25. and we’re back.

big hole

This hasn’t been an especially intimidating place recently. Nor has the team that plays there.

That’s been bad for the Big Ten. It’s been bad for Ohio State. And it’s been bad for the greatest rivalry in sports.

And my sense is that those lean days are over.

I thought the arrival of an actual head coach — as opposed to a career coordinator — would mean an immediate improvement for Michigan. But this season’s turnaround has exceeded what I expected, and there’s a different feeling about this year’s game.

For most of the last 15 years, I went into this weekend expecting Ohio State to win. The game might be tight, but the advantages in coaching and talent almost always won out in the end.

Those advantages aren’t completely erased, but they’re closer this season than they have been in years.

Don’t get me wrong — I’ve enjoyed the hell out of Ohio State’s 12-3 run since 2000. It’s been crazy fun. But we’re returning to the real fun of this game — the intensity, the uncertainty, the fact that it matters.

It’s all back. And I’m ready.

24. trotting.


You’re surprised that I wore an Ohio State jersey? Have we met?

I’d always wanted to do the YMCA Turkey Trot, the annual 5K held in the city on Thanksgiving morning, if for no other reason that it would provide ample justification for the gorging that would occur later in the day.

So of course, I waited to do the race until the year when I’m not really allowed to gorge any longer.

But that’s my only gripe about this morning’s race. Well, that and that freaking hill coming around Commonwealth Place to Fort Duquesne Boulevard just as we’re hitting the third mile … that sucked a little bit, to be honest. But that’s a minor gripe — especially in a hilly town like Pittsburgh — and the only one I had about the race. I loved the course; I ran (or walked) past both PG newsrooms, over two bridges and past two stadiums, all on a perfect, sunny, 45-degree morning.

How’d I do? I joked on Wednesday about finishing last in my age group. And I was close.

But that’s not the point. The point is getting outside on a gorgeous morning. The point is enjoying the energy of your fellow runners. The point is responding to the people who are cheering you because you’re wearing an Ohio State jersey. The point is moving.

I did all those. I want to do it again. Soon. Thursday morning was too much fun not to.

20. you can take it with you.

blurry stadium

It was the last thing I did inside Ohio Stadium when I left after Saturday’s cold, rainy loss to Michigan State.

And it was the best way for me to start Michigan week.


Those concrete garlands – they’re “strung” all around the stadium, attached to the building’s original façade – are my connection between the current, expanded version of the stadium and the one that my grandfather worked on before it opened in 1922. I’m not especially superstitious, but I always make sure I go up the correct stairway to C Deck so I can touch one of those garlands. It’s a little thing, but it makes me feel like I have the entire weight of Ohio State football history behind me as I climb up to my seats.

The renovations to the stadium were completed in the early 2000s, and they added capacity to the building in two ways: the track was removed and the field was lowered, so additional seats could be added to the base of the lower bowl, and a new façade was erected outside the old one so C Deck could be expanded up an out. I don’t recall the first time I touched one of the garlands, but once I settled on that as a tradition, I’ll even backtrack down a second flight of stairs just to make sure I touch one before the game begins.

As you may be aware, I got my first tattoo last spring, a subtle – in theme, not in the size of the piece – display of my affection for Athens. Something having to do with Ohio State football was a natural for Tattoo No. 2, but getting a Block O or something else obvious just wasn’t going to work. But while struggling with potential ideas, Mrs. Crappy made a suggestion: What about those garlands? I immediately thought they would work as a bicep band.

erin tat selfie

So about a week after my birthday, I went back to see Erin at Kyklops. Once again she totally nailed what I had in mind.

tattoo stadium

And although there won’t be another trip to Ohio Stadium during the 2015 season, I will have a little bit of the stadium with me all the way through Michigan week.

18. buckeye beers.


I don’t have anything against Michigan beer. In fact, in terms of quality, I’d put Michigan up against nearly any other geopolitical territory on the face of the planet.

But there’s a unique football thing going on this week and next, and that means sticking to Ohio beer as much as possible. And as you can see from the Tower O’ Beer, shot Friday night in my folks’ basement, I’ll be off to a pretty good start by the time you read this Saturday afternoon.

Here’s your rundown, from top to bottom:

  • It could be that the broad beer style that makes me happiest these days is the unassuming brown ale, largely because it can be a whole bunch of different things. I found Gnarly Brown, from Cincinnati’s Madtree Brewing, on Fourth of July weekend and have picked up a six of it nearly every time we’ve been home since. It’s a bit stronger than many of the browns (there’s a pro football joke in there for you) I’m used to drinking, and the coffee flavor and brown sugar sweetness mix nicely.
  • Panther robust porter, from Rhinegeist in Cincy, is a new one for me. But I’ve been craving porters and stouts recently (see previous post and the Bison imperial stout), so I can’t wait to give it a try.
  • Dear Pittsburgh friends: Grocery stores in Ohio are different. As I wandered through the Sawmill Road Giant Eagle tonight, I came across two sample tables. At the first, I got a generous pour of Bergamot Blue mead from Brothers Drake — great stuff, by the way. At the second, I couldn’t pass up a taste of Beard Crumbs, a just-released oatmeal-raisin stout from Land Grant Brewing here in Columbus. I’ve never had an oatmeal stout like it; the raisins add just a touch of rich sweetness to what would be by itself a very good oatmeal stout. Our mead needs for the week are already set, but I couldn’t pass up a six of Beard Crumbs.
  • The brewery’s name is Land Grant.Their home is Columbus. Their IPA is called Stiff-Arm. The can is scarlet and gray. Duh.