Ode to O-H-I-O

Originally Published: December 27, 2006
ESPN.com

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BUCKEYE FROM BIRTH
By Thaisa Gee
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

Thaisa Gee
Gee

From conception, my heart has been beating to the rhythm of "Hang on Sloopy." The blood that flows freely through my veins is scarlet and runs a path similar to the Olentangy River. The sight of buckeyes only makes me want them strung around my neck like precious pearls. The end of summer brings the turning of the leaves, which in turn brings the start to the best season of the year. Fall brings out a fresh Ohio State University football team.

This season, my beloved Buckeyes are on the top of their game. They busted into the season ranked No. 1. Despite losing nine players to the 2006 NFL draft and the offseason media circus surrounding ex-Buckeye Maurice Clarett's legal troubles, the Buckeyes have proved they are a force to be reckoned with.

Critics put Troy Smith under a fine microscope and broke down every aspect of his game. They ripped his passing style, and when they ran out of things to say, they started on his height. Not once has Smith allowed an "analyst" to affect his game. He proved week after week that he more than deserved the Heisman Trophy and that he is capable of walking away with a national championship. He could be the best quarterback to ever play at OSU. Smith has completed 30 touchdown passes this season, an Ohio State single-season record. And when the Buckeyes beat the Wolverines, he became the first QB since the 1920s to beat Michigan three times.

Of course, Smith can't pass to himself. There is already a front-runner for the Heisman trophy next year in Teddy Ginn. Also making an impact is one of the least talked about Buckeyes: Anthony Gonzalez. The pass route that he ran in the Texas game would have gotten him open in an NFL game. Some Buckeyes' opponents this season have tried to stop him with a linebacker, implying he's not as good, but he runs an astounding 4.4 (maybe 4.3) 40! With Ginn on the other side, somebody has to run the sit-down routes. Gonzalez doesn't get Ginn's hype, but he may just be the best wide receiver on the team.

Antonio Pittman is another player adding his name to a list of the greats. He has run for more than 1,000 yards two years in a row! There haven't been many to cross that mark, but those that have are legends of the game: Archie Griffin, Eddie George, Tim Spencer and Keith Byars. Only Griffin did it three times in a row, which (barring injury) Pittman will do easily next year.

The Buckeyes could be one of the best teams ever assembled, adding to a rich heritage in Ohio where football is not just a game but a tradition that holds the entire state together.

The sea of red that I see fill "The Shoe" on game day jump-starts my heart. The Ohio State Marching Band, better known as The Best Damn Band In The Land, is just that! Stealing a photo with Brutus becomes a prized possession, worthy of being passed down through generations. But nothing beats home-field advantage when the Wolverines take the field and the crowd bubbles over into a spontaneous uproar of booing and profanity. Makes a Buckeye proud to sing:

Sloopy lives in a very bad part of town
Everybody else tries to put my sloopy down
Sloopy I don't care what your daddy do
Cuz you know sloopy, girl, I'm in love with you

And so I say now:

Hang on sloopy, sloopy hang on
Hang on sloopy, sloopy hang on
O-H-I-O!

You can read more by Howard grad Thaisa Gee at Savoy.

ROLL UP THE SIDEWALKS
By Robert Hazlett
I grew up in Ohio during the late 1960s and '70s, and high school football was everything there.

Robert Hazlett
Hazlett

Taking nothing away from Texas, Friday nights in the fall were huge in the Ohio Valley where I grew up. Every little town closed down and the sidewalks were rolled up by 5:00 p.m. so everyone could head to the local high school football stadium.

If your high school didn't have a good football town, your high school was NOTHING. Everyone in town went to the games and when you won a rivalry game it was insane.

Plus everyone knew the guys on the football team, and to be a cheerleader was to be beloved. I miss those days.

High school football, while growing here in Arizona, pales in comparison to the frenetic level I knew back in Ohio.

Go BUCKS!

NOT HORSING AROUND
By Jon Greenberg
I have no argument, no evidence, that Ohio produces better football players than Texas, Florida, California and the like. The Buckeye State doesn't traffic in hordes of fleet-footed wideouts and around-the-end tailbacks.

But that doesn't matter. That's not what Ohio is all about. Ohio's the "three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust" state. It's the home of undersized middle linebackers that'll knock you on your tail quicker than you can spell Cincinnati.

My high school, the Steubenville Big Red, has won two straight state championships and hasn't lost a game in that span. There are no blue-chip recruits suiting up at Harding Stadium, just a lot of kids that love playing football "the right way."

Our stadium now has an instant replay scoreboard and fake grass, but what it's best known for is a ceramic horse that breathes fire into the air after touchdowns on chilly fall Friday nights.

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