In Columbus, there is no separation of church and
Friday, Sept. 26, 2003
Flying scares the hell out of me, and the guy who had planned to come
with me from Chicago didn't make it, so Sam Adams was my traveling
augmented by two cans of Heineken on the short from Chicago to
near the end of which the young flight attendant presented me with
Continental wings in recognition of my achievement in making it through
flight. And indeed it was an achievement for me to get through a flight
in February I got off a plane to Tampa after a crew member said we'd
choppiness. Pilots are used to turbulence, I figure, so as far as
concerned if the pilot says it'll be choppy, that means we're goin' to
I had part of another beer before the even shorter shorty from
to Columbus and was still feeling my buzz -- and/or its aftermath --
I landed in Columbus and got a cab, checked in to the hotel and had the
take me on to campus, as I had the afternoon to kill before others in
gang arrived. I had planned on having him drop me at the student union,
when I saw the stadium I told him to let me off there. I was walking
it when I saw a big gate wide open. I walked in. No security, no "May I
you, sir?" I walked on in past the concourse to the field. Gave myself
personal tour practically around the stadium walking in the rows of
-- even found my way down the ramp to the field level.
Down there I
ran into a marketing guy and some guys he was with from Coke. He didn't
me leave, though, and after a few minutes he even indulged a request.
I touch the field? I asked. I'd really rather you didn't, he said. I
want to be able to say I touched the field, I said. So he allowed
to quickly dash over and slap the grass behind the end zone that says
STATE. Also during my self-guided tour: You know how they say that
football is a religion in the South? Well, Columbus isn't the South,
I did not know that I would see at Ohio Stadium ... a stained-glass
I saw the one with the block O in red -- and a quick Internet search
that that's one of three; they were installed two years ago. After a
the novelty of being there wore off and I was going to make my way out.
walked around again; I saw the Ohio State coaches' locker room and
even have been able to walk in there, but I saw a cop coming toward me
didn't want to push my luck.
I think I was just about to leave when who starts
walking in but ... your 2003 Northwestern Wildcats!!! I got to stand
and cheer on my team as they took their look around. I asked Noah
for one of those corner-of-the-end-zone TD catches like the one he had
Air Force. I said something to a defender --Colby Clark, I think it
been -- about not worrying about hitting someone because I noticed the
was nearby. I got to talk to Mark Murphy for a minute. As I walked
to the other side I developed a stock line with the players: I pointed
where I'd be sitting in the south end zone, told them to wave to me
they scored tomorrow but NOT to get flagged for excessive celebration.
team wasn't there that long, and I left, too, having achieved status as
groupie in the 'Shoe.
Saturday, Sept. 27
It was raining hard when I woke up at 6, having been
up until 1 or so talking to some 54-year-old Buckeye guy in the lobby
our hotel, which was adorned with a big GO BUCKS! banner out front, had
big inflatable Brutus in the lobby and was playing the Ohio State fight
alma mater and "Hang on Sloopy" nonstop over the speaker system. I was
by 6:30. Alone. Where were the Buckeye fans? I was dressed quite
in fighting attire, hoping the purple would spur the sparring. Didn't
a ton, but I became fond of telling the Buckeye fans that we didn't
need all that rain
because the whole city would be crying later. "It's a beautiful day for
upset" was another stock line for the morning. But nothing
In fact, the excitement of the morning was non-game-related.
my surprise to see walking down the hall at the modest little Fairfield
the owner of the New York Yankees. No kidding, George
Steinbrenner, who, incidentally, is a former NU assistant
football coach and attended Ohio State. He didn't graduate but
got an honorary
doctorate in business admin. in 2002. No, I have no idea why he
stay at such a hotel. I heard two things, neither of which I can
that that's why he's so rich, and/or he owns the hotel. Again, I can
neither statement, your honors. But as he was sitting at the
table next to
ours in the continental breakfast dining room I did get from him a
gift. A great aunt of mine is having an 80th birthday party Saturday in
Twin Cities. She's is a HUGE fan of the Minnesota Twins, who are facing
Yankees in the playoffs. Mr. Steinbrenner more than honored my request
he wrote on a little Fairfield Inn notepad:
To Aunt Marion
May the best team win -- even if it ruins your Birthday party --
(signed) George Steinbrenner
OK, on to the game!!! Again, very little harassment as we made the
to the stadium. We stopped by the alumni association tailgate, where
Walker's wife asked if I was the guy at the stadium yesterday. I guess
made an impression, because she said the coaches were talking about it.
they were wondering aloud to themselves if Ohio has an anti-stalking
I got to talk to Mark Murphy. But the price of the event was $32 and it
include alcohol, so we didn't stick around.
We headed for the tailgating
scene, where myself and one of the guys with me were in line to use a
john when someone came by and taped what I guess was a hastily written
sign on it. So I guess people RENT THEIR OWN TOILETS for tailgates.
Before we entered the stadium I got in maybe my best line of the day.
guy selling pillows or cushions or something had a microphone and said
we passed him that it would only take Northwestern guys 10 minutes to
how to use one. Without missing I beat I yelled "Can I take the exam
I'm pretty sure I earned laughs even from the Buckeye partisans around
We got into the stadium and wow. I have to be honest: On my walk-around
day before I wasn't all that impressed -- it didn't strike me as any
intimidating, and maybe less, than Camp Randall in Madison. But game
was different. And our end-zone seats weren't nearly as bad as I feared
be. We were in row 11 behind the "S" in Buckeyes in the south end zone.
really weren't many 'Cats fans there. But I did have one
guy behind me.
Unsurprisingly, I suppose, there was a body-paint-and-red-wigs
contingent not far from me with GO BUCKS! painted letter-by-letter on
chests. I made it a point of getting into it with them early and just
as often as I could. And if I do say so myself I maintained the
even as the game started to look like it was getting out of reach.
at halftime or so I kept giving them the four-fingers-up sign for "It's
four-quarter game." We were right next where the visiting team comes
I gave the 'Cats the same "Four" signal as they headed back to the
for the second half. Obviously the half didn't turn out how I
it to, but that place still was a blast. It was incredibly classy to
Jim Tressel lead his team in the alma mater after the game while they
their band. Really, really neat. And those guys in body paint? I
hands with them before we left. I even had
one of my guys take a picture of me with them.
his new Buckeye buddies. Photo courtesy of NCS.
We went around to wait for the
'Cats to come out of the locker room, and
that's when I made I think my biggest enemy of the weekend. As the team
the field I asked/yelled at Coach Dunbar about throwing downfield (and
directing it at Walker, too -- I think he was right there by Dunbar as
left the field.) To be honest it wasn't even a question that occurred
me -- one of the guys in our group raised it. But I asked Coach Dunbar
as he passed me after leaving the locker room. He didn't answer, or
possible I didn't hear him, and I figured he blew me off as a loudmouth
But a few minutes later he came back out and passed me again and asked
if I had watched the game, and that they had tried it on numerous
-- I didn't write it down, but I believe "tried it on numerous
is a direct quote. He even said he'd show me the film. I
he was irked. I walked with him to the bus and he talked to me more
it. I don't recall Baz actually making any long throws downfield,
I can't say that Coach Dunbar was saying he did, but he did tell me
had such plays called during the game. He also went into football
stuff I'm sure no expert about. I won't go into that here. But suffice
to say that our offensive coordinator challenged the notion that he
look to throw downfield. I walked away rattled, thinking that as a
layman fan I had made an ass of myself by showing Dunbar how little
sophistication I brought to the party. But apparently others among the
backers wondered the same thing, so maybe I wasn't off-base.
After that we
made our way to High Street, which isn't nearly as impressive or as big
a deal as I had thought it would be. Our stay there was short, in
fact, just enough time to have lunch at a wings place, and where a cool
fan came up to us and talked for a few minutes and invoked the name:
So I guess they know who you are down there, E-Cat. We left the wings
and headed down Lane Avenue, where we encountered the only real
of the day. We were labeled "dweebs" once or twice, and of course
yelled out a label for our group that was based on the assumption that
sexuality differed from that of the majority. I think that was just
we walked past the campus Catholic church.
After a while
we came upon a party that goes by the name "Rally at Riverwatch,"
being some kind of condo tower for students. The party apparently goes
before, during and after the home games. Two of the four of us decided
that point to head to the hotel for a break, but two of us stayed. I
one of them. I was hesitant -- we had just been scorned as we walked
Lane Avenue gauntlet of Buckeye fans, and I feared that maybe the
of a thrash-type band playing could lead to some kind of purple-induced
behavior. Oh, how wrong I was. We were virtually embraced upon entry.
a good time. Loud music, fans drinking and dancing and football being
on a screen almost as big as a drive-in movie theater. That party is
I took a picture of a T-shirt, which said on the back "ANN ARBOR
IS STILL A WHORE" and on the front showed a devilish Calvin from the
strip sending an arc of pee onto Ann Arbor as marked on a red state of
where some Buckeye fan bought my friend and me each a 24-ounce Coors
Light. We stayed there until the party closed down -- a female cop
put her hand on me to guide me out, not that it was necessary. My
and I were making our way back to our hotel, aka George Steinbrenner's
hangout, when we came upon a small pocket of fans in a parking lot. We
up hanging with them for a while, during which time my friend got in a
with a woman about school vouchers. Seriously. In Columbus after
game. We spent quite a while with those folks, one of whom was quite
and said her husband, who was home with the kids, would be pissed
she was supposed to be home two hours ago.
back at the hotel
and I motivated our group to head to the Varsity Club, for which we had
a couple recommendations. That was another good time. As soon as we got
of our cab we noticed the side street adjacent to the bar -- beer cans
up almost like leaves after a day of raking. One of us estimated the
at 10,000 cans. Some may call that debaucherous; I call it something
Wildcat Alley to aspire to. We had more fun inside the Varsity Club,
the purple sweatshirt again was a bit of an icebreaker.
I had a
time in Columbus. Just about everyone was fun and cool. Before I
AstralCat titled a message "I would advise caution." Me, I would advise
to make the trip when the 'Cats return in November 2005.
though admitting not to being an X's and O's football expert, is a huge
fan. NCS lives with his charming wife and kids in Chicagoland,
he is busy matting and framing all the new restraining orders he's