The Game that was

I don’t follow sports these days — like, not at all. I don’t watch the games, I don’t check the scores and I sure as hell don’t watch ESPN. Longtime friends of mine know what a dramatic turnaround that is.

Sports and sports media, both the culture and the commerce, walked away from me years ago.

Beyond the high-school level, athletic competition no longer offers me refuge. Sports has become a reminder and not a diversion, often only amplifying the worst of our world — the hype and the hypocrisy, entitlement and race hustling, virtue signaling and redistribution of wealth, the works.

I have no interest in any of that.

My lifelong passion for Ohio State football now is little more than a collection of fond memories. Even the storied rivalry between the Buckeyes and Michigan fails to capture my attention. That said, I remain peripherally aware of it, and I know that OSU lost to the Wolverines yesterday. There will be much chest-thumping in Ann Arbor, I’m sure, over beating Ohio State for the third time in 21 years.

(Chic Harley. If you know, you know.)

Michigan fans will tout the Wolverines’ historical “domination” of Ohio State. Going back to 1897 when the series began, Michigan holds a 59-52-6 advantage (.530). They can claim the longest win streak (9) and the longest unbeaten streak (15). The most points scored and the largest margin of victory, 86-0, also belong to the Wolverines.

Finally, the edge in national football championships goes to Michigan, 11 to 8.

I don’t know if that’s a dominant record, really, but there’s no doubt it’s impressive. So, in the wake of the Buckeyes’ loss, I’ll be gracious today and give Blue its due.

More admirable than grace, however, is truth. And the truth is that every single one of the stats I just mentioned was recorded — or Michigan’s advantage was achieved — before the end of World War I.

Michigan’s nine straight wins came between 1901 and 1909, including 86-0 in 1902. Between 1897 and 1918, Michigan was 13-0-2 against OSU and was awarded 5 of its 11 national championships.

(Art by the incomparable Sammy Silverman for OSU Athletics)

Ohio State’s first win in what we now call “The Game” came in 1919.

In Big Ten conference play, which commenced for the two teams in 1918, Ohio State leads the series 52-47-4 (.524). The Buckeyes also own the longest win streaks at seven (2004-2010) and eight (2012-2019). The Wolverines were undefeated in The Game for seven seasons, too, from 1945 to 1951, but with the blemish of a tie in 1949.

In the modern era, the largest margin of victory goes to Michigan, 58-6 in 1946.

Most points scored? That happened in 2018 — 62, by the Buckeyes.

During my lifetime, Ohio State’s record in The Game is 37-25-2 (.594). Since the turn of this century the Buckeyes are 17-3 (.850), with a Michigan no-show (what we used to call a “forfeit”) in 2020, allegedly because of WuFlu.

Yes, Wolverines fans can (and should) take pride in yesterday’s win — but anyone talkin’ smack about “domination” had better be a Buckeye. Ohio State is ascendant, while Michigan fans have to go back to the days of Charlie Chaplin and Woodrow Wilson to find their edge.

The Game truly became “The Greatest Rivalry in Sports” from 1969 to 1978 — known as “The Ten-Year War” between OSU’s Woody Hayes and Michigan’s Bo Schembechler. Woody won four and Bo five, with one tie.

(Bo Schembechler and Woody Hayes)

Looking at the last six head coaches for each team, beginning with Woody and Bo, two of Ohio State’s coaches had losing records in The Game — John Cooper went 2-10-1 and one-year interim Luke Fickell was 0-1. On the other side of the field, only two Wolverines coaches (Schembechler and Gary Moeller) had winning records against the Buckeyes.

Both Schembechler and Moeller were born in The Great State of Ohio (Barberton and Lima, respectively). Both played their college football in Ohio for Woody Hayes (Miami and Ohio State), and Bo spent six seasons as one of Woody’s assistant coaches at OSU.

Another fun fact: Two of Michigan’s three Heisman Trophy winners were born in Ohio; the third was born in Indiana. Of OSU’s six Heisman winners, only two were born outside of Ohio. And a Columbus kid by the name of Griffin is still the only player to win the award twice.

I could go on, but in the end, facts are facts. Numbers don’t lie. Ohio State has owned Michigan for quite some time.

Is The Game a rivalry? In historical terms, absolutely — win-loss records show that the teams have battled to a virtual draw. It has all the tradition and lore it needs to maintain its claim as “The Greatest Rivalry in Sports.”

In recent decades, though some of the contests have been “competitive,” almost every game has gone the Buckeyes’ way. We’ll have to wait to see if yesterday’s result will return The Game to its true (and well-deserved) “rivalry” status.

That’s probably the last I’ll give any thought to sports for a while, maybe ’til this time next year. It used to be fun. It’s just not anymore.

Take care of yourselves, Patriots. Stay calm. Stay sharp. Stay free.

#WiseUp #LibertyOrDeath

#LetsGoBrandon #FJB