i did not want to root for ohio state.
for a few hours i did, sure – but that was not enough to overcome the years of hating osu as being irrelevant and caring only about stuff that was worthless in a larger context. and yet, i found myself happy at the end of tonight’s game – despite the fact that i knew i did not want to root for osu. i was happy because they asked the dude at OSU “why did you win?” and he said “because i had faith in my teammates” – and i knew there was good reason to have faith in ohio all along.
i didn’t want to root for osu.
a few of my siblings went there – two of the eight. john and luke. having 8 siblings may be wildly unusual elsewhere – but in Ohio, it was just uncommon. in ohio, there’s less surface diversity – that of appearance, that of genetics – but there’s more of an ideological diversity. the liberals here in California are all weak neo-conservative free market supporters whose only divergence from the republicans is in terms of how much legislative market interference they support. ohio liberals are the real radicals there – you’d have to be confident to be liberal in ohio. in california it just means going along with everyone else. which of course is why you have John Boehner, the most boring demopublican politician to blur the lines of the two-party system. at least the ohio liberals have the guts to be different when it’s hopeless to win.
anyhow, john was a mechanical engineering major – and my role model from ages 12-15. luke, an electrical engineering major, followed john, and was my nemesis from age 5 to age 27, until he became my role model. he was also on the reality tv show ‘beauty and the geek’, where he earned the distinction of being the ‘most socially competent geek’ on a tv show dedicated to perpetuating the mindless stereotype of “nerds are all socially incompetent dudes.” his tagline was “builds robots”, conflating his work in introducing high school girls to robotics via the dean kamen FIRST nonprofit group with the unconscionable crime of wearing jean shorts.
so of course i wanted to root against ohio state. osu stood for everything i hated about ohio – popped collar jocks, playing cornhole while majoring in ‘geopolitical worthlessness’, representing the state best known for supporting bush in 2004, homophobia, and the inexorable irrelevance of a state full of hayseed hicks more interested in bashing each other over sportsball than mattering in any external context.
i went to xavier. at the osu honors convocation, i was given a number – between 5 to 8 digits – to identify me. i went to the osu honors thing-a-majig after spending the night at my brother John’s house in Columbus, where there was both a kegerator and a refrigerator, and i couldn’t sleep because of the hip-hop music playing in some white guy’s bronco nearby. i was given a number to identify me at the OSU honors something-or-other. at xavier, somebody knew my name.
i wanted people to know my name. i wanted to matter. i didn’t care, yet, about helping those who didn’t matter – but i knew i wanted to matter myself.
i was told the number of cs majors would be low enough that i could count it on both hands. in decimal. i went to xavier. “somebody knew me as a person” rather than “i was another number” – that was what mattered to this one, the fourth of nine children, the seventh of what is now forty-five-plus grandchildren, a person who wanted to be a person and not a number.
now, granted, i loved xavier. i was happy to pay my own way with scholarships i’d earned, partially from working hard and partially from being born when and where i was. i was happy to write an essay about how the existence of locks signaled an undercurrent of distrust in humanity. and yet – i worried that, in ohio, i wouldn’t be able to find a job. i saw my worries about getting a job as being a problem with reality, rather than being a problem with ohio – until i went to california.
i went to california. i played a regular game of poker, and learned that ‘GAY’ was not an acceptable way of referring to an outcome arrived at due to a minor technicality, despite how ‘unmanly’ i felt when folding a hand. i learned that a lot of the biases i’d grown up with were not shared by the intelligent people i met halfway across the US – and i felt embarrassed.
i was ashamed to be from ohio, because my new friends – some of whom were liberal, or worse – gay – were hated there, and denied equal treatment under the law in ohio. i was ashamed to be from ohio because my new friends – my liberal friends – were mocking ohio for being backwoods, irrelevant, unimportant. i agreed with them.
so when i knew this game was happening, this game between OSU and OU – i had to root for OU. i had history with OU, and i’d been annoyed hearing OSU fans bleat after stomping on the teams they seemed to beat over and over again. “who cares,” i thought “you are relevant only on a stage that doesn’t matter. you ohioans would rather matter in a place that is unimportant – american college football – than you would be relevant on the global geopolitical stage.”
when i told people in ukraine, or turkey, or spain, or costa rica, or china, that i was from california, they knew i mattered. when i told them i was from ohio, they knew i was a nobody – just like them. i didn’t want to be a nobody. i wanted to be a somebody. i wanted to matter. i wanted to make the world better.
so i didn’t want to root for ohio state.
and yet i watched this game, i watched a boring team – OSU – dominate in the boring way it did – because it was better in the fundamentals.
in the past, politics mattered more. the BCS was all politics, and ohio’s irrelevance paved the way for such powerhouses as Alabama to win on politics. OU and OSU were both present in this, the first national championship based upon playoffs, when they were both considered ‘underdogs’ by the same political process that lets world leaders who tortured and jailed journalists claim they defend free speech.
they were never the underdogs, because they kept winning. and yet they were the underdogs, because all they did was win – instead of matter.
before the start of the game, i told myself i’d root for OSU, because i knew the BCS was bullshit. and yet watching that grey and scarlet, with the one number higher than the other – i could not help but remember my inbuilt political allegiance to the underdogs, the losers who maybe could win over those always-winners who just kept winning and yet didn’t matter.
until the end of the game. and they asked the running back – “why did you win?” – and he said “because of my team.”
that is the ohio i am from. that is the ohio i know, and love, and will never leave, despite living far away in a much warmer and less homophobic, racist, place. the ohio i love is about teamwork and the boring fundamentals that lose a few games but win a lifetime’s worth of accolades.
any loser can find himself in charge of a Kardashev level 0 civilization. it takes a real winner to go for something more – to be a vassal in a Kardashev-2 state, which wins because the social context – victory – is untainted by either selfishness, or politics. but i repeat myself.
i did not want to root for ohio state – on an analytic, or lymbic level. and yet i found myself rooting anyhow, for the most boring of fundamentals, the most basic of configurations – the home team, which is more about the home than it is the team.