There was this electricity in the air.
You could feel it … That’s the day I realized that
there was this entire life behind things … Sometimes
there’s just so much beauty in the world that I can’t
take it. And my heart feels like it’s going to cave
Ok, so I’m not exactly talking about a plastic bag
floating in the wind, but for those who have ever witnessed a
Michigan-Ohio State football game, you know what I’m talking
For three-and-a-half hours, the world around you stops, and you
just take in football at its purest. No fun-and-gun, no basketball
on grass, no talk of suspensions … just perfect.
There really is no way to describe it to someone; you have to
This isn’t like describing the Notre Dame or Michigan
State rivalries where tradition or in-state hatred are generally
the accepted terms in defining those games.
There are no words that anyone will write in print —
before or after the game — that will ever capture the true
essence of the final, and usually only, meaningful Big Ten game of
the regular season.
We’ll hear all about John Navarre and the eternal
criticism he has endured. We’ll hear about Craig Krenzel, and
I’m sure Brent Musberger will call him a “field
general” at one point during the next week. There will be
talk of the exciting Chris Gamble and Steve Breaston and how each
could be the “X-factor” in the game. Some will discuss
Braylon Edwards’ comments and blow them up if he should drop
a pass. Others will reminisce about when Maurice Clarett was
actually a football player instead of a courtroom story. There are
those that will want to put Lloyd Carr on a hotseat if Michigan
should lose a third-straight to Jim Tressel. But, in reality,
it’s all meaningless banter.
Since it is the 100th game between the two schools, the archives
will be dug up and memories of Bo vs. Woody, Terry Glenn’s
“nobody” comments and Tshimanga Biakabutuka’s 313
yards will jump to the forefront of all of your minds — even
if you weren’t old enough, or alive, to actually see those
Images of Eddie George running, Desmond Howard and Charles
Woodson each taking one to the house, Howard striking the pose,
Marcus Ray flipping David Boston over and Ohio State laying claim
to the Big House in 2001 are freshest in my mind and in the minds
of many others as well.
But even then, nothing mentioned captures this rivalry.
So you begin to think, what is this rivalry?
For me, it’s 1998, when I was visiting family in Napoleon,
Ohio, only to watch Michigan’s post-title hangover get even
worse. It’s that waitress in Toledo’s Max &
Erma’s that got a good chuckle from the maize-and-blue I
happened to be wearing on that day.
It’s my Aunt Jane, who is always so cheerful to tell me
about when Michigan fails and when the Bucks are marching along.
It’s her giving me an Ohio State national championship
T-shirt as a late-Christmas joke, and me not giving it back
(it’s still in my closet).
It’s being in Essexville and hanging out in my basement or
Chris Wagner’s basement with about 10 other maize-and-blue
faithful. It’s going to Hooters at 11 a.m. just for the wings
and taking them back to your house. It’s just about going
It’s about threatening to kill over missing a part of the
1999 game for an Evans Scholarship interview and getting tense when
a 13-9 thriller in 1996 is approaching starting time for a choir
concert (I sang and danced a little bit better to music from
“Footloose” and Newsies after Michigan’s
It’s cleaning Michigan Stadium to its fullest and
resetting tents and 70-pound weights that each got thrown around by
the wind like rag dolls.
It’s the insanity that my bosses at Crisler and the Big
House will be going through this entire week.
It’s the pointless answers that coaches and players will
give in order to stay away from bulletin board material.
It’s seeing Drew Henson sitting two sections to the right
of you in 2001 instead of being on the field. It’s getting
your picture taken with him and wishing him the best. It’s
defending row A of the student section from over-zealous Ohio State
fans who won’t stay in their own section. It’s watching
you and your friends nearly drop the gloves with those fans.
It’s Chris Perry … and Chris Perry.
It’s a belief that while some will scoff at you and say it
is just a meaningless game, you can look at them and just
Even after your team loses — whether wearing scarlet and
gray or a winged helmet — it’s hard to stay mad when
there is so much beauty in the rivalry. Sometimes I feel like
I’m seeing it all at once, and it’s too much. My heart
fills up like a balloon that’s about to burst. And then I
remember to relax. And then it flows through me like rain, and I
feel nothing but gratitude for every stinking moment of this stupid
—Kyle O’Neill did not get that Evans Scholarship,
and would have rather pulled out his own teeth than miss watching
the first half of that 1999 game like he did. He can be reached at