Banished Buck on the victory celebration

Bitter cold.  Sweet success.  Bundled up fans.  Naked displays of raw emotion.  Frostbite and numb extremities.  Warm hearts and thoughts.

Saturday was a study in contrasts.

The day dawned cold and windy with temperatures hovering in the single digits.  For a time, I thought I might even lose a few digits.  However, thousands of lucky Buckeye fans could not wait to get out in the weather and stand for hours.

Why?

They were celebrating a championship season. 

But this season was not just about a championship.

It was a catharsis.

A group therapy session for thousands (if not millions) of Buckeye fans who had become jaded and cynical.  Generations of fans who watched their team stumble and fall heartbreakingly short of championship after championship.  Buckeye fanatics who hollowly insisted to ever growing jeers that THE Ohio State University was a dominant football power not to be mocked, watched the season and championship game unfold like Rip Van Winkle awaking from his slumber.

"Can it be true?  I must rub my eyes.  What has become of the reality that has so long been mine?  It is November.  It is time for the annual disappointment.  Weren't we supposed to stumble at Purdue or Illinois?  Weren't we supposed to fold against Michigan with everything on the line?"

No way could this team hold up against Miami.  Not the Miami of Ohio, but the other Miami.  The Miami that has dominated the national scene the past two decades.  The same Miami riding a 34 game winning streak with a defensive line that should be starting (all of them) in the professional ranks, two Heisman trophy candidates on offense, and an offensive line that had allowed less than two dozen sacks in the past two seasons…

Yet, there were the Buckeyes, playing with the grit, determination, and heart that marked this team from its first game in August.  Ultimately, those qualities showed that these players were not just winners – but champions. 

It was true.  And it is true.  Frankly, it is just too good to be true.

In the end, after the last pass was batted down by Donnie Nickey, (who had for so long taken the brunt of Buckeye ire) fans sat stunned in Tempe and across the nation.  The welling of the emotions and the banishment of the ghosts of failures past could not be halted and the dam burst.  Grown men, strangers embraced one another and cried like schoolgirls.

They did not care who saw them because they could not help themselves.

This season was an extended session so effective that Dr. Phil and Oprah need to place a call to Jim Tressel and ask him his secret. 

Saturday was a last chance of sorts for the Ohio State fans to express this emotion en masse.  They warmed the winter landscape with their hearts.  For 45 minutes on Saturday, it was spring in January – and the protective ice upon the ground of the Buckeye nation's emotions melted once and for all.

In its place will be the eternal flower of youth from this team.  The roses of the seniors, all a pristine white with one scarlet – for Michael Doss who returned to lead his team to glory.  The Sunflower for the smile of Jim Tressel who held the championship trophy aloft, his eyes and face for once expressing the emotion that so clearly is there but held in check upon the sidelines. 

What a kaleidoscope of colors and emotions.

Maybe people might question why someone would stand in sub-freezing temperatures (10 degrees with a minus 3 wind-chill to be precise) for 3 hours just to see a 45-minute celebration.  Perhaps had they been there or had they understood, it was not so cold when you could sidle up to the warmth of emotions.

Hear the unbridled sounds of joy, uttered like some wild animal finally emancipated from a tormented life in captivity.

Thank you Buckeyes.

This is indeed a team and a year to remember. 

One that people will tell their grandchildren about.

No matter where you go in this life, you will not be forgotten. 

You will brighten the cloudy day, warm the cold afternoon, and bring out the rainbow after a storm for decades to come.

The words of the song could not be truer; "Time and change will surely show, how firm thy friendship O-HI-O."


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