Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Support the Buckeyes! Pee on this Fire Hydrant!

I attended Ohio State University for awhile in the 1970's.

My subject was Medieval English Literature, which has very little to do with football.

But you couldn't go to Ohio State and fail to be aware that football was considered far more important than any academic subject.

My academic adviser, Francis Utley, was a giant among medievalists, but no one outside of the field had ever heard of him. I can't find a published picture of him.

Everyone had heard of the football coach, Woody Hayes, and anyone who went to OSU or who had any interest in college football would recognize him on sight. Students in my writing classes wrote fulsome panegyrics on the wonderfulness of Woody. Apparently he stood out on the football field in his shirtsleeves throughout every game, no matter what the weather, a display of fortitude that impressed them mightily.

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Woody Hayes
The reason for the importance gap between football and English was, as it often is, money.
The Ohio State Football program generates millions of dollars--over fifty-one million in 2010. It supports, not only all the other athletic programs, but also academic scholarships (which I'd be willing to bet go mostly to promising athletes that they want to recruit)

Ohio State won a lot of football games, but when they lost, it was often to their hated rival, Michigan State University.
Image result for ohio state vs michigan
The rivalry was at a visceral level.
It wasn't a good-natured rivalry among fellow sportsman. 

It was war. With casualties. And collateral damage. 

I remember being out one night after the Buckeyes had lost. Buckeye supporters were screaming and yelling at anyone who might have been from Michigan and trashing cars bearing Michigan plates. I'm sure it wasn't safe for anyone wearing Michigan colors to be out on the streets that night. 

Participants in football frenzy weren't limited to lowbrow thugs of the sort you'd stereotype as "football hooligans." It seemed to touch all academic disciplines and all walks of life. I had a friend who was working on his PhD in history. He was so angry about that particular loss, he wouldn't even speak to anyone except in unprintable expletives--although I don't believe he resorted to actual physical violence.

Apparently nothing much has changed. The Ohio State school of veterinary medicine has just put in a new intensive care unit. It includes a dog walking area that features the fire hydrant pictured below--painted in Michigan colors.
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Fire Hydrant at the School of Veterinary Medicine at OSU
It may be that the 1970's ferocity was a reflection of the coach's personality. Hayes was fired in 1978  for punching a Clemson linebacker during the Gator Bowl game (which Ohio State lost).

All the articles about this fire hydrant insist that it's all in good fun--but having been there, admittedly a long time ago, I can't help wondering.