Wisconsin Game Day…
For those who have never been to Camp Randall, I would first suggest that perhaps a road trip is in order.
The second suggestion I would make is to never, ever take your wife, a child, or go to a late afternoon or evening contest.
Quite simply, there were more drunk and boorish fans at that game than I have ever seen anywhere else. I thought the Ohio State crowd was bad last year for the Michigan game, but this crowd brought new meaning to the concept of drunken and profane rowdiness.
Hours before the game, drunken students lined streets and were shouting profane epithets at women, children, and even the elderly. Beer, cups, and even tomatoes were thrown at people who were just walking by. While standing trying to watch Sportscenter, a tomato just missed a friend's head, and we were not even wearing any visible Ohio State gear. We simply were standing there watching highlights.
During the game itself, I must have heard the "F"-word 2-300 times. That is no exaggeration. The favorite chant of the evening even in the predominantly Ohio State section was "(expletive) the Buckeyes!" Over and over and over again that was shouted. Even before the game had commenced, several drunken rowdies amused one another by screaming, "I'm drunk and feeling like going to jail tonight!" Ohio State fans eyed them nervously because they were not entirely jesting. Had matters turned ugly for Wisconsin, these guys were ready and willing to start taking shots at those around them until police would have arrived. And while the "jump around" and several other chants by the Wisconsin student section set them apart as perhaps the best student section in the Big Ten, their profane chants also set them apart, but in a different way. They are without question the most foul-mouthed section as a group that I have ever seen.
Then, of course, you have the Wisconsin band. Granted, a band is supposed to cheer their team onward. Granted, they are supposed to play as loud and as long as they can. However, what I saw Saturday night went beyond anything I have ever seen from an opposing band (unless you count Stanford). In their march around the stadium, they headed right for the Ohio State section where they put a little more oomph into their playing as they got right in the faces of OSU fans and blared their instruments.
After the final seconds had ticked off the clock there were fireworks.
Perhaps other programs before have done this. Perhaps it is not quite the poke in the eye that it appeared to be by the Wisconsin administration. However, to set off fireworks after beating a team at your stadium is a bit much. First, it simply shows that your program is not big time because they have to set off fireworks when they actually win a big game. Second, it shows up another conference foe that is not likely to forget that breach in etiquette.
Finally, there was the after game fiasco. Cars had their windows smashed out. Truckloads of drunken Wisconsin fans were screeching up and down the streets berating any Buckeyes they could see. They screamed at them – "(expletive) you Buckeye!" when they spotted someone and then simply (expletive) the Buckeyes!" when no targets were near by.
Nor were these my experiences alone. One friend at the game sitting in another section watched as the Wisconsin fans berated the families of OSU players. It reached the point that one of the few polite Wisconsin fans nearby actually removed his cap and apologized for the display of incredibly poor sportsmanship. Another gentleman (who was actually in neutral colors) wrote, "The fans at gametime.close to the stadium were so full of anger (and drunk) it was scary. Breeze Way Terrace running along home side of the stadium was like a scene from Heart of Darkness. This was way beyond the many Michigan games I have gone to see...and why? The (expletive) Ohio State chants were everywhere and my wife was groped twice while wading thru the crowd. Seriously. She was born and raised in Madison, went to UW..was totally embarrassed by the whole scene..it was sad."
I understand cheering for the home team. I understand what a little booze can do to a person. However, what I saw at Wisconsin went way over the top of anything I have ever seen even at an Ohio State – Michigan game. I am talking about angry, aggressive drunks. I am talking about thousands of fans all with the same general attitude from the very young to even the elderly. I am talking about an administration that simply turned a blind eye to what they knew was going to happen and what was happening.
So, go ahead and visit Madison. I would even recommend attending a Wisconsin – Ohio State game some day. However, I would never, ever recommend taking your wife or children and whatever you do, do not go at night. The fans in Wisconsin will shock you with their behavior, and not in a positive way.
What was your experience at Wisconsin? If you went, I would be very much interested in the treatment you received (good or ill). Please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or just send it to Bucknuts where it can be forwarded to me.
The WWF Choke
Sitting in the stands last weekend, it was a frightening moment to see the Wisconsin players frantically wave to their sidelines when Sorgi went down. There was no way to see the play, and I actually had a better view than Jim Tressel from where I sat. I actually thought (along with those around me) that it was a clean play, and we were all hoping Sorgi would be able to leave the field on his feet instead of on a stretcher.
Once I returned home and watched the tape, I was floored. Quite honestly, that was among the dirtiest plays I have ever seen caught on film. I watch parts of literally hundreds of college football games each season, and I have never, ever witnessed anything like that during a game. That is not to say it does not happen (even regularly), it is simply that I have never seen it captured by the television cameras.
To his credit, Robert Reynolds apologized to Sorgi, Wisconsin, Alvarez, and now the Ohio State fans. He even showed up with his wife to support him yesterday at the press luncheon. While some might have viewed it simply as a PR move, I thought it was a classy act by a young man who stated that he was not afraid of a lengthy suspension. "I was willing to take my -- take my medicine for what I did, and no matter what the suspension was, I was willing to take it because I acted out of character, and it's not Ohio State football."
The sad thing for him now is that even though he has been genuine in his remorse, it is too late to put Humpty Dumpty back together again.
A cynical media will hound him, label him the "quarterback choker," and use his act as a cliché for the foreseeable future. The Wisconsin fan base and team are not likely to forget the play and will undoubtedly be angry about it for years to come. Nationally, it provided yet another black eye for Ohio State this season, and with the ending of the win streak – you can bet this game will be replayed for decades to come on ESPN Classic. New fans will see that play for the first time every instance it is rebroadcast. Even among the Ohio State fan base, Reynolds' play will be linked to his career in Columbus forever.
My hope for him – on a personal level – is that he can make an equally spectacular play this season to preserve or cement an Ohio State win (like the Will Allen interception return). That will balance out the way many might undoubtedly perceive his career at Ohio State in the future… "Robert Reynolds… Oh yeah, I remember him. Wasn't he that linebacker that choked the quarterback at Wisconsin?"
Few participants in all of sport deserve that kind of legacy, and I for one hope that is not how Reynolds will be remembered. I would prefer to remember the image of the smiling young man who shyly told reporters several weeks ago at the WHAC that he was trying be a good husband to his new wife.
What is wrong with this team's offense?
Not surprisingly, I have a theory.
When a team undergoes a serious scandal and subsequent investigation, it takes energy to continue to focus. That expended energy bleeds off into sheer exhaustion over time. As a result, they look less and less crisp in succeeding weeks until they finally lose at least one game and often several.
How does that work?
Every season is a grind. The real pressure starts in late August and builds on each team in the top ten. Nagging injuries, the mental toll, and even the daily routine slowly become a serious load. It is like that five pound weight that looks so light and feels like a feather when you first pick it up, but after carrying it for a good while, it becomes an anvil. The higher you are in the rankings, the more weight that is added to the burden.
When the Clarett scandal broke in early July, the season effectively started for this football team. The pressure that normally would have been diverted until at least mid August began on that date. As a direct result, the team is mentally six weeks further down the road than normal. Remember the Illinois and Purdue games in 2002? Watch a tape of the Buckeyes during the Wisconsin game and then pop in one of those two games from last season.
Tell me there are not striking similarities.
Again, tell me there are not striking similarities.
Mentally, Ohio State just looks tired. They look like they are exhausted from the constant pressure not only from other teams and but also from the national media picking at every move they make. The problem is that none of this is going to go away. There are another six games on their schedule. Every one of these six teams is going to be fresher mentally than Ohio State because their timeline started in late August instead of early July.
Perhaps this loss will serve as a wakeup call and forestall a melt down. The Buckeyes and their fans better hope so. Nobody is going to cry for them if they lose or cut them a break in their games because Maurice Clarett decided to go postal on Ohio State University.