiving the death-stare). The esteemed season ticket holders to our left (two of the scraggliest pieces of trailer trash I've ever encountered, despite having grown up in Virginia and Texas) shouted, "Break his ankle!" every time an OSU player made a tackle.

A number of people went out of their way to be cool to us (I think the folks who have some actual affiliation with the university are completely embarrassed by this crap), but I would guess that in your average Buckeye crowd roughly 50% of the people are absolute garbage (and these are just the ones who can actually afford tickets to the game).


November 21st, 2009 at 1:25 AM ^

Cause I actually live in Ohio. Having been born in Michigan it was natural to grow up and be a Michigan fan. I have lived in Ohio for the last 12 horrible years of my life (except for 1997 NC). It's so funny to see people who never cheered for them in the Cooper (Love that guy) days, I hate to see how all the bandwagon fans and asshole die hard fans root for the Suckeyes. It absolutely kills me that they have been winning for last few years. It's like they don't remember the days when we use to hand them their ass all the time. They are such the obnoxious fucks we all know them to be everyday of my life. And every time we get ready for the game, they always wanna make comments about UM. They even have their kids doing the same thing. My kids were born here in this shitty state, but because of me are Michigan fans. So all they know is how we lose to tOSU. You would think that karma would kick in sometime and rudely kick them in the ass! GO BLUE! BEAT tOSU!


November 21st, 2009 at 8:36 AM ^

UM inspires a lot of "intense devotion" among not only Ann Arbor "townies," but a large fanbase across the state. AAMOF, a major part of MSU's ire and inferiority complex is that the only people who cheer for them are people who went there, while the UM fanbase includes many who never attended UM. That is why they started the myth of the Walmart Wolverine.

The difference is that people in Michigan only "hate" OSU in a professional wrestling, suspension of disbelief kind of way, while OSU fans have a pathlogical and genuine hatred for all things Michigan. The intense devotion exists in Michigan, but it doesn't manifest itself in hatred, acts of violence or vandalism.

I would try to speculate why, but it would be all guesswork. Anyone who could truly understand an OSU fan's hatred for UM from this side should be working on peace in the mideast.


November 21st, 2009 at 9:20 AM ^

I grew up in Kalamazoo, went to a small liberal arts college on the west side of the state, but did my graduate internship at Michigan. I am not an alum, but growing up 90 minutes from the big house, I can tell you, there is a HUGE fan base in Michigan comprised of non-students/non-alum. Spend some time in other parts of the state and you will see there are Michigan parties on game days, Michigan bars, and big block M flags flying everywhere.


November 21st, 2009 at 9:11 AM ^

i think that an analysis of Ohio's sports malaise and reliance upon OSU cannot be complete without a mention of the undeniable addiction to high school football. Last year Masillon opened a $6,000,000 indoor practice facility for their high school football team. the university of cincinnati, currently ranked #5 in the country does not have one at all. i think there are at least 5 schools in the cinci area that have seating capacity of 10,000 or more.


November 21st, 2009 at 9:48 AM ^

I currently live in Cincinnati, OH and run the local alumni spirit group. The thing you have to understand about it is, here... everyone asks you were you went to school, and they mean high school. High school football is huge. Michigan and Ohio vary in overall population by not that much, but look at the number of top recruits out of Ohio. They are football crazy. Add that to a general inferiority complex, plus the 10-2-1 of the John Cooper Era, and you'll must up some irrational hatred. But, I do have to say, some Michigan fans show irrational devotion. I've seen plenty of posts on this blog, some who have trouble with their family or drink heavily after a loss. Letting being a fan get to that point on either side is upsetting.

But I host my alumni club, these on both side are out numbered by people who are reasonable and support their team. I support Michigan and I always will. Go Blue! Beat the Buckeyes!


November 21st, 2009 at 5:35 PM ^

I agree with previous posts about Cincinnati. Sure, there are many OSU fans (I have a family full of them), but they are now a small minority compared to the number of people that have jumped on the UC bandwagon. This season has brought a lot of individuals that are tired of the arrogance and general idiocy that OSU fans display in Ohio out of the woodwork. Of course, by saying that, I am exaggerating a bit; Cincinnati loves high school football and, this year, the Cincinnati Bengals. I grew up in Cincinnati and, as a UM alum, I love seeing Dhani Jones, Leon Hall, and Morgan Trent (who has come out of nowhere - he is playing out of his mind!) play well for the team. It's probably the only place in Ohio where the true insanity of OSU fans stands out... they are truly nut-jobs; unable to blend in, they are very easy to spot - I pity them.


November 21st, 2009 at 5:57 PM ^

My senior year my buddies and I went to Columbus to see the '86 game. (Michigan won w/ J Morris running wild; Spielman had 22 tackles in the game.) The night before High Street was roped off with a police officer every 20 yards seemingly hoping some idiot would be dumb enough to J-walk. I've been to a lot of places where I didn't belong but I've never been so on edge with my head on a swivel. It's an ugly place with ugly fans.

My favorite stat of the game: The ammonia levels in Mirror Lake on Thursday.