Update: Apparently I mixed up my Ohio State quarterbacks from the 1980s whose last name begins with a “T.” Turns out it was Mike Tomczak and not Tom Tupa I met when I was a boy. The text is updated to reflect that.
On some weekends when I was a kid, my dad would randomly take me to Ohio State University, located an hour from my hometown of Dayton in Columbus, Ohio. I think he secretly wanted me to go to Ohio State and be a Buckeye when it was time for college.
Dad could apparently talk—or simply walk—his way into just about anywhere on campus. Once we went and talked to some students in OSU’s ROTC program since Dad knew I wanted to join the military someday. He isn’t an alumnus and didn’t have any special privileges at OSU, but somehow grade-school-age Andy wound up in a pull-up competition with the kind ROTC cadets. To this day I can’t believe the places Dad would just wander into, and no one cared!
On one trip to OSU with both mom and dad, we somehow found ourselves at the Horseshoe, OSU’s massive football stadium, and there was a guy there by himself running. Of course, Dad just walked right up to him and said hello. And by the way, how did we just waltz into OSU’s stadium?!
According to my dad, that young man at the track that day was none other than Mike Tomczak, OSU’s starting quarterback, which means I was probably 4 at the time.
Dad says Tomczak was a nice guy, and he even offered to jog a lap around the track with me—and we did!
As I got older I became a University of Texas fan and still am despite my exposure to OSU and meeting Tomczak. To put it briefly and mildly, I don’t care for OSU. I’ll leave it at that.
But as the 2017 college football season starts, I will be a good sport—and I hope you are, too. Here’s some ways to do that:
- Be kind to fans of opposing teams. They’re people, too, who probably don’t like your team, either.
- If you’re at a game, make sure you applaud if the opposing team has an injured player who eventually (hopefully) walks off the field.
- Think about your words and actions while watching a game. Feel free to boo the refs, the other team or whatever, but realize that little eyes and ears may be watching, too—even if you’re watching the game at home. Kids need to see us grown-ups being good fans so they, in turn, do the same as they grow.
- Drunk at the game? Nicely done. Just don’t drive home.
- The players are young people; I’d still consider them kids even though some of them are the size of a Ford Fiesta. They’re going to make mistakes. It’s part of the game. And life.
- Learn about your rivals. A lot of teams have cool traditions and whatnot just like your team—maybe even better than yours. For example: What are all those stickers on players’ helmets for? Who is your opponent’s field or stadium named for? What ties does your alma mater or favorite team have with opposing teams? According to Notre Dame’s website, the school has a warm relationship with Navy that goes beyond sports:
“During World War II, as Notre Dame’s enrollment dropped to Depression-era size, the Navy’s decision to establish a Navy College Training Program on the South Bend campus in July 1943 provided much-needed economic relief and a surge of energy.
During the Vietnam [War] era, as college administrations elsewhere restricted or abolished ROTC programs, [former Notre Dame President Rev. Theodore] Hesburgh’s insistence preserved the Navy presence on campus.”
The two schools have a long history of helping one another during tough times, and there is fond regard on each campus for the opposing team—this is very much a friendly rivalry. Unique stories such as this one are all over college athletics.