The shut-outWritten by Michael Miller | Editor in Chief Emeritus | firstname.lastname@example.org
My 3-year-old son Evan must have been listening to the tailgaters, because he broke out into a chant of “Go Rockets! Rockets bite, bite, bite!”
I corrected him that it was “Rockets fight,” not “Rockets bite,” but by halftime Sept. 19, I ceded the point.
We were in Cleveland last weekend for the football game between our beloved University of Toledo Rockets and the Big Ten powerhouse OSU Buckeyes.
Arriving Friday evening at the DoubleTree hotel in downtown Cleveland, we were greeted by a wave of OSU shirts, jerseys and hats. Once in awhile an article of UT clothing would surface, like a midnight blue and gold bobber on a sea of red, but we were outnumbered about 1,000 to 1.
On one elevator trip, a man in an OSU varsity jacket looked at my UT gear and said, “UT fans like you are in the minority here this weekend.”
I looked at him and said, “UT fans like me were in the minority in Ann Arbor last year, too.”
He nodded, said, “touché,” and wished the Rockets luck as he exited the car.
Our room at the DoubleTree, which was arranged by the tourism-promoting folks as Positively Cleveland, looked from 18 floors over the municipal parking area for the stadium, which by Friday afternoon was lined with scores of buses and campers and tailgaters. The lake was calm, and the clear night allowed for a view deep into the city. It was the calm before what I hoped would be a competitive game.
On Saturday, the weather was perfect, as a bright sun mingled with an occasional lake breeze to make for optimal tailgating and football watching. We walked to “The Pit” by Cleveland Browns Stadium to check out the early tailgate action. Again, it was mostly red everywhere, but there were some Toledo flags flying. We saw Ian Rockwood, who was waiting for his parents John (of the blues band VooDoo Libido) and Jennifer (director of First-Year Experience at UT). The Columbia Gas of Ohio tailgate party was in full swing and a number of Toledo folks met there to tolerate the continued chants of “O-H!” “I-O!” that the early morning drinkers were still getting right.
At game time, we walked up the hill to our section and settled in. It was my first time at the Cleveland stadium, and it was a magnificent experience. It may be 10 years old, but it is still looks and feels new; the seats we had were padded and roomy (much like many of us) and the view to the field, even from the third section up, was great for watching action at both ends of the field.
We were excited, cheering for the Rockets and happy to hear the familiar voice of Kevin Mullan calling the game over the speakers. After a year of anticipation, of making arrangements, of celebrating UT’s ambition in playing such a top team, we were ready for kickoff and the battle for Ohio bragging rights.
And then the game started, and then we fell way behind, and then we lost.
The 38-0 drubbing was disappointing because the Rockets have earned our respect and high expectations. Past victories against Penn State and Michigan, and Colorado this season, create a strong belief in the quality of the program.
It was a spectacular experience, watching Eric Page and Aaron Opelt and the Rockets play in front of 72,000 people in the magnificent Cleveland Browns Stadium. I hope that stadium lands a professional team some day; it deserves it.
It was crushing to see Page cross the goal line late in the game, only to fumble the ball back to OSU. In three meetings, OSU has beaten Toledo 125-0. Page had the first potential UT points ever scored in his hands and lost it at the last second, in his valiant, surging attempt to get the ball across the paint. Page is on his way to being a true star and phenomenon, and I hope he can turn this disappointment into more fuel for his fire.
Except for a few loudmouth OSU fans who weren’t happy with OSU coach Jim Tressel, even when the Buckeyes led by 31 points, it was a great display of sportsmanship in our part of the stands.
At halftime, the Ohio State marching band, after performing the first of its two Ohio spelling routines, formed the actual shape of the UT Rocket logo, and with the aid of two fire extinguishers, blasted off and moved the rocket across the field. It was an awesome moment, displaying skill, sportsmanship and a flair for the theatrical.
Then, the UT marching band took the field, and performed a tribute to Russian culture.
At every VFW hall in Cuyahoga County, some veteran clutched his gut and sat down heavily, like Obi-Wan Kenobi when he sensed the Death Star lasers explode Alderaan.
I wandered the stadium during halftime, checking out the concession options and watching small crowds form around Jimmy Jackson, who had reason to wish both teams well. A quick stop in the men’s room offered a mathematical oddity; there were lines at least five men deep for each of the dozen or so urinals, but absolutely no lines at the four sinks just a few yards away. It reminded me of an old joke I can’t repeat here, but I will be happy to e-mail it to you if you are curious.
I was disappointed that I recognized so many Toledo leaders at the game, dressed not in midnight blue and gold, but in scarlet and gray. How about some support, guys? I know some of you are OSU alumni, but since you live or work in Toledo now, how about some love for the home team?
You want us think that you fight, not bite. Right?
Michael S. Miller is editor in chief of Toledo Free Press. Contact him at email@example.com.