If you haven’t spent much time in Central Ohio, it’s difficult to appreciate the scope of Buckeye Fever here.
Ohio Stadium seats over 100,000, and is quite often full. That’s a larger crowd than some professional teams, and the Buckeyes frequently set the NCAA record for attendance.
In addition to the fans in the stadium, an additional tens of thousands attend nearby block parties large and small. Beyond that, many more watch from home or from bars. If you do go out, but are not in the OSU area, this metro area of 1.5 million is eerily quiet and traffic is light, as everyone is planted somewhere cheering on their team. (If you don’t care for the hoopla, games are a perfect time to go grocery shopping – there are no lines anywhere.)
The local newspaper, the Columbus Dispatch, dedicated its entire sports section and a large teaser on the front page after a win over the Eastern Michigan Eagles – it wasn’t even a conference game, and the result was pretty much a given (so where’s the news?). Whichever local television station has the game typically dedicates at least an hour afterward to coverage, including an extended interview with head coach Jim Tressel. Several of the local news broadcasts have daily segments on the Buckeyes, are there are at least two radio stations that have mostly Buckeyes content all the time.
It is often said that professional sports could never make it in Columbus, due to the Buckeyes absorbing all of the demand. That’s not entirely true, as we now have a moderately successful hockey (NHL) team, a soccer team (MLS), and a minor-league baseball team (AAA). But past attempts at arena football never caught on (although it did last four years before the entire league folded.) An NFL team would have a hard time pulling attention away from the Buckeyes.
The picture above was shot at my very first Buckeyes game. It was a great experience, being there in person and feeling the energy multiply. I have a ticket to four more games this year, including the all-consuming and all-important Michigan game. I have a wedding to go to this week (Indiana), but I’ll be at the others (Penn State, Purdue and Michigan).
Growing up in Columbus, I should be used to this by now. But it still amazes just how aligned the entire city is behind the Buckeyes. The fire hydrants in Gahanna, a suburb, are painted scarlet and gray.
A friend of mine, whose undergrad is from OSU, tells a story: She had a great job interview in New York. She had researched the company thoroughly: their history, achievements and challenges. She knew the industry. She was ready. She had it cold. The first question was, “how about those Buckeyes?” But she hadn’t studied for that one and went away disappointed.
If you don’t like football now, you’ll have to learn to when you get here. It permeates the culture in central Ohio. I’ll bet you can even find Buckeyes-themed fine art at the Gallery Hop.
If you don’t want to spring for a ticket, you can always watch at the VC or at one of the many block parties such as the one shown below. But you need to make the acquaintance of your Buckeyes one way or another.