The general purpose of writing here, and the reason you are reading, is the dumpster rental business. Dumpsters and trash are on my mind on a daily basis because of my job, but the business is not my life. My life is about my family, and my friends and personal interests like sports. The latter is the reason for this tangent, so I hope that you will forgive this brief yet meaningful deviation because my joy cannot be contained and I want to take advantage of this, my biggest platform for expressing my joy. I am a 30 year old man who, (knock on wood), has never put pen to paper on a ‘Bucket List’ of things that I would like to do before I die. However, if I were to make such a list, I can confidently say that it could be shortened by two because of an epic 8 day period from Saturday November 17 through Sunday November 25.
For those living in or fond of the Midwest, I have recently lived a football-lovers dream. I covered the bases for those living in Ohio, Michigan, (Western) Pennsylvania, Indiana and Eastern Illinois. Not to mention ANY football fans, collegiate or pro, interested in rivalry games as well as ANY fans of the movie Rudy. In 8 days time, I managed to attend Notre Dame’s final home game of the season, the Ohio State vs Michigan game in Columbus, OH, and the Browns vs Steelers rivalry game in Cleveland, OH. The fact that I was able to attend these incredible games, however, is not even the beginning of the story.
This story is made possible because of an overwhelming theme of unexpected implications leading up to my sports trek. In South Bend, IN, the Notre Dame football team had made it through an impossibly tough schedule to be undefeated at 9-0 for the first time in the past decade, making a Notre Dame ticket all the more attractive. Meanwhile, the Buckeyes are also undefeated but rendered meaningless since they are on probation and banned from postseason opportunities due to NCAA sanctions, which makes the demand for tickets less attractive. Less relevant, but still a unique factor, is the injuries to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ top 2 quarterbacks leading into the game versus my hometown Cleveland Browns, which made an otherwise improbable victory a possibility heading into the game. All factors may seem disjointed, but all welded beautifully to give this sports fan ‘the most beautiful sight these eyes have ever seen’ (shameless Rudy plug).
There is a saying that refers to the ‘icing on the cake’, as it typically adds a layer of happiness to an already happy situation, and is typically saved for the last mention (even though you eat the icing first). However, in the case of this story, I am going to get the icing out of the way as the fact that the Browns beat the Steelers in Cleveland, OH at the end of my sports adventure was truly the icing on the cake. However, the attendance was always a guarantee given the fact that I have Browns season tickets. My attendance is the remarkable aspect of the other games, whereas the game result was the true icing on the cake when the Browns beat the Steelers in the improbable fashion of forcing 8 turnovers.
To get to the real content of this story, the cake i suppose, Ohio State’s probation is of paramount importance. My role as a fan of the Ohio State Buckeyes is truly fanatical, so much so that not even a family wedding will interfere with my ability to watch every Buckeyes game of the season. College football’s season exists to allow teams to play their way to important bowl games and potential championships. But when a team is on probation, they are excluded from postseason play, so even though the Buckeyes had not yet lost a game, I have been slightly less enthusiastic this year because of their lack of relevance. In any other year, I would not have allowed myself to miss watching the Buckeye’s second to last game of the season. But when a close friend and die hard Notre Dame fan approached me with the possibility of heading to South Bend to see a game, I allowed myself the consideration and jumped at the opportunity! It has always been on my wish list to see a game at Notre Dame, and this is something that any sports fan can understand given the incredible venue and rich history of Notre Dame.
This is where the story takes a thrilling turn, because, in direct opposition to Ohio State’s irrelevance, Notre Dame is more relevant then they have been in nearly two decades! Going into the final home game and 2nd to last game of the season, Notre Dame was 3rd in the country. After seeing what Rudy’s father described as ‘the most beautiful sight these eyes have ever seen’ and enjoying a dominating performance by the Irish, we hit South Bend to celebrate. Little did we know that between 10-11:00pm EST, history would be made as the #1 and 2 teams in the country both lost in improbable fashion and catapulted Notre Dame to #1 in the country. We were there for an historic moment, the night that Notre Dame became #1 for the first time since 1993, and we celebrated accordingly.
As amazing as that was, it is ranked a distant second with regards to sports experiences that week, as a few days before leaving for South Bend plans were set in motion for my cousin from Florida to parlay his Thanksgiving trip to Ohio into a reason to see The Game. If you are not a sports fan and still reading, The Game is arguably the best rivalry in all of sports: Ohio State vs Michigan. It has been the topic for HBO specials, a reason for the division of families, and general contentiousness between the two bordering states. Even though I grew up in Columbus, OH, I have never aggressively pursued tickets to The Game, as I knew that the high demand leads to a higher price tag. However, mostly in part to the probationary year, my cousin was able to get 4 reasonably priced tickets in the student section. Needless to say, we had the time of our lives and watched our team not only beat our rivals, but even stormed the field after the game because it capped off the undefeated season.
When it was all said and done, I had achieved what was previously just a joke amongst friends, and witnessed a win for my team in all three games. If it was an American Express commercial, I would probably tally up all of the time, expense and physical tole that it took out of me just to remark the experience as ‘Priceless’. It was an unforgettable 8 days that will be commemorated with some pictures and ticket stubs, but will live with me forever.