Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Ohio State Issue...

What I didn't realize until I'd been in the Blue Jackets' community for a while is that there often seems to be a fairly clear division...that sometimes can become quite negative...between Ohio State and Blue Jackets fans. Now, in the spirit of full disclosure I have been a Buckeye fan pretty much since birth...and its the same old story. When I was little, football games was pretty much all there was to do (that and go to BalletMet at the Ohio Theater which I did also!) so that's what we did. Since age 5, I've been to almost every Buckeye game in the Shoe and quite a few away games as well. So, as the sports world seems poised on the edge of its seat to watch what is going to be the NCAA crushing of the decade it would seem, I wanted to address what to me seems to be the wrong fight for the Blue Jackets fans to take on.

FIRST: BUCKEYE FANS CAN BE JERKS: Let's get this one out of the way right off the bat. The Ohio State community that I know now is not the fan base I knew when I was little. We, as a majority, have - true to stereotype - become an arrogant, obnoxious, judgmental group of people who all seem to think they could easily coach a college football program since they know better than any player or coach. There are fans (too many of whom sit around me) who yell as if the world is going to end at every play that doesn't result in a touchdown or sack. I myself have yelled at other Buckeye fans to stop being such a-holes and, have been threatened with bodily harm by said fans for actually asking them to grow up (and this was AFTER a Buckeye victory).

SECOND: BUCKEYE FANS ARE NOT THE ENEMY: When Sami Lepisto came to us in the late season trade, he introduced himself to the fan base with some tweets that included references to Ohio State and O-H. This resulted in him getting quite a few commands to understand the difference. First, other than this being perhaps not the best way to welcome a new Blue Jacket to the community, I honestly don't understand why people demand the separation. By sheer numbers, we Ohioans didn't even have local exposure to hockey for a lot longer than hockey has been here. Call us stupid, but many people "don't get it" because we never had it to understand and appreciate for a while. Second, honestly, I don't see a lot of mocking or derisive talk coming from Buckeye Nation towards the Blue Jackets, explain that away as you will but these aren't people who are flat out refusing to support a hockey team, they just aren't grown that way 'round these parts. I want this to change but its going to take some time.

THIRD. BUCKEYE FANS MAY ACTUALLY HELP. If the football program is about to go down in flames (depending on who you listen to) wouldn't now be a good time to direct their passions somewhere else? To help fill the that growing number of empty seats at Nationwide Arena perhaps? Buckeyes are notorious for their rabid devotion...if you've got someone who already has these traits and they can transfer them to hockey is that wrong? Too often these year we've all talked about how Nationwide is too quiet. And there are a LOT of Buckeyes...the Alumni association is what, like the 3rd largest or something? The more of those we can get to accept CBJ as an Ohio team too the more our team identity stays with those who leave Ohio and grows with those who stay post-college. And lets face it, right now, a CBJ ticket is a lot easier to come by than an OSU one...

FOURTH: FOOTBALL IS NOT HOCKEY. I've already disclosed that I'm a football, and Buckeye fan since I could talk. But I will be honest, and say, that even when I lived in DC with the rabid Caps following and nary a football team to speak of (no, the Redskins are such a joke don't even use them as an example ;) ), it took quite some time for me to come to understand and appreciate hockey. So all those obnoxious Buckeyes who "don't give a damn" about the Blue Jackets, may just not be smart enough to understand the game in the first place. Why not invite one of them to come to a game? Show them what its all about. Transitioning one's passion from a stop-start game like football to something a lot more fluid and tactical such as hockey can take some time.

FINALLY: WHY WASTE THE ENERGY: Overall, if you're even still reading this and haven't discounted me as a Buckeye apologist, I don't understand why we even care. the Jerk Ohio State fans are gonna be jerks whether we do anything or not. Wasting our energy intentionally distancing ourselves from them or bad mouthing them is only gonna to alienate people who may simply be indifferent. I really really don't like basketball or baseball, but I don't hate on people who love the Clippers and hey, when they won the whole thing last year, I say "good on them". I say spend your time and mental energy on the things you like, rather than dragging down the things you don't. If someone shows up at Nationwide in a Buckeye shirt, unless you're 100% sure that they dislike the Blue Jackets and they can afford - and refused to buy - CBJ gear, don't hate on 'em. Now don't get me wrong, feel FREE to point out the Blue Line and encourage them to wear the proper colors, but it may just be their first game...welcome them in to the fold and show them why, in many ways, particularly in this coming year of lockouts, NCAA sanctions, strikes and ego-maniacal all stars in other sports, Hockey might just be the way to go!