Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Its OK to be a huge Buckeyes fan in East Lansing

November 2, 2000

I admit it, I’m a Buckeye.

Sure, I only lived in Ohio for the first 10 months of my life, but I proudly root for my gridiron heroes from Columbus as though I grew up in the shadow of the Horseshoe.

Before I go any further, let me clarify that I consider myself a Spartan fan too. I’ve held season tickets for football, basketball and hockey in all three of my years here.

My formative years were clearly spent on Michigan soil. There’s no denying that. I can’t even remember what it was like to live in Ohio. Yet I root for the Reds over the Tigers and the Bengals over the Lions.

Why, you ask?

Because of loyalty - the most admirable quality a sports fan can have. I grew up rooting for the Reds, the Bengals and the Buckeyes and I will continue to as long as I live.

Somewhere along the way, I was probably watching an Ohio State vs. Illinois game when somebody informed me that I was born in Ohio. Therefore I should have cheered for them to beat the Illini.

From that day forward, I’ve been a Buckeye fan through and through. Maybe I liked their uniforms. Maybe I liked their stadium or the Buckeye players. Maybe I just liked being different from all the annoying kids in my elementary school who rooted for Michigan.

I don’t know why I continued cheering for the Bucks after that one game, but I did. And that’s the important thing - I’ve never wavered. If I grew up rooting for the Florida Gators, Alabama Crimson Tide or Penn State Nittany Lions, it would be the same way.

Still, people at MSU can’t understand why I’m a Buckeye fan. They tell me I should root for the Spartans since I pay to attend the university.

They don’t understand that loyalty is far more important than where my tuition dollars go. Sports-fandom thrives in the heart, not the brain. True sports fans have emotional, not logical, connections to their teams.

When the MSU football team beat top-ranked Ohio State in 1998, I cried for two days. I walked around campus with my head down for the rest of the month, muttering under my breath how ironic it was that my own school ruined everything for me and my favorite team.

Last football season, I stood like a pillar of Buckeye hope, smack dab in the middle of the Spartan student section. My student section. The place where I have held season tickets during my entire collegiate career.

I wore my 4-by-6 flag as a cape over my scarlet “Buckeyes” sweatshirt to Breslin Student Events Center as my Buckeye basketball team took on the mighty Spartans.

I was subjected to many hostile words from Spartan faithful - my own classmates and the people I cheer alongside at every other game. Not that I blame these people - I’d do the same if they wore foreign colors to Ohio Stadium or the Schottenstein Center.

Then folks ask me, “If you like Ohio State so much, why didn’t you go there?”

Although I respect the academic reputation of The Ohio State University, I don’t cheer for its Moot Court team or Spanish Club with the same fervor in which I follow Mike Doss and the football team. I’m a fan of Buckeye athletics, not academics.

I chose to go to MSU for many reasons. The in-state tuition is cheaper than going out-of-state. It’s closer to my home. I have friends from high school here. And MSU has an outstanding journalism school.

On Saturday, while the “Michigan State Fight Song” is blaring from frat houses and mobs of people clad in green huddle around the television, I’ll be pacing in my apartment, wearing my lucky Ohio State shirt. I’ll be screaming at the refs to call MSU linemen for holding and imploring flanker Ken-Yon Rambo to break Spartan tackles and go the distance.

The week after, I’ll be back alongside Spartan fans, cheering for MSU to upset Purdue at Spartan Stadium.

Later this month, I’ll be speeding down U.S. Highway 23 to the Horseshoe to see my Buckeyes play U-M. This will be the fourth consecutive year that I’ll be in attendance at college football’s greatest rivalry, and I hope to continue the tradition for many more years.

In the all-important world of sports, sticking with your favorite team through thick and thin is the only way you can truly revel in their accomplishments and wallow in their failures.

I salute all of you die-hard Spartans, but it’s just not for me.

James Jahnke, State News sports general assignment reporter, can be reached at jahnkeja@msu.edu.

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