Their rivalry, which began (with a Michigan victory) in 1897 and continues to this day (with Michigan leading by more than 20 victories in the overall series), was voted in an ESPN poll as the greatest in the history of sports. Although I think it's sort of silly (heck, I only vaguely recall that UM coach Bo Schembechler bested OSU's fabled Woody Hayes 5-4-1 in their 10 meetings), the rivalry is so fierce that stadium officials have considered requesting the occasional United Nations peacekeeping force.
Now, here's the test: Our hostess tells me that no matter what happens in the game, we are expected to be good sports.
Knowing that this is impossible, I start preparing my "he started it" arguments: He said this about the refereeing and that about the cheerleaders. So, it's not my fault I threw the shoe and broke the aquarium - accidentally, I might add. He provoked me.
Game day comes, and you can guess what happens.
Nobody calls anybody's mom anything. No shoes are thrown. The OSU fan is agreeable and fair-minded throughout the contest, even though Texas gets soundly walloped, providing him ample opportunity to gloat.
I am bamboozled.
How could this have happened? Certainly the explanation cannot rest with the conduct of the OSU fan, which exemplified the good sportsmanship that my friend claimed existed. I conclude that the lopsidedness of the victory prevents hostilities from gaining traction. What other explanation could there be?
A few weeks later, I find myself in a sports bar in South Philly watching the first matchup of the season between the Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Giants. As the game unravels for the Eagles in the fourth quarter, the rowdy Eagles fans turn on the few, brave Giants partisans. One tries to bribe the bartender to expectorate in the Giants fans' beer. Another threatens to punch a Giants fan in the face if he stands up and cheers, should the Giants come from behind and win, which they do.
Ah, all is right with the world again.
And so, during this special time of year, let me wish peace and goodwill toward men. Unless, of course, we meet in the playoffs.