The chant echoes down from the third floor of our hotel, over and over, from the mouth of a single Ohio State fan.
That is how I was greeted along with the Blue Band at our hotel. Not with cheers and pats on the back, the things we are used to at Beaver Stadium. It’s not the most welcoming way to arrive in Ohio, but all we can do is hold our heads up high and hope for a better reception at The Horseshoe, Ohio State’s stadium.
As we get closer to the stadium, a mixture of middle fingers and taunts come from groups of students and adults. Dressed in their burgundy and grey, they hold their red solo cups and flip us the bird as our caravan of busses passes by. Not much better.
The people of Ohio State are an interesting breed. In ways, they are actually similar to some Penn State fans. Though we would hate to admit it, we do have some fans that act the same way around opposing teams as they did around us. But on the positive side, they have plenty of school and band pride, just like we do, along with a fancy stadium comparable to ours, and a football nation to fear just as much as Penn State’s.
Oh, and we both hate Michigan.
Their hatred is slightly more openly expressed. But somehow, that mutual dislike of a team, a team that wasn’t even involved in the game taking place that evening, brought our two fan groups just that much closer together.
The Michigan bashing all began at Skull Session, a concert devoted entirely to the Ohio State marching band, before the football game. For those who don’t know, we have a similar concert known as TailGreat, loosely based on Skull Session, but on a smaller scale. At one point, the announcer congratulated Penn State, saying that there were never more Penn State fans in Ohio than after last weekend’s victory over Michigan. A nice gesture for once, something I thought I could get used to. We laughed awkwardly at their strange but kind gesture, and the concert proceeded.
Later in the session, the announcer introduced a small boy who had been previously diagnosed with brain cancer. This child had named his cancer “Michigan,” in the hopes of beating Michigan (cute, right?). He did beat Michigan, and again cheers and laughter filled the room.
And finally, during the Ohio State band’s halftime show, as the theme from Pirates of the Caribbean rang out through the stadium, the image of two boats was created on the field from the bodies of the band members, one with the Michigan flag, and one with the Ohio State flag. With the help of some fancy pyrotechnics, the Michigan ship was sunk and the crowd erupted into cheers yet again.
Not once that day did I hear taunts of “Beat Penn State!” They didn’t use our flag during the halftime show. The kid didn’t name his cancer Penn State. It was all about Michigan, all the time.
It was almost comforting, not being attacked in a foreign land, not feeling like we were the main enemy of their team (though we were). They were busy feeding off of the hatred of Michigan to really focus on hating us. We did receive our fair share of heckling from countless people in the stands and throughout the stadium, which was expected. But the large portion was focused on Michigan, Ohio State’s metaphorical punching bag, the one figure they use over and over again to get themselves fired up for any and every game.
Strangely enough, I think that the overuse of the joke against Michigan brought us closer together. Both of our teams don’t like Michigan, and that one item in common made it easier to bond with each other. It’s similar to sharing a hobby or a favorite movie, something as simple as that can spark a conversation that can lead to an understanding of each other, possibly even a friendship. It’s strange to think hatred can bring people closer together. However, we are all human. We all love and hate. Football is something we all breathe. It’s the rope that connects our heart to our University. And from each rope, we are connected to our friends, our family, creating one giant web of rope, crossing over each other and encompassing our university and connecting ourselves to other universities. All of us, we are all connected. All connected by football.