For Frankie’s sake, I am thankful that the football side of Ohio State football finally is back to being a focal point — at least for the moment — because the past six weeks have been hard on my GoBucks neighbor. I was beginning to worry about him.
You probably know Frankie. If not, maybe look in the mirror? He owns loads of OSU memorabilia and often is spotted in clothes colored or accented in scarlet and/or gray. (The blackout thing hasn’t caught on with him yet.) Such fans have at least one Ohio State-themed object at his house; in Frankie’s case, it’s a back deck featuring four OSU signs, one of which reads, “Parking for Buckeye fans only.”
Anyway, my concern began several weeks ago when, as neighbors often do, we struck up a conversation while taking out the trash. That’s ironic, because lately Frankie thinks the normally sweet aroma that punctuates the lead-up to college football season smells more like an unwashed garbage can.
“I always get excited this time of year, but this stuff has just killed it,” he muttered.
“Stuff” requires no explanation. Like curbside waste, you know it when you smell it. Suspensions. Allegations. Apologies. Anything but the blessed assurance that kick-butt Saturdays in the Horseshoe are right around the corner.
Frankie and I did not discuss where we stand on the more controversial Ohio State issues of the day. My rule is never talk politics or column topics with anyone who knows where I live. But no discussion was necessary. Frankie was clearly glum about … stuff.
I get it. August is the electric tingle to the actual first game of the season. Of course there are jitters about Ohio State’s opener against Oregon State on Saturday, but it is a good nervous, like the first day of school. There is that thing about coach Urban Meyer not being on the sideline because of a three-game suspension, but no worries — TBDBITL will gain more yards than the Beavers.
I get it. Frankie and many other fans want Ohio State football, not state of Ohio speculation about who did what, who is telling the truth and what happened to those text messages on Meyer's phone.
About all that, let me push back by saying it is disingenuous to claim there is little interest in news outside of block-and-tackle football. That claim falls apart when positive stories appear — and they appear quite often — reporting how Meyer visited hospital patients or signed an autograph that made a kid’s day.
People love that stuff, even though it also has nothing to do with actual football. What critics really are saying is they want no negative news about OSU. Puppies and lollipops all the time. But you can’t have it both ways. News happens indiscriminately.
That said, Frankie is not wrong. The fun of college football plays out between the goal lines, not between Dumpsters in the loading dock of the Longaberger Alumni House, where a media stakeout and other stuff went down last week.
For fans, the truly enjoyable aspects of fall camp includes getting to know the new players, anticipating how well the Buckeyes will perform and wondering if Nick Bosa can possibly be better than his brother, Joey. (He can.) This is a time to debate the preseason rankings, pointless though they be, and wonder what Jim Harbaugh has up his sleeve in Ann Arbor.
Last week we enjoyed a few days of simulated autumn weather. You may not have felt it, with the storm that accompanied the suspensions of Meyer and athletic director Gene Smith. But here’s the thing: Such stuff cannot snuff out the thrill of what is to come.
College football season sprouts every September whether the $7 million man is on the sideline or backup plan Ryan Day is there instead. Columbus in the fall resembles a football-crazy Whoville. “The college season came just the same.”
So fear not, Frankie. Just as we suffered through a late spring, the excitement for the upcoming season is a tad behind. It ramps up this week, even though there is more stuff to come — second-degree public relations burns do not heal quickly. But the fun will find its way to you sooner than later.
I can even jump-start it for you. If quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr. is the real deal, Ohio State is sitting pretty for a playoff spot. Sure, Penn State will be tough, Michigan could create mayhem and Wisconsin is stacked. Oh, and Alabama is still out there.
But compared to what has happened over the past month, well, at least it’s football.