As an Ohio State Alumni and avid buckeye fan, I have a lot of pride in my Alma mater and love for the Ohio State football team. And like any Father, I look forward to imparting (or forcing) this love for my team to my son (or down his throat). So you can see why I had some high expectations when taking Zachary to Ohio State’s spring game at the Shoe on Saturday. I figured this would be a good practice run for when we would go to an actual game. This being the beginning of a long tradition of Father-Son Football Saturdays, going to the stadium year after year until one day as the first ever, 3 time Heisman winning quarterback of the Buckeyes, he hoists his 4th National Championship trophy above his head, will say to NBC sportscaster, “I couldn't have done this without the love and support of my father. And it all started because he took me to the OSU spring game when I was six and I fell in love with the game. Thanks Dad! Next stop the Superbowl!” But no pressure. I keep my future expectations low.
Well Zachary and I drive down to campus and park in the west campus parking lot with plans to take the CABS bus to the stadium. Now one of my memories of going to the OSU with my dad was parking far away, walking 2 miles to the stadium (to save money on parking), and my dad speed walking the whole time as he dodged in and out of the crowds like we were in an unspoken foot race with the rest of the fans with the ultimate goal of getting to our seats to then sit and wait for the game to start. I never understood what the rush was but it happened every time. So as Zachary and I were walking to the bus stop, I found myself walking faster and Zachary trailing behind. He was enjoying a leisurely stroll to the game as I was trying to bust tail to get our general admission seats with 30 minutes to go before the game started. We make it to the bus and we sit behind a dad with his 2 boys ages 4 and 5. As I am trying to point out the stadium and the twin towers as we get closer, Zachary begins a “poking” game with the 5 year old in front of him, not looking outside. We then walk to the stadium alongside Zachary’s new friends. And as thousands of OSU fans move toward the Horseshoe, among the chaos of the crowds and traffic, Zachary begins to play tag with his new friend. Dodging and weaving between people, getting in their way, stopping and starting, bumping into people. The priority for me was to take in the grandeur of the stadium as we approach and drink in the culture and comradery of OSU fans young and old coming together in one place to celebrate “our” team, and his priority was to not be “it.” As we get closer, we pull away from that family and go our separate ways because I know that if we were to sit by them, this game of tag would be the only game he cared about today.
We get into the stadium, grab some food, and find our seats. We are on A deck, so I am loving being so close. I have never and probably never will again be this close because I don’t give $5 million a year to the alumni association. The game starts and it holds his attention for about 10 minutes. And when I say “it”, I mean his hot dog. As expected, he is looking around and talking it all in. He watches the game when I point something out like “Look, number 5 has the football and he is going to pass it.” Otherwise, he looks at the scoreboard and around at the crowd. Then after the hot dog I notice that he is not watching the game at all but is strictly looking around at the crowd. He gets up walks away, comes back, and is generally very distracted. I finally ask him what he doing. I am thinking maybe he is looking for the bathroom or for more food or the awesomeness of OSU football is too much to take in and he is becoming emotional about his father bringing him to this significant moment in time where he falls in love with football and his entire collegiate career hangs on this moment where it all started. But he says to me, “I am looking for my new friend.” In a stadium of 60,000 people. So much for round 1 of the NFL draft. I tell him that he will probably not see his friend again because there are too many people here and he says to me, “But I didn’t get to say goodbye.” Doesn’t that melt your heart? I would have gone looking for him but there were probably 1000 other 5 year olds wearing red there so our chances for finding him were slim. After this I try to distract him by imparting my football wisdom to him. And in the middle of my telling him about the different plays and positions, he interrupts and yells “Brutus!” Apparently my fatherly wisdom about the game of football which was passed down to me by my father and now being passed down to my son was not as important as watching a guy wear a giant nut on his head as he twerked it to Rihanna.
After the Brutus booty show, we settle back in watching the game. Well, I am watching the game and he sitting quiet next to me. I decide to take out my phone to capture this beautiful moment on video. The massive waves of scarlet and gray , the roar of the crowd, the announcers calling plays, the team on the field, the gigantic scoreboard, etc. I get very sentimental, not believing that I will have documented proof of my first born son’s first Buckeye football game that we shared together that I can look back on and watch the awe and majesty in his eyes as he watches the game. And as I pan the crowd and the field and the scoreboard and drink in the moment as the band plays the fight song, I then pan to my eldest son…
Well it was only the Spring game, we'll try again in the fall...and not wear hats.
The Joyful and Tired Dad