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Buckeye Nut or Buckeye Not: A football season survival guide

614now Staff

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Advice for fans…

By Macon Overcast

If you have lived in Columbus through at least one autumn, you know the sound of The Shoe on game day. The tidal roars of one hundred thousand Buckeyes. And although gameday decibels scale impressive magnitudes, you need your eyes to understand the full power of the pigskin in our city. Tailgates as big as city precincts. Rivers of scarlet, grey and white pouring into the stadium from every cardinal direction. I swear, children too young to speak are singing fight songs. It’s a lot to take in. How does one turn this mass sporting and social event into a personal and enjoyable experience?

(614) sat down with superfan Peter Rowan, aka MVPeter, to find out not just how to survive a Buckeye football game, but how to grab game day by the brass ring.

(614): You have an online brand and made this into a lifestyle—how did you get into being a superfan?

PR: In undergraduate, I invented the title belt that I carry around and built up my costume with a long leather jacket and body paint. It’s a WWE belt (signed by John Cena, Sheamus, and The Miz) covered in duct tape. To be featured on TV—be extra. That’s all I truly do. Pretty simple thing, but it has gotten me a long way. I have had done interviews with FOX, ABC, and NBC, several segments on ESPN GameDay, and even a game show (How Low will you Go?) on SnapChat.

What’s one aspect of football season that all Buckeye fans need to experience?

You absolutely have to go to the skull session. It is the best pep rally you’ll ever go to. The Best Damn Band in the Land puts on an incredible show and, afterwards, an insane pep talk from the coaches. This will definitely get you excited for the upcoming game. One time I was late but I got to high five the players and Urban Meyer as they came out of St. John Arena, so if you do not want to go into the arena, you can wait outside to see the team.

What advice do you have for a first time visitor?

If you know a student who has a school parking pass, you can ride with them and park for free! Also, the stadium has a clear bag policy. I recommend that you don’t even bring a bag; it slows down the whole process and it’s more to remember throughout the day. All you truly need is some money for food and drinks and a phone for your ticket.

What is the best way to snag good tickets?

Don’t scalp. The tickets may be fake. My favorite places to get tickets are online. That’s the fastest and easiest way. Your typical event websites work, but Vivid Seats and The Buckeye ticket exchange group on Facebook might be unknown to new fans. Don’t go over budget, and play the long game. Generally, tickets will spike in price a week before the event, but as it gets closer and people just want to sell their ticket, you will see prices drop.

Are there ways to maximize the experience on a budget?

Of course! Go to all the free festivities around the stadium and then visit one of the local bars for drink and food specials while you watch the game. Even having a watch party at your home is super fun. I used to have 20 people in my tiny dorm room to watch away games and cheer on the team.

What in-game chants should new fans know before going to the game?

The first is our fight song, “The Buckeye Battle Cry.” Of course, know the O-H-I-O chant. Next, you should know when to spell Ohio when “Hang on Sloopy” is played. Finally, you should learn the lyrics to “We Don’t Give a Damn about the Whole State of Michigan.” The entire crowd will sing this at the end of the game. Win or lose—it’s hilarious.

What is the best way to handle conflict with an opposing fan?

I draw a lot of attention with my costume. I get heckled a lot, especially when traveling to away games. One fan threw an entire sandwich at me, another grabbed me by the throat, but mostly I get called a lot of names. I just smile and say “Go Bucks” and keep on moving.

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Advice for others…

By Laura Dachenbach

Maybe you moved here from California. Or maybe you’re an academic. Or you don’t like crowds, or noise, or games with complicated rules. Or maybe you didn’t grow up in this country. Whatever the reason, the result is that you live in Columbus, and football is not your thing. I understand. As a person who has taken several direct blows to the face and head with sports equipment during my school years, my feelings are admittedly mixed.

Happily, you pretty much own this town on Saturdays in the fall. Come outside. Away from 315. There are things to do. If you have some shopping to do or your yard needs work, this is the ideal time to start on those projects. But if you want to truly feel a sense of fulfillment, you can direct your resources in some specific ways and maybe even find your tribe. (We’re quiet, but we’re here.)

Things to do:

Go to a community show and give a sizeable donation. Believe me, this organization did not want to schedule a show during the Penn State game, but it happened that way, and you can be the hero of the day by throwing down a Ulysses S. Grant or two. Two or three Grants might be the next show’s costume budget, or repair to a lighting board, or a stipend for a choreographer. Whatever you give, it will be put to its greatest use.

Volunteer. Take one for the team. There are blood drives, Meals on Wheels shifts, and shelter work all happening on game days. Needs don’t stop at kickoff. Fill up those time slots when fewer people are around to lend a hand.

Take a class. The McConnell Center for the Arts, Columbus Parks and Rec, the Cultural Arts Center, and more o er classes and workshops in writing, filmmaking, bronze casting, ballet, sculpture, and perhaps any other field you might be curious about. Stay clear of the Arlington/campus area, and getting to class will be a breeze.

Visit the Metro Parks. It’s fall, and you should enjoy it. Saturdays at the Metro Parks are packed with hikes, dog walks, and volunteer activities. The outdoors, free parking, a connection to nature, a casual dress code— it’s all yours to enjoy.

Things not to do:

Predict scores. No one will give you credit for your wild guess, even if you use your own personal logic and it happens to work. One season, with no knowledge of stats or rankings or reputations or even coach names, I began to predict Buckeye losses with alarming accuracy. My method? Watching the fan confidence level pre-game. The higher the confidence level, the more certain I was of an impending defeat. It was almost as if too much conviction off the field somehow translated into poor performance on the eld. Like Harry Potter and the ability to talk to snakes, if this is a talent you possess, you must keep it to yourself. This is why it is important that you not…

Be too cheerful after a major loss. Don’t be even slightly cheerful. It’s hard to understand, because the fans didn’t lose—the team did, so the players are the ones who should rightfully be feeling upset. But still, this is hard for many people, particularly for those who had money riding on a certain outcome. Phrases such as: “Oh well, it’s only a game,” or “There’s always next time,” are not appreciated. Just try to adopt a serious-looking face, sigh heavily, and go back to doing your Sudoku. Or whatever.

Play the social justice warrior. You need to accept that organized sports are a permanent thing. Do not deliver sermons on how many starving children could be fed with the money that is spent on college athletics or what its carbon footprint is. Sports exist to bond people, to create team goals where none previously existed. Yes, the whole concept has become a little complex, and perhaps more than a bit empirical. But throughout our evolution, our strength as a species has been to come together to accomplish group objectives. And sports organizations are involved in the fight against cancer, assistance for veterans, and peace and leadership education. Those players that players that sign to the NFL are going to have some extra cash on hand, and you could use some funding for your documentary film project, right? It’s a small planet, and we all need each other.

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Life is but a dream with Greater Columbus Rowing Association

Linda Lee Baird

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Sculling. Coxswain. Regatta. For the uninitiated, the language of rowing can be difficult to parse. But if you’re ready to build your vocabulary, muscles, and circle of friends all at the same time, rowing might be right for you. You don’t even have to be an early riser to join the club.

The Greater Columbus Rowing Association (GCRA) was founded in 1984 as a non-profit organization dedicated to the sport of rowing. The central location on the Scioto’s Griggs Reservoir provides rowers across the city with a place to get on the water, before or after work. Open to all levels and abilities, with new rowers, adaptive rowers, and competitive rowers welcome, the GCRA has provided dynamic opportunities for Columbus- area residents for 35 years.

Photos: Brian Kaiser

Rower Jan Rodenfels, whose lightweight quad team took home the cup at this summer’s Midwest Sprints race, started as a runner, and said that rowing requires concentration and coordination that she hadn’t needed before, even when competing in marathons. As a writer and motivational speaker, she had multitasked during her runs, planning and preparing with every mile. “With running, I could work in my head,” she said. But rowing put a stop to that. “You are working in your head on the stroke, as well as all your major muscle groups. It looks easy but it’s challenging, synching up [with other rowers]. Oars have to go in and come out together.”

Learning to row was more difficult than Rodenfels had anticipated. One of her early coaches cautioned the team that as they learned new skills, “Our problems will multiply like rabbits.” Rodenfels focused on learning one or two things at a time, as trying to put everything together immediately was simply too much. “I had to think Swan Lake at the beginning instead of rock and roll,” she explained. In other words, her primary focus was on getting smooth and perfecting her form before worrying about speed. “I could add the rock and roll when we could start moving fast.”

She extolled the benefits of rowing for beginners. “You use legs, arms, [and] back... You really develop your muscles and cardio system.” She cautioned that because the sport is so demanding on your body, having a good coach from the beginning is key. That way, you’re taught the correct way to do things from the onset. “You don’t want to have to undo all the bad moves you’re making.”

The schedule, too, can be a challenge, particularly when trying to coordinate with other busy members of a team. “We’re supposed to be out at 5:30 [a.m.],” Rodenfels said. “We’re out at 7:00 [a.m.], 8:00 [a.m.], whenever we can get all of our different boats in and coordinated.” And while the early mornings can be difficult, there’s something to be said for getting exercise while watching the sunrise on a boat with your friends. “It’s a beautiful sport.”

It’s also open to everyone who’s past their years of college eligibility. “Master’s rowing starts at age 21... all the way up to people in their 90s.” Even if you’re not a morning person, there’s room on the boat for you. Rodenfels said many club members practice in the evenings. Physical limitations can be accommodated as well. “We have a paradaptive program at GCRA that’s all done and supported by volunteers. We encourage anyone who would like to try it to go on our website and sign up.”

Still not sure it’s the sport for you? GCRA offers corporate learn-to-row activities that businesses such as Cardinal Health and even the Columbus Blue Jackets have taken advantage of. It’s a good opportunity to dip your toe in the water—whether you choose to take that advice literally or not.

New members might take up rowing for teamwork, exercise, fresh air, opportunities to travel and win awards, or all of the above. Whatever your motivation, Rodenfels recommends starting with a learn-to-row class, and getting ready to enjoy the ride. “When you do it, it’s so beautiful,” she said.

In mid-August, GCRA members headed to The 2019 USRowing Masters National Championships in Grand Rapids, MI and took the gold. Follow their journey and find out how to get your crew on at columbusrowing.org.

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Obscure Columbus: Brown Pet Cemetery

Laura Dachenbach

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I drove past it dozens of times before I realized what it was. 

I could see that it was a cemetery peeking out from under an overhang of trees, with stones spreading across a field. But something was different. One day while driving down Sawyer Road, I slowed down until I could make out a name on what seemed to be a very small marker: Pug. 

I had found the Brown Pet Cemetery. 

Surrounded by the grounds of the John Glenn Airport, the Brown Pet Cemetery remains mostly hidden. The cemetery was started in the 1920s by Walter A. Brown, a local veterinarian, and a cemetery association was founded in 1934. Over 450 burials cover the site, all a visual testament to the purity of the human-animal bond. Most markers bear the names not only of the pets themselves, but also of their human “parents.” Folk art decorates many stones, as well as oval ceramic plaques with black-and-white pet portraits. DIYers of decades ago have used marbles and shells to adorn handmade markers.

Pet names over the decades show their cultural and historical influences. Dimples and Trixie and Buster in the 20s and 30s give way to Lassie and Gidget in the 50s and eventually become Coco and Misty in the 70s and 80s. But pet owners have clearly always been common or creative in naming their animal companions. For every Blackie or Fluffy that rests here, there’s a Boob and a Stinky Bill and a Dammit, each of them memorialized and apparently cherished. 

It’s hard to tell how active the cemetery is. The articles of incorporation for the cemetery association expired in 1997, when most burials seemed to have stopped. However, during my most recent excursion through the grounds, I saw several graves marked with artificial flowers, as well as a memorial for Mr. King, a ten-year-old cat with a love of shoes, who was interred this past June. 

Regardless of activity, the sentimentality of this space is palpable. (A visit will likely require a package of Kleenex.) Be ready to be touched by the still-visible memories of the pets who have found peace here.

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Put me in, coach! Fall sporting leagues you should join today

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Sure, you can join a pickup game of basketball or soccer pretty much anywhere there are courts and fields. However, in an active, outdoor- friendly city such as Columbus, a growing number of public sports leagues and athletic clubs throughout the downtown area are evolving. They embrace not only traditional sporting leagues, but also nostalgic fringe sports (such as kickball and dodgeball), and the fun-loving attitude that comes with them, where often times competitiveness is eschewed for simply having a good time. Isn’t that a novel idea?

Columbus Recreation and Parks | crpdsports.org

If you’re interested in sporting in Ohio’s capital, the first (and for many the only) place to look is the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department. While municipal recreation teams might seem to many like they’re geared toward youth participation alone, this simply isn’t the case. So don’t worry, you won’t be reliving the glory days of 50-minute T-ball innings and basketball games ending in a score of 8-4.

According to Columbus Recreation and Parks Communications Manager Brian Hoyt, last year alone Columbus saw over 1.5 million people participate in city sporting leagues, and the majority of them were adults.

“Columbus is actually thriving in the business of sports tourism,” says Hoyt. “Often times you have strong youth sports programs in the surrounding towns and cities, but they can be lacking in adult programming. Because of that, here in Columbus, we see people coming from Gahanna, from Upper Arlington, from Dublin, you name it.”

And with such a robust group of athletes, the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department doesn’t skip a beat when it comes to the variety of leagues being offered. Leagues for every major sport are offered at varying levels of competition and seriousness across the city, including flag football, basketball, baseball, softball, soccer, volleyball and much, much more.

One of the draws of participating in Columbus athletic leagues is their often top-notch facilities.

In fact, according to Hoyt, the city’s Lou Berliner Sports Park is nothing short of a world-class venue. Just this year the sports park, which is one of the largest diamond ball eld complexes in the country, was certified as an Environmentally Certified Sports Facility by the Sports Turf Managers Association. This makes Berliner the first facility in Ohio (and only the 32nd in the world) to earn this certification.

“I think [Berliner] is like one of those great secrets that everyone actually knows about,” says Hoyt. But the wide world of Columbus adult sporting contests goes far beyond the city’s recreational leagues.

Sports Monster Club | columbus.sportsmonster.net

Sure, traditional sports like basketball, baseball, soccer, and football are great for many. But every so often we all get the urge for something different. Sometimes we’re in the mood for bowling, handball, or maybe we want to unload a heavy rubber ball at our best friend’s face while suspended ten feet in the air.

Yes. I’m talking about trampoline dodgeball.

Currently, the novel sport is offered by the Columbus-based Sports Monster Club, an organization (now boasting multiple national hubs) that seems to be pushing the boundaries of sporting leagues and loving every second of it. While regular dodgeball is no longer offered, trampoline dodgeball is still available at the league level, with the occasional tournament as well. And while Columbus has yet to see many of these, the group regularly tests out some of the weird fringe sports (such as pickle ball and Spikeball) at other locations, checking their viability for a larger market.

And while the presence of dodgeball itself may be a novelty without top-tier staying power, the trend of including fun, less- traditional sports in leagues across Columbus seems to be here to stay.

When we think of kickball, it’s more likely we recall recess on the blacktop than a televised sporting event Nationwide Arena, but nevertheless the quirky competition has found a niche in the heart of Columbus athletes, with Sports Monster boasting the largest kickball league system in the city.

And according to the Sports Monster’s Bart Fitzpatrick, there’s good reason for its popularity.

“Kickball is doing very well. It is the most social sport of all—where anyone, of any athletic skill, can participate and have a good time,” Fitzpatrick said. His assessment underscores the fact that many participating in adult sporting leagues are doing so for mixed purposes: sure it’s fun to win, and competitive leagues are still going strong, but many younger members of Columbus sports clubs are joining to be among friends.

“The social component [of kickball] is huge. We always have host bars for after-league for folks to hang out and revel in their on- eld/on-court antics and glory,” Fitzpatrick added.

Columbus Young Professionals Club | cypclub.com/athletics

Another innovative athletic group in the city is the Columbus Young Professionals Club. The group, created in 2005, acts as a hybrid networking and social organization mixed with athletics and community service elements as well.

“At our most basic level, the social membership, it’s free to join. And there are plenty of opportunities; we have about 20,000 members now,” says CYPC Athletic Director Anish Mistry. “It’s a really great way to be among friends, or even to meet new people.”

Similar to Sports Monster, CYPC represents an interesting trend where competitive athletes have the opportunity to square off, but the holistic club at its core seems to be about blending sports and social opportunities.

With upcoming softball and volleyball leagues in the fall, the group is also currently offering bowling and even euchre registration. What’s more, among its slate of athletic leagues, the club offers a litany of social events, including coffee talks where young professionals can gather to discuss prominent issues in their lives (each evening revolves around a specific topic), dedicated networking events, and regular community service projects, including clean-ups at local parks and volunteering at Columbus-area festivals.

It’s clear that the project of the CYPC involves athletics, but it seems to do so in a more dynamic sense, inclusive of sporting leagues from the seriously competitive to the fully laid-back.

And this seems to be a movement the city as a whole is beginning to embrace—where there’s a sporting team for everyone, but a lot of us are just along for the ride. Sign me up for that.

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