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Tradition For Sale

What players get for beating TSUN the second time

So I realize that the most of the venom related to the topic of moving the annual matchup of Ohio State with TSUN to a weekend other than the last of the season was fully spewed last week but since there is really is only so much analysis one can do about the upcoming Marshall game  I figured it was about time to jump in on the dog pile anyway and give my two cents about the Big Ten “brain-trust” debacle that could potentially go down.

Granted it seems as though the people have spoken and it has definitely had an effect.  With Gene Smith coming on and giving the hand waving “nothing has been done yet” message and now it is rumored that momentum is swinging in the way of keeping it where it belongs in the last slot of the schedule.

Plain and simple moving The Game would suck.   Regardless of how progressively I try to think about it or how much I try to remain detached with the “it is just a game after all” mindset I can’t shake the fact that it feels a little like Delany and crew are pissing on part of my culture – last game of the year against TSUN is the way it has been since 1935 and messing with that is plain stupidity.  It is a tradition and tradition is one of the big reasons college football is so amazing.  Ohio State is thick with tradition and now a group of “administrators” want to sell it out for the extra money that there would be in a potential twice a year match up between the two teams.  Potential.  Not actual.   This would not even happen very often – so it isn’t like this potential extra money is guaranteed.  Which is something that I am just not getting my head around.

I mean no surprise that this has so many fans going completely ape shit that it is even causing the fan bases of both teams to come together on Facebook – how dysfunctional is it that Buckeyes and Wolverines are joining together in some cyber We Are the World moment to protest this?  I can’t even pretend to imagine both the quantity and substance of the emails sent to the respective AD, university officials and the commish himself.  As Smith said “I got some really good feedback, and some that wasn’t so good”.  Seriously – it is one thing to trot out some throwback uniforms once a year to cash in the hype, but moving The Game to turn a windfall just can’t happen.

Let me be clear here though – I liked the addition of Nebraska and wanted a Conference Championship Game.   But I never in a million years thought that there would ever be a split with Ohio State and Michigan in different divisions.  Why not have them in the same division?  Does anyone really think that means that the “Big Ten East” would appear to be stronger with the Buckeyes, TSUN, and Penn State?   Considering that TSUN has been so bad for the past 3 years how are they really saying that?  A “west” comprised of Iowa, Wisconsin, and Nebraska looks pretty strong to me – especially if you look at the those teams as they are right now and over the past 3 years or so.  But the madness of having divisions of the Rust Belt (with Ohio State) and the Grain Belt (with TSUN) is just plain silly for a variety of reasons.  And the other reasoning behind moving the game is equally as shortsighted.

If you keep Ohio State and Michigan in the same division and have them play the last game of the season then you keep tradition and have a CCG – but miss out on the extra dough for a “maybe-we-can-play-twice” crap shoot.  It just doesn’t seem worth it.  So what if THE GAME could no longer be for the conference championship, in the event that both teams are potential championship contenders then it becomes the conference semi final.  No true Buckeye fan needs anything more from The Game than to beat TSUN.  Not to mention I don’t want to play them twice a year – bragging rights aren’t the best of two.  It is one game, winner take all.  That’s it.

I guess it really comes down to how you look at the significance of The Game.  To me it is more than just about where the teams are ranked in the conference and what type of championship game/bowl game or ranking fate rests on it.  It is about beating your arch nemesis on the final game of the season – it is football lore.  It is the anticipation of the game all season long allowing the hatred you have for the adversary to fester and burn.  It really doesn’t matter how good or bad TSUN is…I always want to beat them.    And I think if you move it to the middle of the year some of that level of giving everything you have for The Game is lost.  Who’s to say if we slowly digress a few years (if the unacceptable actually happens) into the feeling of   – “yeah we got Michigan this week, but we really have to be looking out for Penn State the two weeks from now …”  That would suck beyond belief – I grew up and absolutely love the fact that you stew all year long and cannot take TSUN for granted because it IS the last game and has all the tradition and rivalry dripping from it.  If one of the teams is bad it becomes the focus to just be the spoiler, if they are both good it becomes the final step to reach bowl greatness, if both teams are down it is still for bragging rights in the rivalry.  SO WHAT if going forward Ohio State and Michigan cannot play for the conference title again, so what if the winner doesn’t automatically end up in the Rose Bowl – those are just the subplots to this matchup.  This is Woody and Bo, this is twelve years of suffering through Cooper, this is Tressel’s proclamation at the basketball game followed by eight years of domination, this is Ohio State ripping done the banner, Desmond striking the pose, Springs falling down,  a tie being a considered a win, Troy’s coming out party in 2004  – these are the stories that you think back and remember about THE GAME.  You just don’t mess with this kind of history.  This is a college football holiday – and as Ramzy from Bucknuts put it so well:

“This is like saying that Independence Day needs to be moved from its spot on the calendar to create a buffer between it and another, new patriotic holiday that hasn’t been invented yet, and the two cannot come close to overlapping because of, well, just because.”

There are so many things about keeping The Game as the last game of the year that you just cannot put a price on.  It would just be a shame for those seemingly in power to find a way to do just that and destroy something that has taken over 100 years to become the greatest rivalry in sports.

Schools and conferences wish they had the tradition that Ohio State shares with Michigan – let’s hope that the powers that be have heard the people’s voices and get this one right.