Football 101 and "football religion" in Columbus

Two weeks ago, I had one session called "Football 101" - organized by professor Ankerman for Fisher international students in culture class.

OSU team
OSU team

For most participants of this session, it was the first time to know about "American football" though we were more familiar with "international football" which is called "soccer" in the US. Come join with us, there was one former professional football player, who used to play for Ohio State University team (OSU) and a professional football team in the National Football League (NFL).  He was very friendly, unlike my imagination about a typical American football player: giant in shape, rude in attitude and violent in action. Together with professor Ankerman, he walked us through the game rule, patiently answered our innocent questions and shed some light on the mystery of American football. Though time was not enough to clarify all questions about of American football, the session was open for us a different view about the sport, a better understanding about the passion of Columbus citizen for this game and created in us a curiosity to watch a game one day.

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We experienced the love of Columbus for football when the opening season game occurred in Thursday, instead of Saturday as normal. We got out of the class and found ourselves flooded in a men stream moving toward the stadium. Buckeyes theme song was playing in everywhere: cars, restaurants, street performance artists...  Red and white were dominant across streets as they are flag colors of the OSU team. Airplanes carrying OSU flags painted the sky with cheering theme in smoke. People in the street was wearing a string of pits in their necks which was similar to the string of beads in Buddhism. Later on, I were told that the pits were from buckeye trees and the string of buckeye pits were symbol of good luck to OSU team (!). That day, it took me over 2 hours to find the bus to get back home as all buses had to change their routes to avoid traffic nearby campus. When I got out of the bus, I saw the tailgate party that University Village organized to entertain their citizens before every home game. I realized that football is not just a game for Columbus citizen, it is a region which connects everyone here.

OSU kid fan
OSU kid fan

This impression was reinforced at the day of football 101. One day before that day, the ranking #1 team was defeated, making OSU team the TOP in the College football championship. In the morning, most of my classmates talked about the dream came true when OSU got into the number 1 in a very long time. In the football 101 lunch session, the professor brought in brownie with letters "O" "H" "I" "O" "B" "U" "C" "K" "E" "Y" "E" "S" which his daughter made to celebrate the team victory. Weekend last two weeks, it seemed that the pressure of being number 1 was too heavy to bear, the OSU team lost in an away game (game away from home) with a much lower ranking team and dropped into the ranking number 10. This week, there was no active discussion about football at class or in forum as if it was a forbidden topic or an explosive subject. One professor absence at class with reason of digestion problem with food was interpreted that he could not digest the football failure (!).  In rare occasions when being asked about the game (normally by international students), people responded very briefly about the result but did not take the opportunity to blame the team. It is not common behavior for sport fans. I witnessed a lot of crazy behaviors of soccer fans when their favorite teams lost or their beloved players did not perform well. Though it made me really admired people's love to football here in Columbus.

OSU team flag
OSU team flag

All attention was put into the home game last weekend, with the hope that the team would get over the failure to perform at their best. Despite our stressed schedule to prepare for mid-term exams, my classmates went to watch the game at the stadium as well as participate in the pre-game tailgate party. The OSU team responded to their love by a destructive victory (49-0) and brought back the smiles into peoples faces.

I don't love football... yet, but I love the passion people in Columbus give to their football team. Go Bucks!