As we arrived in Columbus, the anticipation for kickoff was almost unbearable and we were a mere five hours away. It’s become a yearly ritual that a group of us attend the Ohio State/Wisconsin game every year and we were all giddy with excitement to reunite once again for this rivalry.
After a little tailgating and shopping, we made our way over to the skull session but watched from the entrance where the band and the team would enter in St John’s arena. I met the mom of a bass drummer who was participating in his first ramp entrance that evening. It’s stories like this that adds to the mystique of going to games in Columbus. As Urban Meyer and daughter Nikki entered through the old doors of the aging arena, a tall dark figure appeared behind them and it clicked, it was none other than two-time NBA champion LeBron James. After everyone filed in, I heard the King was greeted by a good mixture of boos and cheers as he gave the annual speech to the Buckeye faithful.
As we made our way over to the Shoe, we encountered many a star along the way. Former coach John Cooper took the time to chat on a street corner and take a picture. That was quickly followed by an encounter with former president Gordon Gee who thanked us for coming to the game. Then it was former Wisconsin coach, and current Athletic Director, Barry Alvarez. We posed for a picture with the former great and I asked him to don a Buckeye hat for the picture to which he “respectfully” declined.
We made our way to our seats and were greeted by several very loud and rude Wisconsin fans. I’ve been to numerous Ohio State/Wisconsin games in the past, and to the two B1G championship games, and I’ve always contested that Badger fans have been some of the most cordial fans I’ve been around. These fans changed that impression quickly. After a short scolding as they jeered during script Ohio and then also Carmen Ohio, they quickly became quiet. They became even more quiet after Braxton hit Evan Spencer in the end zone to give the Buckeyes a 7-0 lead. The crowd, even for a night game on national television, didn’t seem as loud as it has in the past. The game was close but it never seemed quite in jeopardy. We all wondered aloud at why Bradley Roby couldn’t seem to cover Abbrederis and we all gasped as Christian Bryant writhed in pain on the second to last play of the night. When it was all said and done, we swayed and sang Carmen Ohio and we knew that we just got the B1G season started in the right direction.
Believe it or not, that wasn’t the highlight of the night – at least for me. Anyone who knows my mom knows that over the past two games she has come to love one Kenny Guiton. That love has come not just for what he’s done on the field but also for his interviews, the way he carries himself, and for what everyone, including Urban, says about the young man. As we began to make our mile trek back to the parking lot, I noticed a young man in red pants and a black “gold pants” tee and realized it was Kenny. I yelled out for him and he acknowledged. I told my mom, “Mom, there’s Kenny Guiton!” Her face lit up and went right over and gave him a huge hug and told him what a great young man he was and that his family should be so proud. I’m sure these kids get slobbered on for what they do between the white lines on a daily basis, so for once I hope for Kenny, it was nice to be recognized for the person he is.