Ohio State fans follow in a long if less bloody line of spectator history that dates to ancient Rome, when carnage was all the rage.
During the early second century, Roman Emperor Trajan celebrated his military victories by overspending on thousands of gladiators and the carnivorous beasts that devoured the soldier-prisoners and other rebels.
Considering how the Buckeyes’ football program was just valued at $1.5 billion, OSU athletic director Gene Smith can afford to schedule a few unfortunate Rebels to feed to the Buckeyes.
Of course, we no longer condone such savagery, but don’t be fooled — we also have not come so far as a civilization that we turn our eyes from the old-fashioned butt-whuppins that happen in our luxury-suite coliseums.
Ohio State led UNLV 37-0 with nine minutes left in the first half on Saturday, treating the Rebels like unarmed captives, before finally going thumbs down on them, 54-21.
Are you not entertained?
Yes, you are. The majority of Buckeye Nation would rather watch a blowout than a close game — a Dispatch in-game Twitter poll put the number at 62 percent to 38 percent in favor of a walkover — which means most of the 106,187 cooked lobsters who baked in 90-degree heat got what they came for.
As much as nail-biters are needed at times, allowing teams to test their mettle under duress, fans foam at the mouth when their teams crush opponents like empty water bottles.
Annihilation can be quite entertaining. Truth be told, players and coaches enjoy it, too. (Full disclosure, print sports writers also pull for scores of 50-0, at least on deadline.)
“You know this kind of game is not that big of stakes,” said defensive end Nick Bosa, who had a sack and two other tackles for loss against a UNLV line that could have been plucked from Blue Man Group. Keeping with the Vegas theme, I think I saw Shecky Greene playing cornerback and Celine Dion manning a safety position in a secondary that allowed 474 yards passing and saw the Buckeyes set a school record with seven receivers catching touchdown passes.
Yes, the Rebels’ defense was that bad.
“These games build confidence,” Bosa said.
They also build your resume.
“When you’re on the field, you’re playing 100 percent every play,” Bosa continued. “We’re also playing for our name, trying to get stats to help for our future. So we’re going out there to play. No messing around.”
Love the honesty.
Blowouts also allow more inexperienced players to see action, which makes routs fun for both young and old.
“When you have games like this, you try to go out and execute on all cylinders, to allow our young guys to get in and perform,” said hybrid back Parris Campbell, whose 105 yards receiving on only three catches provided the No. 1 lesson to be learned by lopsided games like this; namely, that talent trumps all.
I know what some of you are thinking: “But what about when the Buckeyes play better competition?” It’s a fair question. In 1969, Ohio State outscored its first eight opponents 371-69 before getting shocked by Michigan. More recently, how well did beating Nebraska and Maryland back-to-back by a combined score of 124-6 help OSU last season, when the Buckeyes followed with a one-point win against Michigan State, three-point win against Michigan and 31-0 loss to Clemson?
Fair enough, but put the hand-wringing on hold for now. It’s not like Saturday’s cakewalk provided nothing to critique. There were just dumb mistakes by Ohio State’s defense — four penalties on the secondary and a roughing-the-punter gaffe — to keep nit-picking fans happy, plus the benefit of lighter traffic after the game as the stadium sat nearly empty by the fourth quarter.
Overall, the Romans went home happy.