This game...The Game...weaves through my life. I remember watching The Ten Year War as a little kid in Minnesota, enamored by the Buckeye leaves on Ohio State's helmets. When I moved to Columbus as a teenager in the early 80's, Ohio State and this rivalry consumed me like an Event Horizon. My first iteration of The Game as an Ohioan was in 1983, and OSU lost a heartbreaker in Ann Arbor. But in 1984, WR Mike Lanese made a ridiculous third down catch that sparked the Buckeyes to a 21-6 win.
A team I cheered for had finally won a Big Game. The Game. It was incredible. And it just got better.
My senior year in high school, I got to meet Woody Hayes when he came to watch my my high school football team practice. I was home in Columbus on leave and watched the famed 'EARLE' headband game after he was unceremoniously dumped in 1987. As I moved throughout the world because of the military, I didn't get to see many Ohio State games in the days before the Internet, as streaming and 600 channels of cable TV were as mystical as a creative offensive play from Jim Bollman.
But the Armed Forces Network always broadcast the Ohio State-Michigan game. And I got to witness some of the most brutal losses in OSU history during the Dark Times, also known as the Cooper Years. When I went to war, I was able to see Jim Tressel bring about Ohio State redemption, and begin this incredible era of Ohio State domination.
It is, and will always be, the Singularly Most Important Football Game on my personal calendar, every year until I die. Unless the Vikings ever make it back to the Super Bowl, but yeah lol whatever.
Yesterday's rendition has everything you want in a classic rivalry, and is arguably the best rendition of this game. Heroes, villains, big plays, bad plays, and pit in your stomach high drama that only a heated rivalry can bring.
Most importantly, my team won. My most hated rival lost, and when they lost, the bitterness of another failure came flowing out, led by their coach, Jim Harbaugh.
Did Jim Harbaugh lament the fact that QB Wilton Speight, playing in a heroic effort, turned the ball over three times? No.
Did Jim Harbaugh lament the fact that his defense all of a sudden forgot to tackle J.T. Barrett at the games most critical juncture? No.
Did he lament the fact that when Ohio State remembered they had Curtis Samuel on offense, Michigan didn't really have much of an answer to Samuel? No.
Did he lament the fact that Jabril Peppers, another in a long line of Michigan September Heisman winners, disappeared for large chunks of this game, and on the final play was blocked all the way to Hilliard by Mike Weber? No.
No, Jim Harbaugh did what Jim Harbaugh does, when he's not sleeping over at a recruit's house. He ignored questionable coaching decisions, poor execution, and flat out getting outcoached in the fourth quarter and overtime, and in his post game hissy fit, which everyone else calls a press conference, he blamed the referees.
Jim Harbaugh became Moises Alou, and the referees became Steve Bartman. And Michigan fans, on message boards all over the Internet, became the new 'woe is us' Cubs fans, screaming of conspiracies, curses, and backroom deals to ensure Ohio State gets in to the college football playoff.
And yeah, since you haven't won an undisputed national title since 1948, the shoe fits. Wear it, since you can't win in it.
It was and is a lame excuse; a loser's lament. And it is one that Michigan fans have latched on to because their guy wants them to focus on that, and not on the fact that other than a scandal ridden team that was steered by an interim coach, this was the best chance to beat an OSU team in 10 years. This was supposed to be their year. It was supposed to be The Year. The year when their Messiah led them out of the desert, finally bested Urban Meyer, won the Big Ten, and went to the College Football Playoff. But in one horrible quarter, and two overtime stanzas, they let it slip through their fingers.
Not because of a bad call or a bad spot. But because they let Ohio State back in to the game, and then let Ohio State win it in double overtime, when they had dominated them for most of the afternoon
Michigan had control of this game for three full quarters. They were winning field position, they were winning in the trenches on both sides of the football, and they had a 10 point lead. When you are the number three team in the country with a roster chock full of seniors, a double digit lead, and with that much on the line?
You're supposed to win. Yet once again, Michigan fell short, as their dreams of a Big Ten championship and a national title died.
And in one epic post game rant, a true Sports Villain was born.