A national title, or a championship in any sport, resonates for years beyond just one small victory for a group of tall men. It stands for something not just in athletics, but for a university as a whole, a matter of civic pride, an achievement disparate groups of people can all stand alongside, joyous.
That's a really windy and pretentious way of saying: It rules when your team wins it all, and it changes the way people think of your team, your school and yourself.
With tonight's national title game rapidly approaching, we asked fans of both Ohio State and Florida to describe what a victory tonight would mean, what it would stand for, how it would change matters, what would be the team's place in history. We thought it would be kind of fun.
Right now: The Ohio State Buckeyes, written by Anton Golden, of The Donkey Carnival. Words come after the jump.
What does it mean for me when Ohio State wins tonight? Not a simple question. To me it means two words: Edmond Dantes. For those of you who know who he is, you know exactly what I am talking about. For those of you that don't, I will happily elaborate. Edmond Dantes is the man whose story of revenge is captured in The Count of Monte Cristo. A man who had his wife taken from him. All of his property. But most of all his good name. Vengeance fuels Dantes as he takes years to get back at the man that stole his life from him. The man who showed him that life could not possibly be as good as Edmond imagined it was. That everything could change in just a moment. That in an instant the world could turn cruel and dreams could evaporate.
That is how I felt watching Florida rip the heart out of Ohio State during the Fiesta Bowl. Watching them horribly tarnish the genius and savvy of Jim Tressel. Unable to look away as they stole millions of dollars from Cleveland's favorite son, Troy Smith. Simply staring in utter disbelief, hoping that what I was witnessing was a fiction. That I would wake up from my drunkedness to find that it did not happen that way. That the Buckeyes had fulfilled on their promise as favorites. That life as I know it did not change.
Yes, I am very grateful for the title that the Buckeyes won in 2002. I am also grateful for the Final Four that Ohio State never played in during the 1999 tournament. But those teams were not supposed to win anything. They were huge underdogs that won games by the skin of their teeth. Throwing 40-yard touchdown passes on 4th and 1. Upsetting frightening Ron Artest-led teams that they had no business beating. They were nothing like the 2006 Buckeyes. The fierce and merciless conquerors of college football. The team that would usher in an era of greatness in the program by decimating all opponents and recruiting the best. But something happened. The serious underdogs came out of the fight with the head of the Heisman winner on a silver platter.
In the same way I want tonight's game to end with Joakim Noah's head on a spike in front of the Schottenstein Center. I want Al Horford, Joakim Noah and Corey Brewer to lose millions of dollars of NBA money after they have been thoroughly dominated and emasculated in front of millions of viewers. I want to watch their fans, who sacrificed a family vacation to get these tickets to see their team crowned in glory, shamed into wearing paper bags out of the arena, their babies wailing as they sense the anguish in their parents hearts. I want their players to burn their uniforms after the game to try to remove the stink of defeat from their skin. I want to crush their lives just as they crushed ours.
To steal the crowning achievement of back-to-back titles from them. To render their already printed T-shirts so worthless that they are sent overseas to starving nations whose uneducated children won't know the sting of wearing the shirt of such accomplished losers. For Billy Donovan to be so horrified at what happened that he will take the first plane to Kentucky to get away from that feeling just as a family moves away from a house a child committed suicide in. I want the program to crumble after Donovan leaves. I want Florida basketball to be a joke surrounding a nice eight-year run of success. But most of all to see the faces of Florida's trio of "seniors" as they realize that they came back another year for nothing. That all they did was cost themselves wheel barrows full of money. Nothing would make me happier.
I want to see Greg Oden, Ron Lewis and Mike Conley off to the NBA crowned in the laurels of victory. Leaving on top in the same way that Troy Smith, Ted Ginn and Anthony Gonzalez should have been able to. I want to destroy the keys on my cell phone from texting congratulatory taunts to every fan of another team that sent me a text message on the day of my tragedy. The tragedy that it was for Ohio State to be so exposed and violated on national television.
It wasn't that we lost. It was that we lost like that. Completely embarrassed. The only consolation being that it did not happen in the beloved Horseshoe. The legacy of two titles in four years gone. A sad memory of what could have been. A regret for all the fans that mortgaged their futures to finance their trips to the game.
That is what I want for the Gators. Their dream gone. Their program shocked. Their recruits wavering. Their coach questioning everything he thought he knew about basketball. Their pro candidates exposed as charlatans. Their teddy bears dressed as Spider Man watching the game on television in the hotel room to set themselves on fire rather than sit through the second half of the humiliation. Their star player to shave his head in disgrace and vow to never again dance in public.
Why do I want such beautiful and terrible things? Because I/We/Ohio State needs revenge. We need a terrible fire of vengeance to close the wounds that still bleed from the thrashing in the Arizona desert. We need what Edmond Dantes worked for. And to quote that man as he stood facing the possibility of his enemy's sweet ruin: "Do your worst! For I will do mine."