I understand the Covid pandemic was an unmitigated disaster on many fronts. I get that there has been tremendous suffering. I quipped that 2020 was the best year we had for some time, not counting Covid. I was right. Compared to previous years, we came through 2020 at a net positive. That's what the previous five or six years were like.
Nonetheless, it wasn't without casualties. And yes, while we breezed through in 2020, it came back and caught us in 2021. Still, despite it all, there was one thing about the entire 2020 Covid period that gnawed me as much as anything. It might seem trivial to many, but it bugged me until, well, last Saturday.
When I was eleven years old, my dad took me to my first Ohio State Football game. It was November 11, 1978 and we played Illinois. Little did I know I was watching one of the last games to be coached by the legendary Woody Hayes. The tickets came to us courtesy of our local realtor, who was my dad's biggest fan. That's because Dad was always itchy about moving on, even if for no particular reason. He would buy a house, fix it up, sell it, and buy another to do the same thing. Seldom were we in the same house or neighborhood for more than a few years. Sometimes no more than one. Obviously the realtor did his best to stay on Dad's good side. Hence the tickets.
I remember that fondly. I remember parking in the open fields where now sits St. John Arena. I remember the very, very good seats (near the 50 yard line, lowest deck, Buckeye side). I remember the fall drive home, and the chili dinner awaiting us as family from Akron was down visiting.
Because of this, and because it seemed as good an age as any, I decided when my sons were eleven, they could go with me to their first Buckeye game. Up until then, my wife and I went together for our annual big date outing. But she handed over the seat to our oldest in 2006, and from then on it was the boys. Each would take turns to make sure they got the same chances to go with ol'dad to his alma mater.
That's how it worked, and it usually went pretty smoothly. We diverged from the rotation a couple times. One year my second oldest bowed out so that I could take his oldest brother - and biggest OSU fan - to a game on his 18th birthday. But it usually worked - until 2020.
That was the year our youngest turned eleven. He had been looking forward to it for over a year. He tried to bargain to go in 2019, but we held firm and told him just one more year, and it would be his turn. That's been that poor kid's life as often as not I'm sad to say.
As things would have it, he grew in a different direction and, to be honest, I don't think he would have cared to go or not to go by the time this year rolled around. I guess you can get burned so many times before you develop a natural stoicism about things. But he went ahead and agreed to go if I could swing the tickets this year. With my wife's meteoric rise in her company and this year's whopping promotion, and despite jaw dropping prices for tickets, we went.
Through much of October and into November, the weather was stunningly fine. Except for Halloween, it was dry, warmer than usual, and a good time to be out and about. Some days we joked about going to the beach it was so nice. Until, of course, the Friday before the game when the temperatures plunged and snow fell, and freezing temperatures swept the state. Again, our youngest's general life experience.
Despite it all, however, we had fun. He was a trooper. He's known to complain about things, often to the chagrin of his older brothers. Their answer is that they endured years in the trenches of the public school system, so he has no room to complain. But he didn't complain Saturday.
He doesn't care for crowds. And overly loud noises bother him. He doesn't mind the cold - when you get used to it. But when the weather has been late spring until the day you spend six hours out in freezing weather it isn't exactly a thrill a minute. Hemmed in between tens of thousands of fans and ear splitting cheering, sitting in freezing temperatures, he didn't say a peep. He smiled, occupied himself (he's not necessarily the big sports fan of the day), and kept whatever misgivings he had about the situation to himself.
The closest to complaints came during the walk to the car. As Ohio expands, its parking moves farther and farther away from the stadium. That's a several mile walk for us, because he didn't want to take the shuttles crammed full with people that you have to stand in line for a half hour for anyway.
Other than that, however, it went off without a hitch. We did all the 'traditions'. Breakfast at Bob Evans, wander the campus, allow me to point out the places I remember, go to the new Student Union, listen to the chimes, then off to the Shoe. From there, it's really about the pre-game traditions. After that, the game is usually an afterthought. After all, I could see the game comfy at home on the telly. But he soldiered through, seemed to enjoy the experience, and we had a wonderful time together. If there was nothing else but that last part of the sentence, it all would have been worth it.
|Enjoying some warmth in the Student Union|
|We tarried outside Orton Hall in order to hear those famous chimes|
|As if to ask what did they do with Mirror Lake|
|Experts at work: These marshlands were once among the most |
beautiful spots on American college campuses. More on that later
|Not bad seats for a forgone conclusion of a game (Indiana, FYI)|
|For him that's a big smile. Cold and all. We call that a fine time.|