I can think of at least three posts related to Saturday’s Michigan game, but we’re going to start with the one that will make this year’s edition memorable for me forever. We’ll get to the other stuff tomorrow.
It could have been the lack of sleep. It might have been the altered schedule. It could have been the heroic amount of alcohol I had the night before.
But for whatever the reason, I was a bit off my game on Saturday. The tailgate party was a good one — except for the part about Suzette setting the sleeve of her coat on fire on the propane heater (Suzette was fine, her coat was not) — but I was struggling to hold it together from the time my alarm went off at 4:50 a.m. Saturday morning.
The early start was my idea, and we were in the lot close to 7:30, which had been my goal. And almost as quickly as we got set up, it was apparent that the day would be a struggle for me. Two examples:
- It quickly became clear that the temperature was going to be cold enough that keeping my feet warm during the day would be a problem, even with the shiny, new propane heater. Did I bring my Sorels to Columbus? Nope, just my game Chucks and a couple pairs of socks.
- What should have been a fairly simple cooking morning turned into a hassle. We had pancakes, and they should have been easy; Crappydad, as he does, had these well planned (instant batter, already mixed in the bottles; syrup warming in a pot of water on the stove). Fred had a pot in which to heat his delicious maple sausage. Mrs. Crappy and I had pre-cooked some bacon, which only needed to be heated in the morning. But: Our Coleman griddle wouldn’t stay lit. One bottle of gas for the Coleman stoves wouldn’t screw into anything but the non-functioning griddle. And because I didn’t bring our table from Pittsburgh, I was stuck making pancakes with our stove sitting on the grass outside Campbell Hall.
Frustrating things both, but neither one would have been enough to kill the day. Everyone ate, and seemed pleased with the food, and those little hand-warmer things took care of my feet all day.
One thing did work well. I wanted to start early — and finish early — to give my folks plenty of time to walk to the stadium. Michigan pregame stuff — senior day, Script (a special one this weekend, as a neighbor of my parents, Jocelyn Smallwood, was making history as the i-dotter), getting to hate on The Victors right there in front of me — is not to be missed. We did the toast, sent my folks on their way, and began packing up so the rest of us could head inside.
Truck is packed. I’m organizing the stuff I always take inside. And I am hit with a stunning, crushing realization.
I have no tickets.
- I have a velcro Ohio State wallet that I take into games. I pack it in my sister’s old bedroom before each home game: driver’s license, my debit card, whatever cash I have … and the tickets. On Saturday morning, though, I couldn’t find the wallet. It wasn’t in with my tailgating stuff because I had taken it out the weekend before when we came to Columbus to watch the Wisconsin game with Matlock and the Coochie Doctor, and I hadn’t put it back. I am certain that if I had gone through that part of my preparation before we left the house, I would have remembered the tickets. But I was in a hurry, I couldn’t find the damn wallet, and didn’t think about that other, fairly important step.
- It is almost like clockwork. As we pull down the driveway, someone — usually my mother — asks if everyone has the tickets. On Saturday, no one did. I have no idea why.
OK. It’s about 11:15. Game time is listed at noon, but with all the extra stuff, will probably actually start around 12:10. I have to get back to my folks’ house. Right now.
But I am immediately presented with problems (and, fortunately, solutions):
- My dad has the truck keys. But there’s always an extra set inside, and I can get in with the keypad on the door.
- OK, I have the extra keys. But they don’t have a key to the lock Crappydad uses to lock the bike rack (he usually rides from where we park to the stadium, because it’s easier on his legs) to the truck. Miracle: He forgot to lock the rack to the truck on Saturday.
Once in the car and headed back towards Upper Arlington, I start thinking about the other things that could go wrong. I’m reasonably sure I won’t have trouble getting off campus — and I didn’t, reaching 315 south from the ramp by the OSU Medical Center without hardly stopping — but I have no idea if I’m going to be able to get anywhere close when I return.
But first, I’m concerned only with getting back to the house as quickly as possible. Our path home has been set for years, because while it’s slightly out of the way, it almost always keeps us out of football traffic after games; that ramp takes us to 315 south, which we follow to 670 west, the Dublin Road (Route 33) exit and that pretty much straight to my parents’ home.
And let me tell you, boys and girls: without revealing any incriminating details, I made that 10.3-mile drive in record time.
I got into the house without setting off the security alarm — given the way my day had gone to that point, it wouldn’t have surprised me a bit to screw that up too — grabbed the tickets and jumped back in the truck, all while saying a prayer to whatever Greater Being that might be paying attention that I could get reasonably close to campus after the trip back — and not get caught in any traffic.
McCoy Road? No problem, but I’m still miles away. Kenny? Nothing. I turned on to Woody Hayes Drive, and see signs that say “Parking passes only”: I’m expecting to get turned away before I get to Herrick … but no, I can make the right turn with no trouble. I’m panicking as I pass the cars parked along Herrick … but still no traffic.
I’m thinking the light at Herrick and Cannon is the point of no return; if I make it past there, I’m going to be OK. I’m probably the only vehicle the cops standing at that intersection have seen for a while; they look, but they don’t stop me. I turn left at the Neil Avenue Garage, wondering if I’m going to have to sweet talk the parking attendants to get back into our lot … and they’re not there.
In fact, the only people I see in the lot are Mrs. Crappy and Ann, Fred and Ethel’s awesome sister-in-law, who stayed with Mrs. Crappy while she waited on me; they were having enough fun, in fact, that they sent me ahead (once Mrs. Crappy secured her ticket in her hand) to the stadium.
I was just outside our gate when I heard the unmistakable roar that comes with an Ohio State touchdown. I had missed a bunch of stuff I wait all year to see — it especially killed me to miss Jocelyn’s Script — but my monumental mistake had cost us just one touchdown and only a few minutes of the game. I was panting when I reached our seats in 14C, but I took a healthy swallow from the flask I had shoved in my pants on the way inside, took a deep breath, and stood to cheer my Buckeye defense.
I needed breaks. I got them. And, via a circuitous, harrowing route, I made it home for the Michigan game.
A favor: If we text, tweet or follow each other on Facebook, set an alarm for 7 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 29. When that alarm goes off, by whatever means you have available, send me the following message: “Hey, dumbass — do you have your tickets?”