Maybe deep down some of us have something in there, but this is a job. We’re not supposed to root for teams (you can root for people, of which there are many great ones on this Ohio State team) because of journalistic impartiality. Those are the rules of the game.
So no matter what happens tonight, I won’t be elated, heartbroken or anything in between. I’m just here to help bring you along for the ride.
But I was a fan once. And I remember very strongly what it was like waiting for a game like this.
I was a freshman at Ohio State in 2002. I grew up a Buckeye fan but had lapsed into the casual realm until I showed up at OSU and went to a game. Something about seeing that band come down the tunnel – that’s still pretty cool to this day.
I immediately threw myself into the team that year. I took a Block “O” bus trip to Northwestern. I snuck into the South Stands for every game to sit with the students when my tickets were actually in C-Deck. I stayed for a half hour afterward to help clean up after the Penn State game because I didn’t want to leave – it was the most amazing sporting experience of my life. I remember hugging fans at the Ohio Union after the Illinois win – it had to come down to Michigan. And after exorcising the demons of my childhood by beating the Maize and Blue, I grabbed a piece of turf and kept it growing in my dorm room.
Yet it all went so fast. In 2003, I wanted the chance to take the same ride. I felt like I’d taken the first one for granted – you show up to college and your school wins the national championship at the same time as your first ever college grades are posted. Is it supposed to be that easy?
Of course, we know Ohio State fell short that year by losing to – of course – Michigan. Then I grew up, started working for the student radio station, the student newspaper and finally Buckeye Sports Bulletin. It’s a job now. There won’t be any rooting tonight, just like there wasn’t in the desert in 2006 or on the Bayou in 2007.
But I’m already hearing from friends and family at home, those who tell me they’re so excited for tonight that they can barely work. This is the national championship. Ohio State has only one in the last three decades. This isn’t guaranteed – this is gravy. Enjoy it. Embrace the moment.
“I mean, this is unreal, man,” quarterback Cardale Jones said. “This is like a frigging movie or a book. The best way I can describe that is basically just unreal. I can't pinch myself any harder, so I guess I won't wake up.”
Or listen to what Michael Bennett has to say.
“It is real,” he said. “We are going to play for the national championship.
Or Joshua Perry.
“Making history is all I’ve been thinking about,” he said. “I talked with Steve Miller and Doran Grant about it – make history. Go down in history. You can’t not think about that here. It’s going to go one of two ways – you can win the game and make everybody proud, or you don’t win the game and you talk about the team that almost did it. You don’t want to be the almost team. You want to be the team.”
Or listen to what Urban Meyer says about being ready on the biggest stage.
“We talk quite often about when you have that opportunity to step into the batter's box you get one swing,” Meyer said. “You step into a prize fight you get one swing, and the great champions don't miss.
"That's the mentality that we've preached for really forever. That's the way we train you. That's to be prepared when that swing, that opportunity arises to make that play, you be ready. So yes, we've really hammered that real hard with our players."
This is the time. This is what the players live for, but it’s also what fandom is all about.
Have fun tonight.