What's So Wrong with Ohio State University?

Dear Ohio State: Drop the "The"

This Sunday, as nearly 100 million Americans tune in to the Super Bowl, CBS will likely utilize a popular procedure for introducing the starting lineups, with each player stating his name and then his alma mater. Peculiarly, when Will Smith of the New Orleans Saints and Anthony Gonzalez of the Indianapolis Colts introduce themselves, they'll feel it necessary to include what's known by English majors as an article adjective to qualify the exact institution to which they are referring. That institution is Ohio State University. Or, in the words of OSU alumni and fans, The Ohio State University.

Oh, that Ohio State University. Thank you for clarifying.

Technically, on paper, it is The Ohio State University. But most rational individuals find use of the "The" rather vexing. It's pretentious (which is hardly uncommon in academia, but less inappropriate in nearly every other conceivable example) without any discernable rationale. It's unnecessary, considering that there is only one Ohio State University in existence on our fair planet. And although OSU grads tend to confuse easily, I would wager that few have ever mistakenly attended class at the campus of Ohio University on account of an omitted 'The' on a course syllabus.

This will likely come as a weird and wild surprise to the OSU faithful, but there is indeed no great clamoring for colleges and universities to identify their monikers with an article adjective (certainly not in conversation). Nobody (with the exception of possibly yourselves) would experience mass confusion on account of an omission of such an identifier. We all understand to whom you are referring.

Perhaps it will serve as solace for you to learn that each time a community college, driving school or lemonade stand with the word 'Ohio' or 'State' in its designation is established, they're actually not trying to run you out of town. Nobody's really looking to be you. In fact, they're looking to ensure that they blatantly distinguish themselves from any association with you whatsoever. An immediate example that comes to mind is the cerebral kids from Ohio (perhaps a bit of an oxymoron) who exit in droves to attend a respectable institution, up north in Ann Arbor. Another is the multitude of athletes (Desmond Howard, Charles Woodson, to name but a few) who tend to forsake OSU ad nauseam for the winningest program in college football history.

So, whenever you're ready, feel free to refer to your university like everyone else in the country does. And on a side note, technically Pennsylvania State is labeled 'The Pennsylvania State University' in campus literature and recruiting materials. However, likely because they're not all cretins, you'll never hear Penn State grads refer to their alma mater by its full and technical name.

HBO's Michigan V. Ohio State: The Rivalry

I didn't attend the University of Michigan (high school was not my best effort, and often hazy) but I was born and grew up in the state, which entails (at least for immediate purposes) a seemingly fundamental passion for loathing OSU and extolling the Michigan Wolverines.

So when I happened to catch the HBO documentary The Rivalry: Ohio State V. Michigan at around 4 am a few weeks ago, it was enjoyable on a somewhat personal level. However, it was a long night and I wasn't paying total attention, so feel free to absolve me of any inaccuracies below.

What I do recall is that the doc, although its message tilted slightly in favor of the Buckeyes, was very well done and entertaining. And the producers certainly succeeded at illustrating a valid cross-section of Michigan and Ohio State alumni. Players from the OSU/U of M football pantheon were featured, as well as notable alumni from other professions, all discussing their passion for each respective school.

Michigan featured Mike Wallace of 60 Minutes and David Shuster of MSNBC, both of whom made certain to include derogatory (albeit obligatory) statements about OSU in their interviews. They focused on the superior academic reputation of Michigan, and how they essentially view the OSU nation as a guild of rednecks. Unfortunately, all the renowned and highly successful OSU graduates were busy leading nations or curing disease, and thus unable to debunk such accusations by appearing in the documentary.

Ergo, apart from athletes and coaches, OSU was proudly represented throughout most of the piece by two guys in sweater vests (it has to be either an alumni discount or a sort of uniform requirement for village idiots) and a comedian you've never heard of making his first appearance on HBO via a sports documentary. The first of the aforementioned sweater-twins was a reporter from the local Columbus Dispatch (every journalist's dream destination after The New York Times and The Washington Post). The second was a raging psychopath from everyone's favorite band, The Dead Schembechlers, who has dedicated his life to impersonating not Elvis Presley, but Woody Hayes.

In all sincerity, this guy (who went by the uber-clever pseudonym Bo Biafra) can't help but remind you of that mildly retarded "super fan" (every public high school has one -- certainly in the Midwest) who spent high school as a quasi-mascot/water boy for the football and basketball teams. Following graduation, such an individual tends to either devote his entire life to cheering for a university that will not accept him (see Bo Biafra) or continue in the role of lifelong mascot for his high school alma mater. This is the same guy who likes to shout "yeah baby, we did it" (to a wife who left years ago and a dog that hasn't seen a bath since Watergate) after his team wins the big game. An appropriate response, considering the number of Cheez Balls and Natural Lights he successfully consumed whilst falling in and out of consciousness in his Barcalounger. Give him a few years and he just might graduate to climbing clock towers with a long rifle and pantyhose on his head.

In Search of a Compliment:

Perhaps this post, like the HBO documentary, is a touch biased. Perhaps I'm overlooking a few great OSU alums and all of their staggering achievements. I considered such a critique and decided, in the midst of writing this, that I would search for a world-renowned accomplishment or notable achievement from the OSU annals, and provide it with due respect.

The first such feat that came to mind was the creation of those ingenious OSU student t-shirts reading "Muck Fichigan". But it occurred to me that perhaps a gaggle of dyslexic students unwittingly spawned that invention, and a majority borderline-retarded student-body allowed it to perpetuate. And with that, I lost interest in the search and concluded that I had likely exhausted any available options anyway.

And Don't Forget About The Ohio:

I have a propensity to dislike Ohio in spite of it harboring Ohio State. I've received more speeding tickets on the Ohio Turnpike than I care to remember. Ohio is often credited with sticking Dubya in the White House for another four long years. The state beverage is tomato juice. And I was never allowed to attend the class trip to Cedar Point in middle school on account of incurring too many after-school detentions (not necessarily the fault of the State of Ohio, but that doesn't make it right).

But I would be remiss if not to mention a few wonderful and inspiring attributes indigenous to Ohio (but not Ohio State University). So without being comprehensive and in no particular order: The Cleveland Clinic, Toni Morrison, Fred Willard, The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Halle Berry, Dennis Kucinich, Lebron James, Paul Newman, The Black Keys, Matt Meyer (and family), and the late Tim Borsick (and family).

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