Editor's note: With Michigan's loss to Ohio State, David Shuster followed through with his promise and ate his own words. Click here to watch.
On Saturday, my beloved Michigan Wolverines and the evil Buckeyes from Ohio State will meet on the football gridiron for the most dramatic and significant game in college football history.
Yes, you read that correctly. This matchup between two of the most storied programs in college football will be the most dramatic and significant college game ever seen. For those of you who are whining in Florida, Alabama, South Bend, Indiana, and Southern Cal, consider this: Michigan and Ohio State, two of the most successful football teams anywhere, have met 103 times. They’ve even met when both teams were undefeated and untied in 1970 and 1973. But this game on Saturday will be the first ever when both Ohio State and Michigan enter their regular-season finale undefeated, untied and ranked as the nation’s top two teams.
So, forget about the BCS game the second week in January and all of the related BCS bowls. Most of those games will be on neutral fields. And all of those battles will feature at least one football powerhouse with an imperfect record. Michigan vs. Ohio State is one of sports greatest rivalries. And the matchup this Saturday is as good as it gets...ever.
A month ago, I traveled to Columbus, Ohio, to do some reporting on the congressional midterm elections. We worked from the OSU campus and during the afternoon I had a few hours of down time so I wandered over to Ohio Stadium. I had always wanted to see this football cathedral, and as I walked in and looked around from seats in the lower deck the thought of Michigan visiting Ohio State this year left me terrified. Because even though Michigan is the far superior football team, and despite the fact that most Buckeyes will eventually work for a Wolverine some day, the gang in Columbus has done one thing well: Put the stands in their football stadium almost on top of the field. Seriously. Unlike at Michigan stadium, where each and every one of the 110,000 bench seats in the oval-shaped stadium has an open and totally unobstructed view of the clouds drifting over Ann Arbor, the stands at Buckeye stadium, by contrast, feel like the walls of a cliff. Everything about Ohio Stadium focuses your attention on what’s happening on the field. And with a two-tiered design, the noise stays in the stadium and reverberates.
Over the decades, Michigan fans have had some unusual experiences in Columbus even before walking into the game. There was the Friday night before one game in the 1970’s when the hot water was turned off at a Columbus hotel housing most U of M staff and fans. In the 1980’s it was an “electricity blackout” that miraculously affected the very same hotel. In the late 80’s, when I went to U of M, some of my friends had beers poured on them simply because they had the audacity to wear a “Michigan” shirt to Ohio stadium. In the 1990’s, a few U of M students who went to the game in Columbus came back with tales of being harangued by drunken Buckeye fans who kept “grunting like a bear in heat.” Help me, Buckeyes. Is that one of your mating calls? Four years ago, Buckeye fans were so happy with the outcome of the Michigan game that they set fire to couches, rioted near the OSU campus and tested their wrestling skills with more than a few Columbus police officers. To be clear, I’ve never thought these acts were the work of anything more than a few deranged punks who probably can’t even get into OSU. (In other words, they must be especially dumb.) I’m sure most Buckeye fans are reasonable, respectful and decent, but on football Saturdays many of the nicest and friendliest people you could ever meet in Columbus turn into raving lunatics.
I’m not alone in this view. This week the University of Michigan’s dean of students invited the Wolverine faithful to travel to the “True Blue Away-Game tailgate” near Ohio stadium and urged that Michigan students arrive in a car with “non-Michigan plates, if possible.” The e-mail said “keep your Michigan gear to a minimum, or wait until you are inside the stadium to display it.” The e-mail from Sue Eklund, dean of students, and Steve Grafton, president of the Michigan alumni association, added, “If verbally harassed by opposing fans, don’t take the bait.” No kidding.
Still, I can’t wait for Saturday. It’s not just about football, it’s about tradition. An Ohio State tuba player will “dot” the “i” and prompt the Buckeye crowd to go nuts. (Even those of us rooting for Michigan will stand up and cheer when a Buckeye spells a word correctly.) The Michigan band will high-step onto the field, form the big block “M” and play “The Victors,” the song that John Phillips Sousa called the greatest college fight song ever written. Then, around 3:45 p.m. ET, it will be time to play football.
To all of my kind-hearted Buckeye friends: enjoy your incredible stadium, turn up the noise when Michigan has the ball, be proud of the pageantry and revel in the fine play of your No. 1-ranked football team. But on Saturday, after the dust has settled and the whistle has been called, take it easy when “The Victors” is ringing in your ears. Because remember, the Rose Bowl is not such a bad consolation prize. Michigan 28, Ohio State 24.
P.S.: The views in this column do not reflect the views or opinions of NBC, MSNBC or any of the OSU grads who work for me.
P.S.S.: If I’m wrong and Ohio State beats Michigan, I will print out this column and eat it. And as proof, I’ll photograph that act and post the pictures in “Hardblogger.” In the meantime, Go Blue!
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