May 22, 2003

"Dotting The I"

Tom Orr is a young contributor to The O-Zone, a web site for Ohio State sports fanatics like me. He had recounted the Top Ten Buckeye sporting events that he had personally attended in a two part article. He's too young to tell any stories of Archie Griffin or Clark Kellogg, much less any of Jerry Lucas or Jack Nicklaus, but if you'd like, you can read his reflections here and here.

He then asked readers to submit their personal favorites, and when I really thought about it, my highlight turned out to have little to do with the memory of an actual game. Here's the text of my email to Tom:

One of my most memorable Buckeye sporting events was, ironically, associated with one of the low points in OSU football in the past couple of decades. In 1993 I traveled to Ann Arbor with three of my friends to watch the unbeaten (9-0-1) Buckeyes take on the hated Wolverines with a possible national title at stake. As is well documented and long lamented, our Bucks got trounced that day in a game featuring Cleveland's Desmond Howard striking his Heisman pose after a long punt return for a touchdown. The final was 28-0. The national championship possibilities were officially down the tubes.....again.

My moment however, came before the game ever started. It was a bitterly cold day, and we had no real idea going in where our seats were located. Turns out we were in the first row off the field, right in the center of the endzone. I remember I could stand up in my seat and reach out and touch the flagpole, which was planted in the stadium turf just outside the back line of the endzone. My buddy and I were in seats 3 and 4 of our row, so we had to squeeze past an elderly couple who were sitting on the aisle. The usual small talk ensued before the game, and when the OSU band took the field during the pregame, and were about to begin the "Script Ohio", the gentleman next to me could no longer contain himself. His pride was getting the better of him, and he just had to tell somebody, and I happened to be the somebody. He smiled and announced, "My grandson is dotting the 'I' today".

All I could muster in response was "Wow, that's fabulous!", and as I watched the band go through the script, and watched this young sousaphone player take his final "dotting" bow, I realized what an unbelievably special moment this was for him, and obviously for his grandparents, who by this time were in tears. Hell, I was in tears, and I had just met these people! Knowing the band's tradition from all those years of bleeding Scarlet and Gray, I was immediately able to feel and share the "moment." To "Dot the I" is a huge honor, reserved for senior sousaphone players, and to get to do it in the Michigan game is an even greater tribute.

The best part came when the band filed off the field, right into the endzone in front of us. The kid, who had just had perhaps the proudest moment of his young life, knew right where his grandparents were sitting and gave a quick look and a huge smile up to the stands as they marched through the endzone. At this point, the band members broke ranks right in front of us, and the celebration began. This kid was treated to hugs and high-fives from his band-mates, while his grandparents and a 40-year old guy from Cleveland that they had just met, sat in the first row with tears streaming down their cheeks. I never learned their names, and the rest of the afternoon was downhill from that point, but to this day I can't tell the story without choking up. Utterly unforgetable!

UPDATE: Tom Orr emailed me back and refreshed my memory. I was wrong about the Desmond Howard reference. It was on my first trip to Ann Arbor two years earlier, in 1991, in another humiliating OSU defeat (31-3), that Howard had his big game, complete with the famous Heisman pose. Thanks Tom, for pointing that out. BTW, he said he's going to use my story in his follow-up article.

UPDATE: Here's a link to the Tom Orr article that includes my story and those from numerous other Buckeye fans. He even gave me a little special mention. Also, here's Part One of that same series of articles.

Posted by dan at May 22, 2003 11:37 PM

Meeting a man who was not only a Buckeye alumnus, but also a TBDBITL nut was one of the best things that ever happened to me. My first(and every) experience of Buckeye home football games had to include the Skull Session in St. John's Arena, and then following the band to the Shoe, and getting in in enough time to hear them come up the tunnel and burst out onto the field! Now I feel sorry for any OSU football fan who tells me he has been going to the games for years but doesn't know what the Skull Session is!!*!?! You can't get any better pre-game hype than that!
Big Sister Barbara

Posted by: Barbara Bellamy at May 26, 2003 12:50 PM
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