My mother, brother and I moved to Columbus in the summer just before I started fourth grade. Ohio was home to us long before then – a place with the most magnificent banister you could ever hope to slide down, cousins to play with and cavernous rooms to hide out in while anticipating the arrival of Santa Claus.
One of the first, most noticeable differences in my education on the East coast versus my education in Ohio was simply this: No one ever required me to learn a song about New Jersey, and I think it’s unlikely that anyone would have had I stayed. But literally within my first few weeks as a student in the Buckeye state, I was taught the Ohio State fight song, Carmen Ohio, a musical rendition of the riddle “What’s round on the ends and hi(gh) in the middle?” and the state rock song “Hang On, Sloopy.”
Somewhere around sixth grade, I was exposed to new Ohio rituals and traditions. There was one where one boy goes home for lunch the day before the OSU-Michigan football game and returns to school dressed in maize and blue (one of the colors in Big 10 sport teams has to have a Tweeds catalog-like name, so that no one mistakes it for a more ordinary shade). All of the scarlet and gray-wearing boys then dogpile on him, mock-beat him and strip him of his colors before math class. Then there are the bonfires with the marching bands, during which everyone sings all of the Ohio songs they had to learn in school. It a rivalry so fraught with insanity, HBO made a documentary about it.
As a non-sports fan with a son, I’m apprehensive about the day that Declan asks me for, say, maize and blue clothes so he can offer himself up to his classmates for mock sacrifice. Or worse – a day where the outcome of any particular game visibly dampens his mood (his dad – a big sports fan – is actually pretty good at shaking off this kind of disappointment). When I lived near the OSU campus, where I had to pay attention to the football schedule as a practical measure to keep my car from getting towed, you could sense the manic glee after a victory and the angry frustration after a defeat. (There didn’t have to be a riot happening to sense it.)
True sportsmanship, after all, is about common respect, no matter how hard the game is fought. Everybody shakes hands and moves on after the game. Or so I thought. But this billboard, which has been all over town for several months, doesn’t strike me as very sportsman-like:
Where do you draw the line between healthy competition/rivalry and insanity?