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Into The Heartland
My nephew, George Murray, exploded in joy when Ohio State scored the winning touchdown on a 72 yard pass with three minutes left in the game against the University of California. George graduated from Ohio State in 2011 and is now in his second year of law school at Ohio State.
By John Murray
I went to church Saturday afternoon in Columbus, Ohio. The pews held 105,000 rabid fans of Ohio State and it was an afternoon of family and football wrapped in God and country. It was an unparalleled spectacle almost impossible for a Connecticut boy to fathom. UConn football? Not even close. UConn basketball? Nope. The Giants, Patriots, Jets, Yankees and Red Sox can put on a good show, but not like football in Ohio with 105,000 of your best friends.
Before the start of the game the entire stadium sings "Carmen Ohio", a melody every small child in Ohio seems to learn before kindergarten. The Ohio State football team won the national championship in 1942, 1954, 1957, 1961, 1968, 1970 and 2002. They also led the country in attendance for 14 straight years from 1958 to 1971. My sister-in-law Judy jokingly calls the atmosphere around Buckeye football a "cult".
The Ohio State marching band is considered one of the best in the world. They perform intricate moves that spell out words or form thematic shapes. During a half-time show dedicated to NASA they created the lunar landing and the starship Enterprise. The half-time show also honored OSU grad Bobby Knight (former Indiana basketball coach) and John Glenn, the first man to orbit earth, and a former United States Senator from Ohio. When Glenn was introduced all 105,000 rose to their feet and showered a thunderous and sustained ovation down upon him. Glenn, as well as many in the crowd, choked up.
The crowd was a sea of red, and for a journalist from Waterbury, appeared 99% white and northern European. Blacks, Hispanics, Italians, Albanians and Portuguese were not part of this crowd. Ohio was settled by groups moving westward from New England, especially from the British Isles and northern Europe. The crowd was fair-haired, blue-eyed and cloaked in red.
California running back Brendan Bigelow rushed for 160 yards on just four carries, and scored two touchdowns. The Golden Bears outplayed Ohio State, but lost 35-28.
The scoreboard is about the same size as the state of Connecticut.
A 146 foot flagpole towers above the stadium and provides a constant reminder of patriotism and duty, two themes on display throughout the event.
The epi-center of cheers and chants and riotous fun begins in the student section of the massive stadium. All in all a wild and wondrous slice of life in the heartland of America. P.S. - as a kid growing up in Connecticut I always hated Ohio State, they were big and bad and played a really boring brand of football under legendary coach Woody Hayes. But now that I have experienced Ohio State football, and have a nephew attending school there, I guess I have to root for them......kind of.
During the game the cheerleaders enter the stands to lead the fans in cheers.
The band splits into small groups and does the same thing - performing in the crowd and connecting with the fans.
There is no beer served during the game and the family friendly atmosphere adds to the intensity of the game. Everyone is watching every play, and the tension and joy can be seen on #8 as he watches a dramatic play unfold late in the game.
The California place kicker is attempting to get the Golden Bears a 31-28 lead and the kid is intense.
But when the football sails wide left, the crowd, and #8, is delirious with joy.
My older brother George, middle, is a huge sports fan. He has attended more than 20 Super Bowl games and attends numerous professional events in Ohio, but for him there is nothing like the atmosphere of a college football game at Ohio State. Especially when he gets to enjoy it with his sons Charlie and George, and later in the season with his wife, Judy, and daughter Elizabeth.
After the rousing game I posed for a picture with my nephew, Charlie, who made a splash in Waterbury this summer when he interviewed Waterbury Mayor Neil O'Leary and asked him whether he belived in zombies and ghosts, and how old he was when he had his first kiss.