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As Ohio Goes, So Goes the Nation

In Praise of the Buckeye State

When I was but a wee lad, Ohio's license plates proudly proclaimed that our fair state was "The Heart of It All!" Truth be told, I never knew whether that was an attempt to make light of Ohio's abstractly heart-like shape, or a riff on the heartland theme, or both. That was an odd question for a child of nine to be wondering about anyhow. Nonetheless, that slogan and those license plates stick in my mind as part and parcel of the halcyon days of small town American youth--a time mostly spent pedaling across town, playing football and baseball, and whiling away the summer afternoons at the cement pond. All things considered, it was a great upbringing in the adopted state I grew to love, which had brought my forbears much good fortune.

Ohio takes its fair share of guff on OTE. Perhaps the Buckeyes beat your team one (dozen) too many times. Or maybe you dislike major cities that begin with C. Or, god help you, you're a Michigander and your life is engulfed in jealous rage toward your southern neighbor. Whatever the case may be, the commentariat is never at a loss for jokes about Cleveland's erstwhile river flammability problem, the glaring dearth of professional sports titles, or the dog food that passes for chili in Cincinnati. All fair criticisms, I admit.

As Ohio State Week and B1G 2015 draws to a close, I have decided to eschew a further enumeration of Ohio State's sporting prowess, and instead offer an impassioned yet inexhaustive list of why Ohio is the cornerstone of Midwestern greatness, the entryway to God's country, and quite possibly the heart of it all.

Ohio owns the sky...

Orville and Wilbur. More recent Ohio license plates have declared Ohio to be "the birthplace of aviation." The Brothers Wright designed and built their famous heavier-than-air craft in their Dayton bicycle shop. All Kitty Hawk had to offer was a hill and a steady sea breeze.

Eddie Rickenbacker. Though the Red Baron gets all the credit for making frauleins swoon with his aerial feats in the name of the Kaiser, Columbus' Eddie Rickenbacker showed the Germans a thing or two...or 26. Eddie became America's first flying ace with 26 confirmed kills. He also survived 24 days at sea in 1942 after a B-17 crash. And he designed a car and ran an airline. And won the Medal of Honor.

John Glenn. Speaking of fighter jocks, longtime Senator and former Marine John Glenn stuck it to both the Japanese and the North Koreans in his day. And that was before he became the first American to orbit earth in 1962. He was also the oldest American to orbit the earth in 1998 at the age of 77.

Neil Armstrong. Speaking of Astronauts, Neil from Wapakoneta, OH writes "You're welcome for the flag on the Moon. PS: Suck it, Khruschchev."

27 other astronauts. It's okay for kids in Ohio to dream about being astronauts. Because it's happened for 29 other Ohioans.

Buckeyes are pretty stout on the ground, too...

William Tecumseh Sherman. "Cump," as he was known to his friends, was born in 1820 in Lancaster, southeast of Columbus. A veteran of the Seminole Wars and later a commander of the Army in the Indian Wars of the 1870s, he is best known for "making Georgia howl." His march to the sea was America's first true execution of total war, and noted historian B.H. Liddell Hart would crown him America's first modern general. His grizzled visage oversees this fine publication for a reason.


Hiram Ulysses Grant. A completely unsurprising administrative cock-up at our mutual alma mater dubbed this native son of Point Pleasant Ulysses S. Grant. A noted whiskey hound and poor civilian, Grant excelled as a tactician, leading the Union armies in battles stretching from the Mississippi to Virginia. Relieved for supposed drunkenness in battle at Shiloh, Lincoln personally reinstated him. "I cannot spare this man," Lincoln said. "He fights." Grant was, for all his faults, a hard-nosed fighter. Following massive losses at Shiloh, fellow Buckeye and friend Cump Sherman lamented "Well, Grant, we've had the devil's own day haven't we?" Grant replied "Yes. Lick 'em tomorrow, though." Metal.

The Other Tecumseh. The real one, of the Shawnee people. Also a native son of Ohio and a certified bad motor-scooter. Philosopher, warrior, leader, and bedeviler of the white man, both French and British.

Chariots of Men. When the time comes to send Germans back to Germany, or the Iraqis back to Iraq (the first one), the smiling Ohio worker is happy to provide America with the venerable Willys Jeep, or the even more venerable Abrams tank. The former was invented in Toledo by the Willys-Overland Company. After Detroit Arsenal went bust, the Lima Army Tank plant became the sole producer of 72 tons of high-speed freedom.

Insert Tab A into Slot B for maximum freedom.

Oldsmobile. Once upon a time, Oldsmobile meant the Rocket V8 and long, low, sleek sedans. The slow, agonizing death of the 1990s notwithstanding, the once-venerable GM marque was founded by Geneva native Ransom E. Olds in 1897. After he sold the company, he created one of America's earliest all-purpose trucks...the REO Speed Wagon. You're welcome, Stevie Nicks.

Big Muskie. The largest walking dragline ever built, and the largest single-bucket digging machine in human history. When we raped the earth for its mineral goodness, we did it better than anyone. Big Muskie died a noble death at the hands of the Clean Air Act, but you can still visit her bucket in McConnelsville, OH.

Ohio crafted your daily life...

Power & Light. Without Ohio-born Thomas Edison, you'd be reading this fine internet publication by candlelight. Edison was born in 1847 in the hamlet of Milan (Mye-lin), which at the time was a bustling trade center on the eponymous Milan Canal. And he was smart enough to know that Tesla's dislike of DC power was dumb. Science has not only proven that DC power provides a myriad of benefits, but that Tesla's fanatical backers are actually just fans of a strange internet cartoon about cats.

American Timekeeping. Following a train crash in Kipton that resulted from two conductors having watches that differed by 8 minutes, the railroads designated Cleveland watchmaker Webb C. Ball as the Chief Time Inspector. His watches became the standard for official railroad time, which itself became the American standard in the days before atomic clocks. Ball's criteria of accuracy and reliability were so strict that they later inspired others like the Swiss Official Testing Institute.

Honey. Do you like honey? Of course you do. And thanks to Ohioan Amos I. Root, you can enjoy honey year-round. Root invented the science of beekeeping in America and published the definitive tome on the art of cultivating the temperamental insects, ABC of Bee Culture. He was also a close friend of the Wright Brothers and of Helen Keller, and his family company remains one of the finest beeswax candlemakers in the world.

Copy Machines. Modern business owes Columbus-based Battelle Memorial Institute a debt of gratitude. The theory of xerography, or "dry writing" was turned into a commercially viable product by researchers at Battelle. Send them your thanks on carbon transfer paper, because scientists love an ironic joke.

Nuclear Fuel, the CD, and jet engine alloys. Battelle goes hard in the paint.

Car keys. If not for OSU grad Charles Kettering, you'd only need house a key and a key to the storage locker full of guitars, bear-foot slippers, and Ferrari Testarossa posters your wife wouldn't let in the house. Needless to say, cars wouldn't be nearly as popular without Kettering's electric starter.

The car itself. True story. The first car in America was built in Ohio City in 1891. The second car was probably sold to someone in Michigan, who immediately headed to Cedar Point and drove like a chowderhead the whole way.

And the Fuzz's car, too. The first police patrol car was used in Akron in 1899. Oops.

The traffic light. You can probably figure out where the first red-light ticket was given as well.

Vulcanized Rubber. Ohioan Charles Goodyear made everything from tires to tennis balls possible. y

Hot dogs. You're welcome, Chicago.

Teflon. So your hot dogs don't stick to the pan.

Aluminum cans. For 12 ounces of pop. Or other bubbly stuff.

Streetlights. So you knew when to be home.

Superman. King of the superheroes. Bar none. No one can beat Superman. It's science. Certainly not the Batman clown. Bruce Wayne is a rich wuss with some fancy gadgets.

and made sports as we know them today...

Pro Football. We pretty much invented professional football. Now you can come to Canton and see all your favorite gridiron greats enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. You're welcome for your Sunday not being terrible (unless you're Browns fan, in which case...tough break).

Instant Replay. We didn't just invent pro football. We invented the modern refs, too. The first use of instant replay by refs occurred in 1978 in Canton, during an Eagles/Dolphins game. Good thing it wasn't B1G refs, or it'd been the first time replay got it wrong, too.

Baseball night games. The first three-hour boredom fest after dark occurred in Ohio. It wasn't the Indians, so maybe we won...

Black Pro Baseball Player. Moses Fleetwood "Fleet" Walker, who played as a catcher with the Northwestern League Toledo team from 1883 to 1889. Jackie Robinson was brought into the majors much later by another Ohioan, Branch Rickey.

Ohio has the coolest spots...

Cedar Point. Are you a fan of amusement parks? Do you like roller coasters? Do you hate anthropomorphized mice? If so, come to America's Roller Coast, where you can choose from among the world's greatest roller coasters. Eat light. Bring dramamine. You Michigan types have weak stomachs, despite having four years of suppressing your gag reflex watching Hoke's offense.

Fair Warning: Once you go to Cedar Point, you will find every other park to be a bit crap.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It's like the country music hall of fame. But for great music. Because Wooderson didn't cruise the boulevard to the dulcet tones of Roy Acuff.

The U.S. Air Force Museum. There's pretty much no reason to get within spitting distance of Dayton except for acres and acres of jet-powered American muscle. Riddle: How do you get a B-52 in a museum? You build the museum around it.

Lake Erie. 34-feet of storm-tossed fun! Come for the fishing, stay for the Coast Guard rescue!

Ohio Stadium. Home of champions. Theater of dreams. The only horseshoe-shaped stadium in college football. Come bask in the glow of greatness. If you're from Illinois please don't touch it. We don't need your luck rubbing off.

High Street Tattoo Parlors. When in Rome...

Buckeyes discovered aliens...

The Wow! Event. The Ohio State University's Big Ear radio telescope was a large, fixed-array radio scope listening to deep space noise. In 1977, the Big Ear recorded a 72-second signal near the frequency of the hydrogen line, indicating a fixed point of origin in deep space. The signal was so loud--30 times louder than deep space noise--that it was dubbed the "Wow!" signal based on margin notes made by a researcher.

To this day it remains the most compelling evidence of a signal from another life form.


And our rivers have been flame-free for 46 years...

As Washington Post columnist Jon Adler points out, the famous 1969 river fire on the Cuyahoga was, in fact, the last industrial river fire in American history. The picture that Time Magazine ran in conjunction with the story was actually from a fire nearly two decades earlier.

The problem with the story of the 1969 Cuyahoga River fire is that so much of what we think we know about this story just is not so.  Start with the famous image published by Time magazine referenced above.  It is a picture of a fire on the Cuyahoga, but its not a picture of the fable 1969 fire.  Rather, it's from a fire 17 years earlier, in 1952.  Time didn't run a picture of the 1969 fire because there weren't any.

The reality is that the 1969 Cuyahoga fire was not a symbol of how bad conditions on the nation's rivers could become, but how bad they had once been. The 1969 fire was not the first time an industrial river in the United States had caught on fire, but the last.  Throughout the late 19th and early 20th century, river fires were common.  There were at least 13 on the Cuyahoga alone, but rivers in Baltimore, Detroit, Buffalo, Philadelphia, and elsewhere had fires as well.

See? Everyone's river caught fire. We just did it best. Because national championships run in our blood. And our rivers.

Now you know the truth. You can give Ohio all the guff you like in public, but deep down, you love us. What's more, you need us. We birth your heroes and your stuff. We defend the B1G's honor and vanquish the Great Saban. And you secretly know that OSU winning another natty is better for all of us.

Don't worry. We won't tell.

O-H! I-O!