Ever since November 22, 1997, I’ve been hooked on Ohio State Football.
Every Ohio State fan and every Michigan fan should always remember that day.
For Michigan fans, Charles Woodson sealed the Heisman Trophy. For Ohio State, it was a blown chance to go to the Rose Bowl and even possibly compete for the national title.
For me, it was the beginning of a lifelong fandom and dedication to Ohio State football.
Unfortunately, I live in Columbia, South Carolina—The home of the South Carolina Gamecocks. There wasn’t much room for me to express my love for my favorite team at first, but I made room anyway.
The life of being a Buckeye fan in SEC country is, well, rough.
In elementary school, I let my fandom be known, and was called a traitor, idiot and all sorts of names routinely for not succumbing to liking the USC Gamecocks.
They didn’t understand that beating Michigan was more important than their rivalry with Clemson.
And without a doubt, it was.
As Jim Tressel came and succeeded in winning Big Ten titles as well as a national title, I was always the target of jokes whenever we had an embarrassing loss or whatever the case was.
Because I live in South Carolina, everyone expects that if you aren’t a USC or Clemson fan, you must like another team in in the SEC.
For me, how I saw an SEC fan: An SEC fan wouldn’t let you live down that infamous bowl record. And I mean that literally.
I could recall in high school not wanting to go to school the day after both national championship games,because I knew I would be brutally teased by the Florida and LSU fans respectively.
Any Ohio State football fan can tell you that those two years were the hardest. Being reminded that your team can’t compete with the speed of the SEC stings a bit.
I knew better. I knew Jim Tressel wasn’t being aggressive enough. I knew he came in thinking Tresselball would be successful. But to them that never mattered.
In the midst of that, I had to deal with USC fans who didn’t know their place.
I can’t remember a time when a USC fan didn’t bring up how Ohio State lost to the Gamecocks twice in the Outback bowl.
Yes, the two games held in the 2000 and 2001 bowl seasons.
All of that ended whenever I would ask how many conference/national titles they won though.
Although it was a burden, I never backed down from my pride in Ohio State.
If Ohio State was the brunt of jokes in America after those national title losses, the state of South Carolina convinced me it was the chairman of the board, assisting the charge.
Everyone else lead behind Florida and continued to add insult to injury to every Buckeye fan imaginable. Including me, of course.
But, that wouldn't last forever. The greatest, most recent great memory I have is our win versus Arkansas in the 2011 Sugar Bowl.
Had I lived in Columbus or anywhere in Ohio, I would have been able to celebrate with fellow Buckeye fans and join in their optimism and hopefulness. We would have all believed that this game would finally end the streak against the SEC.
But I wasn’t, I was in South Carolina being reminded that my Ohio State Buckeyes couldn’t compete with Arkansas because we’re too slow.
I knew we had the potential to win, but wasn’t allowed to believe it.
But when Ohio State did actually beat Arkansas, I had a tear come down. Finally, there was no more "too slow" or "not good enough to compete" talk. It was finally over and so were the jokes.
Being an Ohio State Buckeye fan in Columbia South Carolina is like being the black sheep of a family. After the win over Arkansas, the SEC jokes died down, but USC didn’t forget to tell me about their success the past two seasons.
I more than likely will be a Buckeye fan for life. The love is that strong. But growing up a Buckeye in South Carolina, more specifically SEC country isn’t an easy thing to do.
Buckeye fans from Ohio to California go through the same thing, except for me, it's worse than for most. I’m in the heart of the criticism, and it's not always an easy thing to swallow.
I'll still be here in South Carolina for the time being, representing Ohio State football on Saturdays, during every off season, and come bowl time (after this season).
It doesn’t matter where I am. My allegiance to Ohio State will remain. Yes, even here in SEC country.