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When winning isn't everything

November 22, 2008 |  8:50 pm

Ohiostate_500

I was probably 9 years old before I realized that the date of the Ohio State-Michigan game did not rank, like Christmas or the Fourth of July, as an actual holiday.

Bowl games were fine, especially if Ohio State was playing in one, but nothing was as big, as momentous, as red-letter, as all-consuming as the Buckeyes vs. the Wolverines. The family gathered, cheered and wept with the Bucks. My otherwise fiscally careful father had eternal faith in his team, and always bet his friends hugely, secretly on Ohio State. If the Bucks won, we knew we were in for an even better Christmas haul. 

I once broke up with a guy in no small part because he was foolish enough to schedule some all-day surprise excursion for us on the day of the big game. Someone who didn't ''get'' what this day meant around my house wasn't going anywhere -- not with me, anyway.

Well, that was then.

Today, for the fifth straight year, Ohio State beat Michigan. Beat? 42-7? That wasn't a game -- it was a mercy killing.

There's no real sport in that. The close scores, the gutty play, the seesaw victories year after year -- that's what makes a rivalry. Years ago, a Michigan fan who's a neighbor bet me a great bottle of red wine. We didn't drink it -- the loser always said, ''Wait until next year.'' The bottle went back and forth, unopened, until a few years ago, when I took what now looks to be almost permanent possession of it.

Oh, I'll drink it -- I'll even share it with him and his wife -- but it won't taste nearly as good as it would have if we'd each had almost as much to cheer about.

-- Patt Morrison

Photo: Ohio State's Brian Hartline catches a pass for a touchdown Saturday during a 42-7 victory over Michigan. Credit: Andy Lyons / Getty Images

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