January 4th, 2011. A week before my wife and I had scheduled her induction to welcome our son into the world. Yes, we were trying for 1/11/11, and who wouldn’t with that easy to remember number. So there I was, sitting behind my desk, doing some early season tax work and readying myself for an inevitable BCS loss to Arkansas that night. The Granddaddy of Them All the year prior had given me a glimmer of hope, but it could not completely erase the memories of 2006-2008.
So I was hearing the jabs from my coworkers (who were from Cal, UC Santa Barbara, Sonoma State University, and Vanderbilt respectively) about how Tressel and the Buckeyes couldn’t win against the SEC. How we were cheaters and were only playing our best guys because Jim Delaney pulled some strings behind the curtains. The only guy that had my back was the Illini. Conference above all others.
I heard all about tattoos, free cars, and weed. I heard all about Terrelle Pryor and his insatiable need to wear Burberry scarves. I heard all about the special treatment that the NCAA’s golden program was getting. And I took it all in stride. It was nothing that we as fans hadn’t heard a million times since the news broke, and it was nothing that we wouldn’t hear a million more times, even as scandals at other institutions dwarfed Ohio State’s. To this day, OSU seems to be the case upon which all others are compared. But I let it all roll off my back as I focused on a stack of tax forms.
Then came the call, around 2 pm.
“Honey, we’re going to induce tonight. Doctor said we shouldn’t wait another week.”
First thought: Great Holy Galahad, I get to meet my son today. Second thought: Did we even decide on a name? Third thought: Wait, the Sugar Bowl is on tonight. That’s exactly what happened, in that order, and I will swear to that to my grave.
So I did what any expecting father would do. I called ahead to the hospital to ensure that our room was ready and that it carried the requisite channels on which to enjoy the game. I figured that my wife was already on her way to the hospital, so they would have begun the induction process by the time I got there, leaving us ample time to welcome our boy into the world and for us to get back to the room for the last 10 minutes of the Gameday crew.
Little did I know just how wrong I was. It was well into the first quarter before my wife even made it into prep for her delivery, and there she was, humoring me by watching the game. At one point, she may even feigned a bit of interest as Boom punched his way into the endzone to put the Buckeyes up 7. Ohio State was cruising towards a 2006-esque blowout, and I couldn’t have been happier. We were finally vindicating ourselves and getting that SEC monkey off our backs. Then the nurse came into the room to say that we were ready.
Our son came into this world with amazing timing. I went into the delivery room as Hocker’s kick went through the uprights, and we were back in our room by the time that the whistle blew for the second half to begin. Thank goodness for extended halftime shows for bowl games. Yet as I stood there, lording over the newest addition to Buckeye Empire, I had a sudden sense of providence. This was meant to be. This event took place on this date so that I would remember. Remember, even though the NCAA says the game never happened. Remember that very special feeling that can only exist between a father and his son as they experience an Ohio State game together for the first time. Remember that there are certainly things bigger than football, but football tends to ease old pains, while exposing an entirely new set altogether. Remember that, no matter where you live, or if you went to college or not, you can still be called “Buckeye.”
My son did not need to wait until September for his first taste of Buckeye football. His introduction to the Scarlet and Gray came mere minutes after he came into this world. Some of the first words he heard were “FORWARD PROGRESS!!!” and “Oh my god, Solomon Thomas, I will never speak ill of you again.”
The first song he ever heard was Carmen, Ohio. I stood there with my newborn son in my arms and sang right along with the team.
So don’t tell me the Sugar Bowl never happened. Even my son knows different.