In the fallout from complaints of Texas fans over being abused during their trip to Columbus, two different campaigns were created. Prior to the return visit from Ohio State, Texas launched the "Make Us Proud" campaign and Ohio State also implemented a campaign titled "Best Damn Fans in the Land." The letters written from Texas fans received a fair amount of media coverage, which led to several "what did you expect?" and "it wasnt *that* bad" type responses from some Ohio State fans.
While I never wrote a complaint to any OSU official, I was one of the Texas fans who received more than my fair share of abuse in Columbus. After the jump, I'll take a look at how this Fiesta Bowl provides a unique opportunity for the Longhorns to win the rubber match against a school and fanbase that--to some extent--feels it should be up 2-0. I'll also outline my own experience in Columbus, which has turned the Fiesta Bowl into something slightly more personal.
Before we get started, a few disclaimers are necessary....
First, I know several Longhorns--and BON authors--who had pleasant experiences in Columbus. They found their hosts to be good-natured and avoided any first-hand experiences of abuse.
Second, on that Gameday, there was a MASSIVE group of people, many of which had no direct affiliation to tOSU. With some of my most egregious drunken tormentors, I was assured that they were just troublemakers who had just come out to be part of the experience. However, I have no way to partition the fans bearing scarlet and gray as being "real", "fake", or whatever. Several students did apologize to me on behalf of their friends.
Third, I have seen Texas fans (usually drunken students) abuse opposing fans. However, this is usually minimized to actions in the stands and only on a few isolated occasions. Nothing I've ever seen in Austin compares to my experience in Columbus, but I'm not claiming that we're all angelic fans.
With that out of the way, my trip to Columbus was marred by an endless string of verbal and physical abuse leading up to the game. As we had to meet some friends on the other side of the stadium, we walked by thousands of OSU fans heading to the stadium. During this walk, I was purposely shoulder-blocked three times, received a handful of unprovoked shoves (accompanied with invitations to engage in fisticuffs), and was greeted with a neverending stream of inyoface f-bombs and verbal abuse. This wasn't all just fun and games, as many fans decided to get within inches of my face when yelling various obscenities. On our way back towards the stadium, a large group of drunk OSU fans was walking behind me simply begging for me to turn around and say something. I was called several synonyms for a certain portion of the female anatomy, and, when I finally turned around to ask them to please knock it off, the group freaked out with excitement in anticipation of a fight. As there were three of us and over 10 of them, I told them that I wasn't going to fight them and was only trying to get to the game. This led to another 1/4 mile of abuse, including trying to step on the heels of my shoes. During this walk, I nearly ground my teeth into powder, as it was all I could do to restrain myself. We also had a handful of items tossed in our direction, also accompanied with obscenities.
While I dont mind verbal abuse or taunts, nothing I experienced can be wiped away as "good ole fun" or "good natured taunting." This was one of the lowlights of my life, and I felt embarrassed for their entire university. It was pathetic and disgraceful. The worst part about the abuse is that it overshadowed the incredible wisdom, knowledge, and passion of their fanbase and the awesomeness of their stadium. I mean, the OSU fans knew the Zone Read offense better than most of our fans and could explain the defensive strategy they would use to stop it. However, instead of being able to tell my friends about the great knowledge and passion of the OSU fanbase, I found myself focusing the recaps of my trip on the abuse.
Until a certain VY touchdown against USC a few months later, the Limas Sweed catch was my favorite in-person experience as a UT fan. The bitterness created by the abuse led to an incredible feeling of satisfaction when we walked out of the Horseshoe with a victory. It has also led to my own personal vendetta against tOSU. While I respect everything about their football program on the field--it's hard not to--the actions of their fans off the field in Columbus will prevent me from rooting for OSU anytime soon. And, after the game, many of their fans came up to congratulate us on the victory, but solely with the caveat that Ryan Hamby cost them the game.
And that's something that Texas fans are overlooking in the build-up to this game. For many Texas fans, there is some unresolved bad blood from the first meeting. I hope we win, I hope we win big, and this game has special meaning based on my day in Columbus. This is a rare opportunity for Texas to firmly stamp themselves as the victor in a three-game series against one of the flagship programs in College Football. Regardless of the National Title implications--which still exist--Texas should realize they will be measured against Ohio State based on their performance in this game.