Column: A friendly rivalry? Maybe not, but Undercover Michigander surprised by lack of hostility before The Game
Daniel J. Brenner | AnnArbor.com
And nothing happened.
Surely, this moment would help propel the denizens of Columbus into a full-on, foaming-at-the-mouth rage. At any minute, I expected to see projectiles being hurled from all angles toward the poor members of the band, who would be left with nothing but their instruments to defend themselves.
But, nothing happened.
Maybe it’s a sign the rivalry has cooled off the field, maybe it was a sign that it was just too cold to take hands out of pockets long enough to throw something at a Wolverine. At any rate, it was something resembling friendly outside of Ohio Stadium Saturday morning before the The Game between the University of Michigan and Ohio State University.
Daniel J. Brenner | AnnArbor.com
Cohen said he used to come to Columbus for the games quite often until the mid-1990s, when it just got to the point that he was too old to be confronting Buckeye fans. He returned with his son and nephew in 2009 expecting the worst but was pleasantly surprised by how they were treated. After the Wolverines’ victory in 2011, he thought the atmosphere would be a bit more hostile.
“I think there’s been a concerted effort by the university and security to clean things up because it was really embarrassing,” he said. “It was really hostile.”
For the most part, Wolverine fans were greeted with indifference by their Ohio State hosts. Since I arrived in Columbus Friday evening, my spotting of Michigan fans in the city has been irregular at best. Maybe they were laying low before game time for fear of retribution, or they were just wearing neutral colors and trying not to stand out. Those I did see out and about got almost no hassle.
Sure, there were a few cries of “Go home!” or “Michigan sucks!” But, the amount of heckling was small compared to the number of maize and blue-clad fans walking with their scarlet-and-gray clad friends.
Somewhere, Bo and Woody were appalled at the congeniality.
Marcia Arnold and Patty Bodnar were part of the biggest group of Michigan fans I saw gathered in one place near the southwest corner of the Horseshoe. Arnold showed me some photos she had taken, including one in which she had the gall to find a statue of Brutus the Buckeye and put a maize and blue scarf around its neck.
“He looked cold,” she reasoned.
Arnold’s daughter is on the U-M Dance Team and Bodnar’s daughter is the piccolo section leader in the Michigan Marching Band. They had heard the stories about Wolverine fans coming down to Columbus but neither reported being nervous about going into the Horseshoe for the game.
Bodnar said her daughter and her marching band compatriots had been hit by some ice balls at a Michigan-Ohio State hockey game in Columbus last year. Even though she and her friends had been treated well so far, she came prepared for the worst.
“We’ve got ponchos for protection from spit,” she said with a laugh.
I would be surprised if they ended up needing them — while Urban Meyer and Brady Hoke have done their best to ratchet up intensity in the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry, it seems the fans are more and more willing to let the teams fight it out on the field instead of in the stands or in the parking lots. Even your humble correspondent has managed to avoid having his car wrecked by key-wielding Buckeyes thus far.
Of course, I’m writing this halfway through the first quarter and there’s a lot of game left to be played at this point. The Michigan fans in Ohio Stadium — tucked away in a section that appears to be closer to Ann Arbor than the field of play — might yet experience some poor treatment by the sea of red surrounding them.
But, based on my experiences so far, I have to ask: Maybe it’s not so bad in this town after all? Perhaps having two good programs on the field is all that it takes to calm fans down enough to the point that they don’t want to kill each other any more?
We’ll see, I suppose.