Monday, November 9, 2009

The Gathering of the Clans

Each Fall, for the past five years, my three brothers and I get together to do something with our ninety year old father. On three of those ocassions, we have decided to attend an Ohio State football game-an easy decision, as my father and the rest of us, are all Buckeye fans. Two of those games were between Ohio State and it's bitter rival, "that team up North", the University of Michigan. This year we took the opportunity to attend the game with Penn State University in State College, Pennsylvania. And as fate would have it, it was the best game that Ohio State has played this season. Both offensively, and defensively, it was a convincing win for the Bucks. If they win their next two games (against Iowa and Michigan) they will win the Big 10 conference outright, and for the fifth year in a row. For those of you who want to watch highlights of the game from Youtube, click here.

These games are always a "spectacle". There are lots of events both before and after the game. Before, there are "pep" rallies, where thousands gather, fans cheer, and allow their emotions get whipped up by the University bands. (This is easily done if you have also attended that University). Usually both players and the head coach have something to say to the gathered faithful, and the night become the game, we even got to hear the legendary coach of Penn State, Joe Paterno, speak. Then it's off to the game itself, in a large oval stadium, filled the team colors below, and deep blue sky above. And the energy and enthusiam of the stadium is electric. Every heard 110,000 people scream all at once?

What makes these games tribal is that fans on each team where their colors proud. For us fans of the Ohio State University, we wear scarlet and gray, or scarlet and something! And for Penn State, the colors are blue and white. There's something extra special about going to an away game and being in the minority. One tee shirt I saw put it well. It said "Don't be scared, I just invited 100,000 of my friends to the party today". As a result, one tends to look out for other people wearing scarlet and gray, whom you can easily bond with, as if they were new family members, or old friends. And that familiar code like cheer, "OH"  followed by an "IO" sounds extra sweet behind enemy lines. In the stadium itself, one is reminded again of our tiny minority as we few scarlet and gray spots, are engulfed in a sea of blue and white. And what makes it even greater, are the local gracious fans, who say "Good luck today", even though they don't mean it, and then ask to have a photo taken with you, as if it were some great Detente!

In my imagination's eye, I compared the wearing of the colors, that I and my brothers, and other Ohio State fans were wearing, to the tartans from Scottish clans of old. We represented the different clans from across the area who were their to support the Ohio State football team. And like the Scots of yesterday and today, we like to sing. So throughout the game, we OSU fans sing sections from "Fight the Team", "Across the Field", and "Carmen, Ohio".  As I age, I look forward to these rituals, these traditions, these gatherings. They are fun and meaningful. They remind me that I am part of several different families. Not just the Ohio State family, but also my own family, and the family of man. These events remind me that it's a good thing to be part of a group, to feel like you belong, and to remember one's roots.

I look forward to our trip again next year!

Go Bucks!

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