Everyone say it: O-H-I-O

If you’re one of the millions of people who watched the Buckeyes in last night’s National Championship Game – congratulations! Congratulations on being a fan of one of the greatest teams in college football!

But even more than that, congratulations on contributing to the ever-growing “Buckeye Fever.”

People just can’t seem to get enough of Ohio State football. You see it everywhere. One day last semester, as I walked onto campus, I observed how many people were wearing Ohio State gear. In less than one minute, I saw eight people, half of whom had some sort of Ohio State sweatshirt on.

After that, I just gave up.

Now, that may have just been a coincidence, but our state’s love for the team down in Columbus is apparent.

If money talks, then one sure way to see how much we love our team is by looking at how much money we’re willing to spend to see them.

An article called “Why bigger is better at Ohio State” printed in last Friday’s USA Today cited Ohio State’s athletics program as raking in the most revenue of any NCAA Division I-A program at $104.7 million last year.

The article also states that football brought in “more than $28 million profit a year ago.” Although these are impressive numbers, the University keeps pumping that money back into its programs.

The article also mentions that Ohio State became “the first with a nine-figure athletics budget last year, spending $101.8 million.

But why does the school rake in so much cash? Maybe it’s because the stadium greets over 101, 000 fans every home game. And, maybe it’s because fans are willing to fork over the money to sit in that stadium through rain or shine to see our favorite team win.

The school is banking on fans’ loyalty, and, in turn, fans expect their team to be a winning program. It’s a continuous cycle of “Buckeye Fever.”

Ticket sales aren’t the only thing spreading the fever; retailers are also cashing in. Specialty shops carrying exclusively Buckeye merchandise have sprung up in an effort to capitalize on fans’ obsession. Local department stores are also sure to carry Ohio State apparel to cater to fans.

Although the money says something, just think of the die-hard fans you know.

Chances are, they woke up yesterday with an air of excitement, possibly rivaling the ways most kids wake up on Christmas morning.

They probably sat through work or class impatiently counting down the minutes until kickoff. They lived and died with every play. And they loved every minute of it.

Let’s face it: Ohio loves her team.

But I guess my point is that this Buckeye Fever is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it can be a very, very good thing. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not condoning the rioting or the burning of couches that is sometimes associated with Ohio State fans in Columbus. But a healthy love of our local team is actually quite refreshing to see.

Although not every Ohioan is a die-hard fan, not many states can say that most of their citizens are behind their team like Ohio can. Just think about how blessed we are to have Ohio State. (I know that sounds crazy, but just think about it.)

This is one thing most Ohioans can agree on. The incredible fanaticism has the ability to break down barriers of division and build tremendous unity.

There is something special about how Ohio comes together for this team; and, in turn, the team would not be what it is without its fans.

Another positive reason for Ohio State fanaticism is that fans will respect and listen to its coaches and players.

Of course, this can only be positive if the coaches and players carry themselves with integrity. But they do have the power to influence Ohioans.

For example: Just look at who Ohio State has in head football coach Jim Tressel, who most people love because he carries himself with integrity.

In a recent article about Tressel in the New York Times, reporter Jere Longman interviewed Mel Adelman, a professor who teaches a college sports course at Ohio State.

He said, “Beyond football, Tressel represents what many Ohioans want in themselves – respectability, lack of ostentation, letting actions speak louder than words.”

Tressel not only brings national championships to his native state, but he also brings with him the virtues of “faith, humility, caring and love,” as noted by ESPN.com columnist Gene Wojciechowski in his column this week.

And he makes those the themes of his football team.

When Ohio State, with the amount of influence it has, has someone like Jim Tressel in charge – someone who teaches his players what it means to be a person of virtue – there is great potential to rally the rest of the state around those kind of principles.

Call it a stretch if you may, but Buckeye Fever can be a great, great thing for the state of Ohio. It already has proven to be. Keep up the spirit, Ohio! O – H!

Send comments to Lauren Walter at [email protected]