Sunday, December 18, 2011

Welcome to the Shoe

OSU vs. UM
September 11, 2010

So I find myself with a bottle of Heineken and a $15 Rocky Patel cigar on Varney’s lawn tossing bags filled with corn kernels into a hole placed on an inclined plane just under 12 paces away. This tailgate activity is in anticipation of the meeting between The Ohio State University Buckeyes and the University of Miami Hurricanes. Ohio State is ranked number 2 and Miami is ranked number 12 prior to this early season contest. The football game isn’t until 3:30 p.m. but we are already in pre-game ritual mode at 10:30 a.m. (I know right away, it’s good to pace yourself. There will be more beers at the Thirsty Scholar and the Varsity Bar before the game.)

JV is an awesome host and he has worked his Columbus network so my boy Ben and I can sit front row center at the 50 freakin’ yard line. It’s dreamlike and remarkable. We are both Hurricanes, Ben being of a more recent vintage. The good fortune is too good to be true. I know Ben and I are both secretly worried that the ‘Canes might embarrass us in the Shoe, in front of 105,000+ fans, mostly in scarlet, grey and white but this is something to experience even if you have no stake the game.

It’s great to have Ben along. He gets a glimpse of my nephew’s success, bravado and good humor. Jim and Susan Varney are all smiles around their little girl, Colleen. She’s 17 months old and an absolute sweetheart. Don’t try to double cross her by offering a cookie without delivering the goods, though. She’s still a baby, but such an angel. Jim and Susan manage the compound on Sharon Hill with grace and ease. Still JV is determined to “get off the grid” and sell the house and eventually get some property with some acreage.

JV (Jim Varney) is his own man. He’s enjoying a good bit of success after years of building his roofing business. He is a bootstrap entrepreneur who proudly accepts his responsibility as a good corporate citizen. Universal Energy is not a complicated business model but it is one that requires full attention to details and relentless pursuit of insurance money of which his customers have claims after storm damage or deterioration over time. Your home needs to be right. You need to be whole. You need Universal Energy to make sure the job is done right. Universal Energy signs are popping up all over the state of O-H!….I-O! and you can’t fault JV for a little pride in his own alma mater.

Team spirit and school pride are both good things. But Miami has a reputation for gangsta swagger and Ohio State is the college experience on steroids. This isn’t a quaint college town and this ain’t just any given Saturday. These boys came to play. And the alumni, the town and the atmosphere is charged. This is NOT a neutral site. There are only smatterings of green and orange and white gear, Ben is sporting the shades and do-rag with a jersey and green pants that scream “I am a Hurricane” and I’m wearing a Miami baseball jersey. Both brave apparel choices as we enter enemy territory.

Jim warned us that Ohio State fans can be assholes, especially on game day when the pride is pumped up with each cold beer. They walk a fine line between gracious and vicious. You can see emotions run high. How you interpret trash talk and how you respond can easily ignite an explosion. It’s all in good fun. But it’s also wise to respect the away turf. Thousands of people milling around house parties, parking lots, bars and local taverns are getting ready for the big show at the Shoe. Not everyone is a ticket holder. This is a celebration and the game is on national television.

This is an event in Columbus, Ohio that you simply cannot ignore. If you are bold enough to be sporting Hurricane Gear you will most certainly be greeted with passing comments that fall into three categories:

1. Pity – “Oh, I’m so sorry. We hope you enjoy the day.”

2. Contempt – “You suck. You are going down.”

3. Sportsmanship – “Good luck and Fuck you.”

The outcome of the game is somewhat predictable. The Columbus Dispatch sports page put it this way: As classics go, this was no January night in Tempe, circa 2003. But who wants to live in the past anyway? Ohio State validated its No. 2 ranking with a big-game victory that was earned equally by its offence and defense. Now, about those special teams…

A perfect segue for media to feed on itself. God knows they need to sell newspapers and provide chatter for talk radio. Why not start the discussion with how we might improve the Buckeyes? Any expanded conversations about the Hurricanes play will be used only as a basis for given props to the Buckeyes. Example: Star of the Game - Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor. He passed for 223 yards and a TD and, most important, committed no turnovers. In the duel between him and Jacory Harris – and considering Harris was intercepted four times – the nod goes to Pryor.

You see they aren’t trying to dis the Hurricanes. They only wish to seek an illustration, albeit painful maybe, of how dominant they are as Buckeyes. Fine. But when the Hurricanes get home they can head to South Beach. The Buckeyes will have to drive a good distance away from Columbus to escape the smell of beer, the roar of self righteous fans and the sounds of wet-vacs in barroom restrooms.

Ohio remains among the hardest hit states for an ongoing economic downturn. Ohio State is a source of hope, optimism and a vision for the future. The Buckeyes, like the Hurricanes are part of a team that represents so much more. I’m happy for the Buckeyes and I was glad to witness their success, even though it was at the expense of My Hurricanes. The cool thing is, a handful of these players will be pulling down some major coin as professionals playing for the NFL on Sunday soon enough. Jim and Susan – I can’t thank you enough. Thanks for having us. I know Ben and I had a great time!

Wes Morgan is founder and Principal of Morgan Studio/East. Recent projects have included a new product (The Inferno by Harris), a food color ingredient campaign around a key industry trade show(ROHA) and a brand assignment for integrating the trademarks and logo treatments for RehabCare and Triumph. In September, Wes will start as Director of Marketing and Communication for Crossland Construction Company, a top100 contractor according to Engineering News Record. Contact:

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