Thursday night, a large visiting crowd of Ohio State Buckeyes fans settled in and sat quietly as the Wildcats held a knife to their team’s throat all game long, only to get talked out of it in the last three minutes. Narrow losses to Ohio State are my least favorite Northwestern basketball tradition, my most regrettable sports regret at my soon-to-be Alma Mater called Sports Regrets University. You see, I was raised as a warrior in the hardest-to-explain interstate Cold War the US has going: the mean, bitter (and mostly one-sided) war between Ohio and my home state of South Carolina.
Now, if you’re an Ohioan reading this, you’re no doubt thinking “What? I don’t have anything against South Carolina! My Auntie Ethel lives in Hilton Head and she seems to like it! Anyway, time to stop reading this silly basketball column and get back to being politically indecisive! Goo guh buh-bahaha me so dumb!” You’re right, hypothetical Ohioan, your Auntie probably does like South Carolina except for a few reservations about the bugs and heat and politics and the way they do things down there, and I guarantee that every time she turns around, there’s a South Carolinian talking behind her back.
Over the past couple decades, legions of Ohioans have moved to South Carolina, a place that hasn’t seen much immigration since the Ulster Scots shipped in to Charles Towne in the 1710’s. Most of these Ohioans moved to that flip flop-wearing libertarian capital of the world, Charleston, but they even came in droves to my hillbilly mountain hometown in the upstate, and all these Ohioans were quick to make enemies. Famous for complaining about every small detail of their adoptive southern home, this influx of Ohioans inspired a popular bumper sticker: “We Don’t Care How You Did It In Ohio.” Every time I saw an argument between two adult strangers, at some point one would check the other’s license plate, see the red/white/blue Ohio “Birthplace of Aviation” design guarded by a GO BUCKEYES license plate border thing, then say to himself “yup, of course.” The Ohioan attitude is encapsulated perfectly by this blog post by an Ohioan aghast at his treatment by Charlestonians, who believes that southerners might dislike him and his ilk in part because “Mid-westerners are intellegent [sic], strong, and hard working[…]What we see in the south is just the opposite.”
The Carolinian response to this sort of complaint is “Go back to Ohio then,” and it has been repeated in many prominent locations, such as the (currently under renovation) GoBackToOhio.com and the minor league Charleston Riverdogs’ annual “Go Back To Ohio Night,” at which the luckiest Ohioan wins a one-way bus ticket to Columbus courtesy of the Riverdogs front office. There was no prouder moment in state history than South Carolina’s back-to-back Outback Bowl victories over Ohio State in 2001 and 2002.
One day freshman year of high school, I brought home my first girlfriend, a half-Russian short-haired gothy Wiccan problem child and flautist who hailed from the fair state of Ohio. You can guess which of these traits most shocked my parents. Every time my girlfriend was gonna visit the Edwards household, I had to have a little huddle with Dad to make sure he wouldn’t mention Ohio while she was over; a tense proposition. It was like Romeo and Juliet if the Capulets had no idea there was any feud. Thankfully, she wasn’t a big Buckeyes fan, and she got over the Wiccan thing pretty quickly, so we kept dating until college.
So as much as I’d like to say it’s a stupid rivalry, a made-up pointless culture clash, I still can’t stand in the same arena with a ton of Ohio State fans without thinking about their passive-aggressive complaints about the state they chose to move to, and their General William Tecumseh Sherman, and the way they suck up all the campaign money on Earth then just pick the first guy listed on the ballot. I’ve been raised to hate Ohio, and twice a year we come so tantalizingly close to making OSU sit their high-enrollment ass down, only to lose it late. This basketball columnist is mad about migration patterns, folks.