The day had finally arrived. The early morning drive from Sandusky to St. John Arena held much anticipation of knowing that in just a few more hours The Best Damn Band In The Land would be taking the field for its pregame ritual of sending chills up and down the spines of over 100,000 Buckeye crazies as the four Script Ohios would begin to form.
Of course, too, we were overly anxious and more than ready to abolish the sad memories of Jan. 8 from our minds and get on with the preview of what's in store for Buckeye fans this season.
My sister Vicki, her 5-year-old grandson Ashton and I had our tailgate set up by 7:15 a.m. This was to be Ashton's first "real" Buckeye football game as he told each and every person who stopped to comment on how cute he looked and especially how cool his little shoes were. Ashton had decided for himself that he was going to wear a scarlet sneaker on his right foot and a gray one on his right foot. It was amazing how many Buckeye fans throughout the day commented on his unique for attire.
On Thursday evening, since I already had tickets for my daughter Dani and myself, I ordered two tickets for Ashton and Vicki from hangonsloopy.com. Since they were in my name, I had to pick the ducats up at will-call so we headed over the Lane Avenue bridge towards the ticket windows at the Schott. I did notice some scalpers leaving the ticket office with newly purchased tickets in hand. Drat on that!!!!
The line was kind of long but moved rather quickly so with tickets in hand, we walked back to our tailgate and started getting the food ready when one of the "Ohio State Official Gameday Magazine" vendors walked by and sold us each a program. If you normally don't purchase an Ohio State football program when you're at the games, I highly recommend it because there's some good stuff to read inside those covers that you don't normally hear about from any other source.
Since I've already read just about every page (I admit I skip the advertisements, except for the Buckeye Sports Bulletin one, of course) here's a little bit of official gameday magazine trivia for you to ponder. (The answers appear below.)
1. Many of the Buckeyes have pets of the usual kind. Some have dogs, cats, or birds. Kirk Barton even trained his Yorkshire terrier, Caesar, to use a litter box. Coach Tressel and Ellen have two Maltese dogs, named Scarlett and Gracie. However, one Ohio State football player has two, what could be considered, quite unorthodox as far as precious little pet creatures go. Which Ohio State football player has two pet alligators?
2. The four OSU quarterbacks were asked the question, "What is in your fridge right now? Who gave the answer "Deer meat"?
3. What number equals the string of home openers that Ohio State has won (including Saturday's victory over Youngstown State)?
4. Who gave Beanie Wells his nickname and why?
5. How many siblings does Beanie have?
6. How many years did Luke Fickell start at nose guard for the Buckeyes?
Pretty soon is was getting to be two hours until kickoff, so the group at our tailgate walked through the St. John tunnel and picked a spot on the curb leading from the south side of St. John Arena and awaited the walking Buckeyes to exit the Skull Session.
Before that happened, I spotted Jay Richardson's mom, Debbie, just a few feet away and after giving each other big hugs, I asked her how Jay was doing. Debbie's face quickly lit up with pride as she exclaimed that he made the Raiders and that she already booked airfare and a hotel in Miami for the upcoming Oakland-Miami game. It's really nice to see her still supporting the Buckeyes now that her son has moved on to the NFL. Debbie is a real sweetheart and I feel privileged to have met her back during Jay's freshman year.
As soon as the team was well on their walkabout to the stadium, we ran into Tyler Whaley's family who had been standing nearby. Last season, down in Austin, I sat next to Tyler's grandpa and his dad Dave. I then ran into them again, while tailgating outside of the University of Phoenix Stadium on Jan. 8, and incidentally, we bumped into each other leaving the venue that awful night. Dave actually said some comforting words to me late that night back in January and insisted for me to not worry and that the team would be all right. He was very confident that the staff would turn that beatdown into something great. I remember feeling just a little bit better having heard those words coming from a player's father.
Dave did have a neat story to tell about Tyler. Earlier this summer and just a couple of weeks before OSU's Photo Day, Tyler arranged to take a large group of family members and his girlfriend on a tour of Ohio Stadium. They explored all of the suite decks and press box area along with the locker rooms, press room and recruiting rooms. Before leaving, Tyler took them all on to the field where they decided it would be a great family picture for them to line up on the 50-yard line so they proceeded to do so, with the giant scoreboard as a backdrop.
Suddenly, Tyler dropped to one knee, pulled out a ring and proposed marriage to his girlfriend smack dab in the middle of the Block "O." The entire family was in on the "surprise" for the future Mrs. Whaley but from Dave's description, it was quite a moment that was captured on video. Tyler and his fiancée will marry in December 2008. Congratulations to them both.
On another note, Dave expressed how much Tyler raves about both Tressel coaches. He said Whaley goes on and on singing the praises of Doc and JT. I know I've read on the forums at times, messages from people who question having Doc as the running backs coach. It's obvious they've never spoken with an OSU running back or any of their parents before forming their negative opinions.
About 90 minutes left to go before kickoff, we were back at the tailgate greeting more old friends and some new ones who showed up to eat or just to stop by and say hi. It's always fun to put faces to the screen names, so any time you're in the area of St. John Arena on a football Saturday, please do stop by.
It's fun to get into the stadium early enough to watch TBDBITL's pregame festivities, especially on Alumni Band Day when the current and past band members form such a large marching group that they cover the entire football field. The four simultaneous Script Ohios that they perform is always breathtaking, so Dani, Vicki, Ashton, I and a few other friends walked together to the stadium before splitting up to go to our separate sections.
Dani and I were fortunate to have to club seats, thanks to a dear friend who offered us two of the four he owns. Vicki was happy, though, because the two tickets I bought on Thursday night were for seats in section 3AA. Even though those north end zone seats aren't the greatest for viewing action at the south end, she was delighted, anticipating the look on Ashton's face at being so close when the OSU Marching Band comes strutting down the ramp to take the field. Her delight soon turned to disappointment when, upon arriving to her seats, she was directed to a customer service office and ordered to exchange her tickets for new ones. Somebody at the ticket office made a huge blunder and sold the seats that were reserved for the alumni band to sit, so when the ticket holders showed up, they were prevented from sitting there.
After standing in a line of about 30 people, Vicki was upset to learn that her "new" tickets were for seats at the top of section 11C, alongside the press box. The elevator lines were extremely long and being she didn't want to miss kickoff, she decided to climb the stairs. That maneuver turned out to be pretty difficult for her and a 5-year-old coming to his first Buckeye game. She was disappointed to miss the entire pregame show as that was one of the many things she wanted Ashton to experience.
After reaching her seats, Vicki called to fill me in on what happened. She was upset that OSU made the mistake and didn't better accommodate them with different seats. Pretty much the attitude at customer service was, "Oh, well. Take it or leave it." Additionally, because of the press box support beams, she couldn't see a good portion of the field.
We managed to get Ashton and Vicki into the club seats at halftime and they sat in some seats that had been empty from the start of the game so at least the second half was more fun for them. Ashton, bless his little Buckeye heart, was pretty tuckered out and promptly fell asleep by the start of the fourth quarter.
An announcement was made before the Penguins took the field, welcoming Louis Irizarry back to Ohio Stadium. I thought that was a nice gesture, doubling as a sign of forgiveness. It was also nice to see the sincere hug that Coach Tressel laid on Louis after the game. Think what you will about the Louis, but Tress still loves the kid and those traits are part of what makes him one of the best football coaches around. JT is someone who truly cares about his young people, not just the athlete.
Oh, and I would be remiss if I didn't point out that, in my humble opinion, YSU running back Jordan Edwards appeared to be one of the best players on the Penguin roster. I was thrilled for Jordan to have such a nice game. He led YSU in total yards, receiving and rushing combined. If you haven't figured it out already, Jordan is a former Sandusky Blue Streak and it was great to see him look like I remember him playing back in his high school days.
There were a couple of times where a thunderous round of boos could be heard emanating from Ohio Stadium. Once was during a commercial on the scoreboard screen advertising the Big Ten Network. The other was when, during a time out on the field, highlights and updates of several Big Ten games were shown. The crowd already realized that Michigan was struggling with Appalachian State all afternoon, so an up-to-date recap was hopefully forthcoming. After viewing Northwestern, Penn State, Michigan State and Iowa highlights, the screen went blank after not one word on Michigan's game. Therefore, you had the culmination of boos from 100,000 strong eager to hear that their hated rival was still losing.
Who would have thought as the day began that we would be getting a little extra icing on the cake before the afternoon turned to evening? While leaving the stadium, we noticed on the concourse monitors that the Mountaineers were up on the Wolverines by five points with 9:01 remaining in the game. Since Ashton was pretty much sleepwalking at this point, we decided to get back to the truck and hopefully catch the end of that game on radio instead of staying in the stadium to watch.
As we crossed Woody Hayes Drive walking toward St. John Arena, from behind and rising out of the stadium was a loud chorus of cheers, making us wonder what happened but surmised it had to be something bad for the Wolverines. Later, in watching one of the multitudes of replays on the Big Ten Network, that moment was with about six or seven minutes left when Chad Henne threw an incompletion on fourth down.
By the time we reached the parking lot, we noticed hundreds of people lined up in the St. John lot and across the street at Riverwatch and Hineygate, standing on cars, trucks, trash containers, etc., all eyes geared on the giant screens over there. The audio volume was cranked up and we could hear it plain as day while standing up against the French Field House wall. We were hooked and couldn't leave.
Suddenly, Michigan took the lead, but everyone still watched, even though it seemed the Wolverines would probably squeak out the win. Nobody left their perches on the trucks, cars, vans, cans, coolers, chairs, stoops, shoulders, etc. Suddenly, my cell phone rang and The Cheesehead was on the other end asking me, "Do you know what's going on in Ann Arbor?" I shouted back, "Yes! We're watching it. I'm standing in the bed of our truck with a bunch of other people. It's on the big screen across the street."
YSU kicked the go-ahead field goal and I was still on the phone with my husband. It soon became clear that the feed on The Cheesehead's end was about 10 seconds ahead of what we were seeing, and while we were waiting for Michigan's field goal unit to take the field, I heard screams coming through my cell phone's earpiece: "THEY BLOCKED IT!!! IT'S BLOCKED!!!!" So I started yelling, "IT'S BLOCKED!!! IT'S BLOCKED!!!" and everyone within earshot started screaming and cheering before we all watched the block ourselves and resumed the celebration.
The scene across Lane Avenue at the Riverwatch tailgate was total mayhem. Cups, hats, paper, food, anything substituting confetti, you name it, was being tossed in the air. As far as the eyes could see, Buckeye fans were jumping up and down, pumping fists, tossing things in the air, hugging, high fiving, all in obvious glee.
I can't think of a better way to top a season-opening Buckeye win than what happened last Saturday. Can you?
Here are the answers to the trivia questions:
1. Nader Abdallah has two pet alligators. One is named after his father's childhood nickname, "Hulio," and the other is named "Amireh," which means princess in Arabic.
2. Joe Bauserman has deer meat in his refrigerator.
3. Twenty-nine straight home victories for the Buckeyes.
4. Chris's brother Ray coined the nickname Beanie because Chris was a scrawny, skinny kid with a big head that resembled a bean.
5. Beanie is one of 11 children; therefore, he has 10 siblings.
6. Luke started four years at nose guard for the Bucks.
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