Lincicome: This Buckeye misses the good old days of Michigan vs. Ohio State

  • Ohio State coach Woody Hayes is carried by his players after Ohio State defeated Michigan 9-7 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

    Ohio State coach Woody Hayes is carried by his players after Ohio State defeated Michigan 9-7 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Associated Press/Nov. 20, 1965

Posted11/27/2022 6:00 AM

As I write this column, I do not know who won the Ohio State-Michigan game. Deadlines still nag in my world. It does not matter, not as it once did, when the calendar had one date, the last Saturday in November.

It mattered not just to me but to other Ohioans, whether they had actually smelled the Olentangy River or not. Ohio had one great public university, and the one thing it did better than any other was to play football, nasty, knuckle-dragging football, not the entrepreneurial game all college football has since become.


Oh, sure, Ohio State was not ashamed of its animal husbandry department, but that did not ordinarily draw a big crowd.

The football team filled Ohio Stadium because it always whipped everyone, except, sometimes, Michigan. The Michigan game was a report card on if we were better than them, them being Michigan, or as Woody Hayes called it, "the school up north."

Why it was important to be better than Michigan was unclear, except we seemed to be farmers and they seemed to be bankers. Even our bankers looked like farmers.

We wore shoes that tied above our ankles and theirs slipped right on and had little tassels that bounced when they walked. You could hate Michiganders without ever looking up.

We had better music, no contest. In our school fight song is the word "reverberating." You will not find that word in the vocabulary of many Michiganders, though I must confess that even in Ohio it is only sung, and mostly by sophomores and above.

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Our coach, the previously mentioned Mr. Hayes, was not yet the disgrace he was to become, but he was in rehearsal. He would rant and roar and break things, including himself and others.

We forgave him a lot because he could beat Michigan. His final humiliation was not that he punched somebody else's linebacker but that the dude was from Clemson. Had he been from Michigan, we would have understood.

Michiganders call themselves Wolverines, which is some sort of wild rodent, I believe. Ohio Staters are Buckeyes. A buckeye, the actual nut, is a wonderful, secret thing. It appears relatively worthless, good only for an ornament. You can't eat it. You can't sell it. You can't even crack it.

But you can polish it up and throw it. A Buckeye is the right size and weight for throwing, possibly at a wolverine, should one stray.

Years after graduation, deep into my alumni-hood, this Ohio Stater and a Michigander were arguing about whose school deserved to be in the Rose Bowl. That was the big deal then. The game had ended in a 10-10 tie, leaving both teams undefeated.


The Wolverine was a dentist; this Buckeye was a sports writer. The Wolverine's fingers were inside the mouth of the sports writer's young son, who was an emergency patient because of a slippery skateboard.

My position was that Ohio State had been ranked No. 1 all year, was the better team and had a better chance of winning the Rose Bowl, something Big 10 teams had trouble doing.

And the Buckeyes, I insisted, would have beaten Michigan if Woody Hayes had a brain, if he had not run his Heisman winner's legs off in the second half, if he had thrown a pass before he had to, so that when he finally did allow one to be thrown, it would not have been intercepted.

The dentist's position was that fair is fair, and Michigan could have won the game if Bo Schembechler had run one more play before trying the field goal on third down. And, besides, it sure felt like a victory.

The Big 10 athletic directors agreed with me. Ohio State would be going to the Rose Bowl.

"It's all jealousy," the dentist grumbled, giving my son's repaired tooth a tug for emphasis.

Before I could respond that being jealous of Michigan would be like being jealous of mold, my son gagged and coughed out the Wolverine's fingers and whatever else was in his mouth.

"Hey, fellas," my son appealed. "Please don't take it out on me."

I remain convinced that mixing Michiganders and Ohio Staters is an unnatural business, very much like sticking your fingers into the mouth of someone else's child.

Even to this day, I am of the opinion my son could have done the world a favor by biting down instead of spitting up.

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