The Most Amazing Moment Of My Young, Buckeye-Obsessed Life
Being a lifelong Ohio State fan, I have tons of great Buckeye memories. The first real memory I have is watching Ohio State play Arizona State in the 1997 Rose Bowl. For those who don’t remember, it was a tight game throughout. ASU took the lead late on a Jake Plummer touchdown run. I’m not ashamed to say that when that happened, I ran out of the room crying (I was only six, okay?). My dad came and got me, saying, “They still have time.” He was right. Joe Germaine drove the Buckeyes down the field, capping the drive off with a TD pass to David Boston with 19 seconds left.
Another memory that sticks out for me is obviously the 2003 Fiesta Bowl. I watched at my house as Ohio State seemingly won the game, then lost it, only to win it again. Even as an Ohio State fan, I was concerned about our chances, so beating a Miami team like that was exhilarating.
Yet, both of those memories pale in comparison to the “Game of the Century”; the No. 1 vs. No. 2 battle between Ohio State and Michigan in 2006. That day had everything, that year had everything (ahem, besides a championship). You could just feel the build-up; it was destiny. Sports fans saw the possibility weeks in advance. Then, the game came, and gave me a memory I’ll never forget.
On the night of November 17th, 2006, my family and I made the three hour trip from Salem, Ohio, to Columbus. Our mission: tailgate, be loud, make burgers, and cheer on the Buckeyes as they made history by beating TSUN. We woke up the next morning around 5 a.m. We made the trip from the hotel to the parking lot between the Longaberger Alumni House and Fawcett Center, our usual spot. We put up our tent, got out the charcoal, hooked up the TVs, and prepared for what would be an unforgettable day.
If you recall, legendary coach Bo Schembechler passed away the night before the game, and I will respectfully say that it added something to that weekend. It made both OSU and UM fans respect the rivalry a little more and appreciate the day. I remember seeing several Michigan fans with signs honoring the late and beloved coach. Many Ohio State fans also paid homage to Bo. That was college football at its finest and I won’t forget how that felt.
Initially, none of us had plans to attend the game. There was some conversation, but we all figured that tickets were just too expensive. Instead we enjoyed the food, watched the early games (OSU vs. UM kick-off was 3:30 p.m.), and chanted O-H-I-O! Now, I may have thrown out a few hints to my dad about getting to see the game in person, but I never thought he’d pull the trigger. “They’re too expensive, bud,” he would say with a somber tone. I understood. I was fine with watching the game on TV.
As the day progressed, I would go from watching whatever game was on TV, to throwing the football with my cousins, to just enjoying the game day atmosphere. It was probably around 1 p.m. when my dad told me he was going to see if he could find some tickets. I tried to compose myself but it was nearly impossible. I couldn’t even imagine getting to see a game like that. Still, I knew there was a slim chance my dad would actually pay the money for tickets.
I sat patiently at our tailgate, waiting for my dad to get back. People had been throwing out astronomical numbers for ticket prices, some asking for over $1,500. So, hearing things like that, I wasn’t expecting to go to the game.
But just when I thought I’d be sitting in the parking lot all day, my dad came back, two tickets in hand. “Three-hundred bucks each. C-deck seating, though.” I smiled, “I don’t care!” Couldn’t believe my old man came through.
He still wanted to get one for my mom, though. So they both went out looking for one more ticket, and that’s when things got interesting. They found a guy with a few tickets. My dad said he was weary of the guy as soon as they started talking, but he was offering a good price for the ticket. The stub even looked a little funny, but with the rush of game day and the hope of getting my mom in the game, my dad bought it. As soon as my parents turned around to walk away, however, they thought about something the guy had said: “You’ll be sitting next to me; we’ll have a beer together.” That sounds great and all, except Ohio Stadium doesn’t sell beer. It appeared my parents had been scammed.
My dad was furious, probably just as much at himself for buying the ticket as he was at the guy who sold it to him. My dad is a guy that works hard for his money, is a great saver, and is particular about how he spends it. Suffice it to say, when he realized he shelled out a few hundred bucks for a fake ticket, he wasn’t very happy, and went looking for the guy. He looked and looked and looked, almost making us late for the game. Finally, he conceded defeat. Some people told my mom just to try the ticket, that maybe it wasn’t counterfeit after all. She was too uncomfortable and didn’t want any part of it. My friend Aaron decided to give it a shot.
My dad, Aaron and I made the walk to the Shoe, hoping that Aaron’s ticket would work. Our plan was for Aaron to go in first, that way it didn’t seem like we were all together if he got in trouble. Sorry, Aaron.
The ticket didn’t work. Security grabbed Aaron and pulled him aside, asking him question after question. We told Aaron just to tell the guy the truth and to say that my dad was his dad (which of course isn’t the truth but close enough) and he had bought the ticket, yada yada yada. They eventually let Aaron go but kept the phony ticket.
When all that was settled, my dad and I made our way to our seats in the southeast end of the upper bowl in the Shoe. He was still upset about what had happened, but did his best to enjoy the game. And what a game it was.
Back and forth Ohio State and Michigan went, one touchdown after another. I’d be nervous, then I’d feel comfortable, only for Michigan to score and raise my heart rate again. Not until an Antonio Pittman first down run in the 4th quarter did I know the game was over. Ohio State was going to the BCS National Championship. I had just witnessed history.
What I hadn’t considered was the storming of the field. If it had been a friend and I at the game, I would have been down there in a second; but I wasn’t sure what to do since I was with my dad. I looked at him as people made their way onto the field and all he said was, “Let’s go.”
We hurdled barriers and pushed down small children (exaggeration, don’t worry), finally making our way onto the field. It was madness. We did our best to snap some pictures and grab some turf, and then followed the push of the crowd as 100K+ made their way out of the north end of the stadium. The best part? Walking past the members of the Michigan band, who sat there dejected and helpless.
Cheers of O-H-I-O followed us back to the tailgate site as Buckeye fans rejoiced. All there was left to do was celebrate. What an amazing day. Even considering the counterfeit ticket, I wouldn’t change a thing.
That year for Christmas, I took the grass from the field, the ticket from the game, the newspaper from the day after and the pictures we took on the field, and put them all in a frame for my dad (above right). My advice to any father would be this: the next time you have the chance to take your child to a big game, do it. Reach in that back pocket, grab that leather thing that you hate taking out, and pay the price. Because you can’t put a price on a memory like the one I got on November 18, 2006.