I have had the pleasure of introducing Coach Tressel at speaking engagements. And I have addressed the Agonis Club (twice) in Columbus. The first time was interesting since I was speaking about recruiting and Bill Conley was on the dais.
The list goes on and on. But one of the most enjoyable perks from this "job" happened a few weeks back when I was hosted for lunch by John Self, the owner of the Buckeye Hall of Fame Café. It's hard not to be impressed by the tour of that gigantic Buckeye facility. But it's even harder not to be impressed by John.
We were swapping stories and telling lies when I brought up the term "fans" to John. He turned to me contemptuously and said, "I hate fans". I said, "John, man, your whole gig here is based on fans. It's fans that come to see Tressel's radio show at the café. It's fans that gawk at all the memorabilia. It's fans you based this whole concept on".
"No", he said. "It's fans that have ruined the games. Fans who pay for a ticket and feel that gives them the right to be hostile and obscene. Fans that boo a team and a coach that brought them a national championship. Fans that boo a program that has won 23 of their last 24 games [the lunch was a few weeks back]. Fans are fickle and nasty".
Now, John was rolling. And if you have ever met John, you know to get out of his way when he is rolling. "I'm not a fan", John intoned. "I am a supporter. A supporter is someone who loves the program despite them losing or looking bad. A supporter goes to the games and encourages the team and the coach. A supporter is everything that is good about college sports".
And, thus, we have the dichotomy of "fans" versus "supporters". We all hear about the famous Dispatch headline back in the early ‘70's that went: "We love you Woody. Win or tie". It seems funnier in retrospect because he was winning then. But those were the "fans" talking. Once Woody left and Earle started losing three games every year, Woody did gain a lot of "supporters"!
Yes, the fans turned against Woody. The fans turned against Earle and many never turned for Cooper at all. Tressel had more fans than supporters his first year (lots of supporters from Youngstown, though, because those people actually knew the man…) but he got a lot of fans on board last year! Some of those fans are no longer with us…
Fans are like dates. Supporters are like family.
I get to think about this more than most because I write columns to which people respond. I received 70+ e-mails to my Bucket of Bullets last week when I suggested that the most appropriate two words for Jim Tressel were "thank you". The positive e-mails came from "supporters". The negative – and obscene – e-mails came from "fans".
I listen to them all and answer most of them. That's part of the deal here with being Mr. Bucknuts. But, as we progress toward our second BCS bowl in as many years; as we think of the unbelievable highs that this group of kids has given us; as we walk with a little more swagger as Ohio State Buckeyes; let's try to think of ourselves more as "supporters" and less as "fans".
The "fans" are the ones burning buses and looting after wins. The "supporters" are the ones meeting the buses after losses. Who would you rather identify with?
I am a supporter. Because I am Mr. Bucknuts. That's also part of the deal.
Hey – did I ever tell you about the time that Emily (the girl in the Brutus outfit last year) offered to pose nude for Bucknuts with just the Brutus head on? See –there are some really nifty things that come with being Mr. Bucknuts. Oh, well, I guess that's for another time…
E-mail Mr. Bucknuts at firstname.lastname@example.org