So Blue.

In early 2002, Paul and I accompanied our friend Dave to ‘The Joe’ to cheer on the University of Alaska Nanooks in the qualifying finals for the collegiate hockey championship. Dave is a born and raised Alaskan, from Fairbanks, and a graduate of University of Alaska.

Pause for a moment and consider what it means to play hockey for the University of Alaska. Kids from the lower 50 don’t play hockey for Alaska. Alaskans, who have been playing nothing else BUT hockey their entire lives (what other sport do you play in Alaska?!), are the ones who end up in Fairbanks. Further, the best players get lured away from their home state, leaving the Fairbanks team with the kids who either don’t get those offers or can’t bring themselves to leave home. To Alaskans, that darn game on ice is everything.

So, in this particularly important game, the kids from Fairbanks were playing Ohio State. I’m not a huge sports fan and prior to this moment, had no ill feelings what-so-ever about Ohio State, even though I was a graduate student at the University of Michigan at the time. I was excited to see live hockey and ready to cheer on the ‘nooks with the two dozen or so others who had made it ALL THE WAY DOWN FROM ALASKA to see the game. The fact that they were playing Ohio State made no difference to me. The game was in The Joe (home of the Red Wings) and was a Seriously Big Deal.

I should also note that previously in this season, the ‘nooks had blasted the Buckeyes in two not-even-close games.

The Joe is a huge arena and our little ramble-rousing group barely took up a few rows. Ohio State was very well represented with a huge band, cheerleaders, and big fan group who traveled an hour or so from Columbus. The game started with Ohio State skating out to Slim Shady, no helmets or masks, showing off their matching Eminem bleached coifs. (Tacky.) They then proceeded to play the roughest, dirtiest, most un-sportsmanship oriented hockey I have ever seen. The bleached bastards were simply ugly: throwing punches when the refs turned a back, calling out obscenities, and just generally being gross. The fans were even worse. Coupled with the band and cheerleaders, it was almost too much to stand. They were, without compare, the rudest, grossest, most obnoxious “fans” I have ever encountered.

Yet the kids from Fairbanks spent the game playing above it. They had less shots, but better ones, and played some damn good hockey. I was seriously impressed that they kept to the ice, ignoring the other players and their obnoxiousness. Somehow, in the final period, Ohio pulled up to tie and the game went into overtime… to be won by a terribly lucky, cheap shot put in by a Buckeye. And when Ohio State, both the team and the fans, were obnoxious and rude about the win, the Fairbanks kids smiled with disappointment and patted the louses on the back.

From that moment on, I have cheered for any team playing against Ohio State. I won’t go as far as to say that I hate Ohio State, but if I said a nightly prayer, there would probably be a line with something like, “and God, please look into whatever event Ohio State is participating in tomorrow and ensure that those schmucks get seriously whipped. Amen.”

I was doing my part to get those prayers in when my Alma Matter, Michigan, met in Columbus to play Ohio State last weekend. Considering that the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry is THE biggest rivalry in athletics (Auburn? Whose ever heard of Auburn?) and the two were ranked #1 and #2, this was a big weekend for Michigan-loving folks. My fingers were crossed, but apparently my line to the divine is on the fritz. What a sad day in Mudville. I was, however, impressed by some Ohio State fans who put aside their obnoxious ways to honor beloved Michigan coach Bo Schembechler, who died on the eve of the game.

But even with those nice gestures, they’re all still wankers. GO BLUE!