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.

23. i’m talking to you.

If you and I have:

  • Had a beer
  • Watched a game
  • Attended a tailgate party
  • Cooked for each other
  • Gone to a yoga class
  • Gone out for dinner
  • Raved about music
  • Played Cards Against Humanity
  • Compared tattoos
  • Met for lunch
  • Spent the weekend at each other’s homes
  • Seen a concert
  • Caught up at a reunion
  • Talked on Twitter, by text or even on Facebook or Snapchat
  • Taken a walk in the rain or snow
  • Discussed beer, mead or cider
  • Laughed so hard we cried
  • Sipped a glass of whiskey (or whisky)
  • Hung around a backyard campfire
  • Traded blog comments
  • Cheered each other’s successes and lamented our failures
  • Been there for each other, even in seemingly insignificant ways

…in the last year, I so am thankful to have you in my life.

Happy Thanksgiving, yinz guys.

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.

ohio-stadium-garland

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.