Archive for the ‘Buckeye Blogging’ Category.

OSU-Michigan - Once Again, the Enduring Spectacle

A little background for the uninitiated - All three of us - I and my two younger brothers - graduated from Ohio State. Our parents and maternal grandparents attended OSU as well, so it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that the OSU-Michigan football game has become a focal point of our shared experience. From oldest (me) to youngest, we brothers span 10 years, so we’ve had a wide range of exposure to this annual rite.

My first Michigan game was when I was in high school. My maternal grandparents had season tickets each year at OSU, and bought four Michigan tickets when the games were played in Ann Arbor. They would drive up to our place near Toledo and take my Mom & Dad, but this one time I got a ticket because someone decided not to go. I recall watching the OSU backfield of Paul Warfield (later Miami Dolphins), Matt Snell (NY Jets) and QB Don Unverferth (nowhere. OSU quarterbacks at that time were there to hand the ball to the running backs) playing against Michigan QB Bob Timberlake. That’s all from memory, so sorry if I overlooked some NFL Hall of Famers that just didn’t register.

The first Game that meant something to me occurred in 1968. Prior to 1968, OSU’s football fortunes had been in decline, and choruses of “Goodbye, Woody” wafted through Ohio Stadium during the 1967 season, my freshman year. Then, in 1968, a group of “super-sophs” including Rex Kern, Jack Tatum, Mike Sensibaugh, Stan White, John Brockington, Jim Stillwagon and others hit the scene (freshmen could not play on the varsity team in those years), and a juggernaut was launched that revived OSU football, Woody’s career, and allowed Woody and Bo Schembechler to “brand” the OSU-Michigan game as the football version of the final battle in the Lord of the Rings.

The 1968 season saw the Buckeyes march through the season undefeated, gathering momentum and believers along the way. We had Michigan at home that year and beat them 50-14. After scoring our last touchdown, Woody went for a 2-point conversion instead of kicking for 1. When someone asked him why, legend has it that he said, “Because I couldn’t go for 3.” Here’s the postgame scene in Ohio Stadium. (click on any of these pictures to enlarge):

I wasn’t in the band that year, didn’t try out until the next year, but I had a pretty fine season ticket in C-deck, right in front of the press box. In case you’re rubbing your eyes in disbelief, don’t - that’s $14 for the whole season.:

That 1968 team beat O. J. Simpson and USC in the Rose Bowl to win the national championship, and rolled through the 1969 season so impressively that sportswriters thought the only competition they could get was in the NFL. In those years, only the Big Ten champion could go to a bowl game, and there was a “no-repeat” rule that barred us from returning to the Rose Bowl even if we won the Big Ten title outright, so the game in Ann Arbor was to be our bowl game and, we were sure, our coronation as repeat national champs and, in our minds, the team of the century.

Michigan, under new coach Bo Schembechler, dealt us a bitter 24-12 defeat that day, one of only two games that that class would lose in their 3 years at OSU. It was my first year in the band, and, though I’d lived one of my dreams by playing in The Big House, it was a forlorn bus ride back to Columbus.

In the 1970 season OSU again ran through the season undefeated and took a #1 ranking into the Michigan game, and we had them at home this time. The picture below is of our band just after we took the field for pregame. The crowd noise was so loud that many of us couldn’t hear the drummers, and could only take the beat by watching their feet. That pregame entrance was one of my biggest thrills ever  I’m somewhere in that block band marching down the field for pregame.

We beat Michigan that year and played Stanford and Jim Plunkett in the Rose Bowl.

With the Tatum-Brockington-Kern class gone in 1971, we were a pretty ordinary team. We even lost to Northwestern at home! Michigan, on the other hand, had a powerhouse team coming into The Game, which was played that year in Ann Arbor. Surprisingly, we held our own against UM and, with 2 minutes left, had the ball and could have been driving for the winning score. Then, a Michigan defensive back intercepted a Buckeye pass after, from my vantage, palpably interfering with our receiver. No interference penalty was called, and Woody went nuts. He raged around the field berating officials and, at one point, destroyed the yardline markers on his sideline.

Our director felt that it would be best if the band left the stadium at that point as, even in normal years, people would grab at us and swipe mouthpieces and clothing. Our seats were on the sideline on the floor of the northeast corner of the stadium, right by the goal line. I was packing up my stuff and pulling on my long overcoat when the drum major approached me with the goal line marker that he’d just lifted off the field while everyone else in the stadium was apparently watching Woody’s tantrum. He asked me to slip it under my coat and carry it to the bus. In that atmosphere, with 100,000 potential assassins in the stands and a narrow tunnel to squeeze through to freedom, it was like Wile E. Coyote handing Road Runner a stick of dynamite. Too young and stupid to know I could die, and flattered that he’d asked, I did it.

Back in the bus, he and I pulled it apart - it was an “A” shape with two identical faces. I had to rat through several boxes in the basement to find what Mrs. Perils calls my “piece of the true cross”, but find it I did, and it’s pictured below, the relic of my final game in an OSU band uniform.


(40%) I’ve never been the one to say, “I work best under pressure.”  It is, in fact, usually calamitous.  But I’m flying home from Detroit to Seattle, and I was comped for free wi-fi, so I’ve set myself this task: to write and publish a blog post before my Macbook battery runs out.  And, be advised that my battery guage diminishes faster than the gas gauge on a Ford Explorer.

(38%) So I’m at the end of a week’s travel.  It began at 3:30 am last Tuesday, when a shuttle picked me up for a 6am flight to Orlando, where I attended a software conference.  There’s just not much to write about that.  I attended a session on inventory costing which was very beneficial, but would be a recipe for further alienation here.

(36%) Flew Thursday night from Orlando to Columbus, where my brother had been working all week, and we spent Friday touring the new student union on the Ohio State campus, then dinner and an impromptu appearance at a Columbus Blue Jackets game. My first in-person NHL game.  Impressive skating and puck-handling.  The obligatory glove-and-helmet-disrobing fight, which had no discernible cause, got over with in the first period.  Perhaps the Blue Jackets spent all their passion in that pas-de-deux, because they went on to lose 6-1, including goals allowed to a short-handed Calgary team, and another with 12 seconds left.

(32%) Saturday was the piece-de-resistance: the Ohio State-Purdue football game.  I was extended the privilege to purchase a pair of tickets to the game due to my winning the lottery conducted for alumni of my caste (those who give $10 - $25 bucks, usually by the accident of answering the phone in time).  The seats were awfully good - 4 rows from the top of C-Deck, smack on the 30-yard-line.   We attended the marching band’s pregame rehearsal/concert in St. John Arena called Skull Session, which is attended by 10,000 - 12,000 people.  By bro’s old band buddy had saved us seats in the front row, and we reveled in the band’s extraordinary sound.  (I’ll post video later)

(27%) After the game, we drove up to Perrysburg to visit our mom and to complete some chores that we’d started on our last visit over Labor Day weekend.  Both of her bathroom fans, installed when my parents built the house in 1961, had failed, and we had managed over Labor Day to remove them and their housings, only to find that nothing at Lowe’s would fit into the same space.  We struggled a bit at that time, then solemnly promised to finish the job on our next visit (each hoping, of course, that the other one would be making that visit alone).

(23%) We worked part of Saturday and a lot of the day Sunday.  One of the new fans would not work at all, and we had started to think that we would have to engage an electrician to find the problem.  Meanwhile, we had discovered a problem with one of mom’s downspouts that, left untended, had the potential to wash dirt away from the foundation.  The house is already experiencing an alarming amount of settling (it’s brick, so the evidence is impossible to ignore).  Another trip to Lowe’s, and we got started on that chore just as, of course, it started raining.  We fitted a new length of aluminum downspout and reattached it to a drain as lightning and thunder crashed all around us.

(19%, red warning) Then the power went out.  Like it’s going to here soon.  We worked inside on the fan problem by flashlight, and wer giving up when my bro discovered a severed wire to a switch that was almost certainly our culprit.  We patched in a new length of wire and bolted everything together.  We wouldn’t know, however, whether we’d been successful until the power came back on.

(17%) We enjoyed the rest of the evening socializing with Mom with candles burning, and imbibing sports the old-fashioned way: listening to the Packers-Vikings game on a battery-operated radio.  We took a walk along the darkened street and watched a gorgeous full moon rise above storm clouds, one house flickering inside with candlelight, the next alit from the hum of a gas generator.  More than 4 hours later, the power came back on.  We reluctantly snuffed all the candles and plugged the critical electronics back in, then walked upstairs.  The errant bathroom fan was purring beneficently. We declared the weekend a success.

(12%) Scene.  And I’m not editing.

Nothing, Really

It’s the Ides of March, but I seem to lack the ambition to assassinate anything but time.  Lousy weather this weekend (after some promising days late last week) kept me off the water; today opened with cotton-candy-like gobs of snow falling eerily to earth, followed later in the day by 20 - 30 mph winds, pelting rain and the occasional sucker-hole of bright sunshine.  We managed a walk to Fremont yesterday to buy groceries at PCC, and I peeled off of the couch to ride down to the gym this afternoon.

I spent a chunk of yesterday and today watching the Big Ten men’s basketball tournament, as Ohio State upset Michigan State yesterday and played (and lost) to Purdue in the championship game today.   One thing that occurred to me, and I’m surprised it hasn’t before, is how much the chorus of squeaking from 20 basketball shoes resembles a tree full of birds during nesting season.  I guess there’s a reason I don’t write for Sports Illustrated.

The NCAA March Madness tournament starts this week.  For a long time, I regarded it in its current 65-team incarnation as a bloated abomination that cheapened the regular season by allowing as many as 8 teams from a conference into the tournament.  But the last couple of years, I’ve started to warm up to it, probably because my expectations of the Buckeyes are pretty low, and I can just enjoy it as a pageant.  This first week, especially, is a riotous bazaar of game, going almost nonstop from Thursday morning to Sunday night, and it’s kind of like going to a music festival where you can walk from venue to venue sampling all manner of entertainments.  OSU plays Siena at 10pm EDT Friday night and if they win, will probably play Louisville, the #1 seed in the entire tournament, on Sunday. That‘ll lower your expectations, fersure.

I’m also sort of Jonesing for a camera, a successor a couple of generations removed to my Canon S3 IS.  It’s the SX10 IS, or its sidekick the SX1 IS.  Each has a 20x optical zoom (the 12x zoom is the thing that most endears me to the S3) and, like the S3, can record video in stereo.  The SX1, however, has a CMOS chip and can record video in HD.  But it’s about $250 more.  I don’t know why I care, since I don’t own any kind of display that will render HD in the house, and I’d probably have to buy a gazillion-gigabyte memory chip.

The natural progression for someone who snaps as much as I do would probably be to move up to a DSLR and invest in some lenses.  However, so much of my photography is done on the run, impromptu, and is only possible because I’m usually carrying my camera.  And I don’t think I’d be as likely to sling a DSLR and a gaggle of lenses onto my shoulder.  Both the SX1 and SX10 are the smaller sub-SLR with the lens built-in.

Have a good week, and beware of leprechauns selling securitized peat-bog mortgages.

Shellfish Shenanigans

So we met at my middle brother’s place near Charleston, SC to roast oysters and watch the Ohio State-Michigan game last weekend.  The weekend sped by, and I could do no more than hold on for the ride. I mean, nominally it was a 4-day weekend spanning Thursday through Sunday, but so much of my time was taken up on airplanes that I only got 2+ days of ground time with my peeps.

I arrived in Charleston on time, but at midnight on Thursday. On Friday, my middle bro, the host of the festivities, and I went shopping at the oyster store and (natch) the liquor store, then stopped at what used to be a rice and indigo plantation adjacent to man-made Lake Moultrie. His employer now owns the grounds, and entree to the place is an employee benefit. It was chilly the whole weekend, and on Friday there was a 20-knot wind. As we strolled, the sun was lowering and the angle of light was making the sea oats and Spanish moss look like it was on fire (click photos to enlarge):

My youngest brother and his entourage arrived Friday evening and, after going out for a gala dinner, we stayed up late drinking his home-brewed beer around a campfire. Saturday, Gameday, arrived all too soon, and I dragged myself out of bed just in time for the noon (Eastern) kickoff.

Even though Michigan has had its struggles this season, I had expected the usual nail-biter. Instead, the Buckeyes finally fulfilled the potential that seemed imminent early in the season, and won the game easily. We usually watch the game outside, back by my brother’s garage, but the chill, and the presence of a new wide-screen TV in the living room, kept us inside for the first half.

My SIL was the first to notice it - my bro’s have finally devolved to watching the Buckeyes in rocking chairs, and spending time-outs in barcaloungers.  Eventually, in the second half, we tentatively migrated outside to start the grilling marathon.

The game won, we turn to developing a hot bed of coals for roasting the oysters. The pets don’t escape the madness (the dog is from Columbus, and is named “Beanie Wells”.  Go figure). After eating way too much, we hang out around the fire despite temperatures in the 20s, savoring the win, my brother’s excellent hospitality, and each other’s company.

This Is Just Ridiculous

Three yards and a cloud of dust?  Try 25 yards in the clouds.  Beanie Wells channels Edwin Moses against Illinois last weekend.  The guy’s 235 lbs without the pads.:

It’s ON!

As you can perhaps discern from the banner change, it’s officially Michigan Week, the 6 days of ratcheted insanity that precede the Ohio State-Michigan football game. The game this year is in Columbus, with OSU’s record at 9-2 and a trip to a BCS (major) bowl at stake, while Michigan is having a miserable year at 3-8 and going nowhere except Columbus. Most of the time, this game is played for the Big Ten championship, and frequently both teams are in the top 10 nationally. When we’re heavily-favored, as we were in the heartbreaking 1969 game, is generally when we get our asses kicked, and I expect the game to be played with even more than its usual ferocity.

I’ll be flying out on Thursday not to Columbus, but once again to Charleston, SC to meet up with my mom and bro’s, where we’ll roast oysters in my middle brother’s field. I was going to gloat here about the relative temperatures between the two venues, but it looks like it’ll be sunny in both places, with a high of 40 in Columbus and just shy of 60 in Charleston. Game-breaking performance: we’ll have a bonfire and, since they added metal seats in Ohio Stadium, you can’t have one there.

Since football is the theme for the week, and I mentioned Brett Favre in my previous post, I’m posting the following quote from an excellently-written article on Favre by Jeff MacGregor of the NYT:

For 25 years in the N.F.L. — roughly parallel to the rise of the computer — the System has been ascendant. At once a weapon in the coach’s battle against chaos and a holy talisman against chance and the random bounce, the System is intellectual insurance against human confusion and statistical weakness. It offers a coach not just digital predictability but plausible deniability. The System promises to abate risk, to assuage a coach’s nervous uncertainty. And to assure that he’ll have a job next week. The System is what coaches whistle as they walk past the graveyard…This is Favre’s element, and he moves through it as happy and unflappable as the Dalai Lama. But he is also the captain, the leader by example, the ancient Hall of Famer and the prankster king of the well-placed rubber snake and the deftly hidden turkey carcass. And he’s already in command.

The end-of-the-week trip means a hectic 3 days ahead.

Ohio’s Electoral Votes

Are in the bag:

The fear is that some dyslexic drum major will try to dot the “m”.  “M” should never appear in an OSUMB formation in the first place!

Belabored Day

 Hectic and compressed week.  I mean, it’s always a gong show after I’ve been  out of town, but this is a 3-day work week for me, as I depart tomorrow morning on my annual haj to Columbus, there to pray at Mecca on Saturday.  I will again play and march with my Ohio State alumni band, and mingle with my mom and brothers and their wives.

I’m not sure if I actually have a new reader or two since the last iteration, but just in case: I was in the Ohio State marching band while slouching towards my accounting degree, as was my youngest (10 years younger) brother.  The alumni band celebrates a reunion each year, and the athletic department allows us to either cavort or waddle through pregame and halftime shows at an early-season football game.  My family has been using this occasion as a family reunion as well, and we have a fine old time.

Something like 700 of us alumni bandsmen return each year for this event, and that’s about 100 too many to be able to participate in our signature formation, the venerable Script Ohio.  So, they conduct a lottery to see who gets the coveted marching spots for the halftime extravaganza.  I had to sit out last year, but I’m on the field this year.  Here’s a nice video of what we do:

The game itself is a snooze to contemplate - against Youngstown State, ferchrissakes.  It annoys me that teams like Ohio State pack their schedule with cupcakes like this.  And it’s not like you can’t lose one of these (see Michigan vs. Appalachian State last year).  But, whatever, the weather is supposed to be good and it’ll be a fine way to spend an afternoon.

On the way, I’ll be finishing A Heartbreaking of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers.  I’ve had the book around for a year or two, but it only made the traveling team because it was on top of a pile, and I grabbed it as I ran out the door to the airport a couple weeks ago.  It’s a strange book, a rambling memoir that details a young person’s launch into adult life in the 90s.  What would have been a fairly unremarkable journey of a suburban Chicago kid graduating from college and dipping his toe into the world is complicated immeasurably by the unlikely deaths of both of his parents from cancer within a month of each other, and the consequent need to care for his middle-school brother.  Not the usual path to becoming a single parent.  I’ll say more about it when I finish.

In The Bleak Midwinter

That was pretty ugly. Some have been saying that, yeah, but it wasn’t as bad as last year. To them I say, what’s the difference if you’re on a plane that crashes and you’re burned alive and your skin melts into the seatcover, whether there were 100 or 300 people on the plane?

Anyway, there were a few moments of fun before all 4 engines failed:

At least, the crew was kind enough to keep serving drinks as the fuselage headed toward dead vertical.

The rain held off, so I had a nice walk home, going up over Queen Anne hill and down through Fremont. When I arrived home, I told Mrs. Perils, “we won’t speak of this again.”

The video above is hosted at a place called A kayaker that takes lots of video told me about it at the New Year’s Eve party we attended. Advantage: the quality of the video seems to be a lot better. Youtube seems to be pretty random about the quality of its replays, and it doesn’t seem to matter what the quality of your upload is. Lemme know what you think.

In more redeeming news, I seem to have started reading again. Books. Bound books, dead-tree-books. I posted earlier that I finished Middlemarch a couple of weeks ago, and I just finished Ian McEwan’s Atonement over the weekend. And, believe it or not, I carried The Brothers Karamazov with me on the bus to the sports bar last night, and even read a few pages. It’s for a book group discussion due in a couple of weeks. Man, that thing is huge, and dense, like a lead ingot of erudition. It’s my first Dostoevsky. No way I’ll be able to finish it in time to say anything intelligent about it.

I enjoyed Atonement quite a bit. McEwan has a rich prose style, but it’s still clean and translucent. He lingers lovingly on his set-pieces, to the point where I found myself staring around me, trying to see how I could get 3 pages out of mundane street scenes in front of me. And the best part about finishing Atonement is that now I get to see the upcoming film with Keira Knightley. Arrrrgghhhh!! Avast!

Here’s a nice bit about the writing process:

It seemed so obvious…a story was a form of telepathy. By means of inking symbols onto a page,she was able to sent thoughts and feelings from her mind to her reader’s. It was a magical process, so commonplace that no one stopped to wonder at it…You saw the word castle, and it was there, seen from some distance, with woods in high summer spread before it, the air bluish and soft with smoke rising from the blacksmith’s forge, and a cobbled road twisting away into the green shade.

You’ll go away from here, and after a while you’ll forget that I quoted McEwan - you’ll just remember what good writing there is at Perils of Caffeine.


Another case of Titleus Interruptus. In August, none of us who foolishly preoccupy ourselves with the Buckeyes’ football fortunes thought that a team rebuilding from losing 8 players to the 2007 NFL draft would be sitting at 10-0 on November 9th. Once we were, however, we saw no reason that we wouldn’t be 12-0 on November 18th. We simply got outplayed, at the Horseshoe, by a team that inexplicably wanted it more than we did.

This period of mourning will last about 4 more hours. Then it’s time to start thinking about Saturday and the possibility of heaping more disappointment on this benighted household.  The Rose Bowl’s a pretty good consolation prize to play for.