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Gearing up for Arizona

I’m back, by popular demand.

Actually, I’m filling in for our publisher, Jesse Lindsey, who is trying to both enjoy his Thanksgiving holiday and move his family of four (with one on the way) to Suffolk this weekend.

But I have had a few people come up to me during that last few months and tell me how much they enjoyed my columns and ask why I stopped writing. There were a variety of reasons, none of them very good, so suffice it to say that this is my attempt at a comeback.

Because I ended my last column on the discussion of the multitude of guests I entertained during the summer, it seems fitting to start up again with the tale of me playing guest to someone else, in this case, one of my brothers.

Last Friday I traveled nine hours to Columbus, Ohio, so I could watch the Ohio State Buckeyes take on their nemesis, the Michigan Wolverines. It was a hefty amount of driving to do in one weekend, particularly when you consider that my husband and I sat in traffic for three hours just trying to get out of Hampton Roads Friday. An accident blocked the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel (what a surprise), so we tried to circumvent the problem by turning around and taking Interstate 64 East toward

Newport News.

We did not have our atlas with us, and I wasn’t so sure that was a legitimate route, but my husband seemed confident in his ability with directions (what a surprise) so I went with it. We never had the chance to find out if his inner compass was accurate because I-64 East, too, was blocked, for miles, by an accident. A tractor trailer overturned. C’mon, say it with me: What a surprise.

I was desperate to get to Ohio to see my family, not to mention tailgate at the ‘Shoe (more on that later), so I insisted we turn around and see if the HRBT had cleared up in the hour we sat on I-64 E. It hadn’t, but the electronic signs indicated the wait would be only 20-30 minutes, instead of an indefinite closure as they had earlier.

So we waited. Bobby had set a time limit about halfway through our journey: if we were not out of Hampton Roads by 1 p.m., we were going back to the apartment. Tired of sitting in traffic myself, I agreed, though I was disappointed at the thought of missing out on cold beer and freshly grilled gyros, fanatic Buckeye fans shouting obscenities about Michigan and unflattering things about Ann Arbor, and everything else that comes with game day at Ohio State.

Miraculously, a mere 10 minutes from the deadline Bobby set, traffic opened up, we zipped through the tunnel and were (finally) on our way. We made it to my brother’s shortly before 10 p.m., right in time to jump in a game of Euchre, which is a card game folks in parts of Ohio and Michigan are addicted to but no one else seems to have ever heard of. Just so you know, it is similar to Spades; anyone interested in learning can jump on a beginner table on Yahoo! games at www.yahoo.com.

Anyway, we cut the night of card playing relatively short (for a Friday night at least) because we planned to get up with the sun and head down to the stadium. It was a gorgeous day, crisp and cold in Columbus. Perfect football weather, but coming from 65-70 degree days in Virginia, I was a little unprepared in my Bermuda shorts and flip flops.

A huge group of our friends from our hometown traveled to Columbus for the weekend, bringing with

them two RVs and other tailgating supplies. They had concocted a morning feast of bacon and eggs, mimosas and beer, and some were gathered around a flat-screen plasma TV that was rigged in the back of a truck so they could watch ESPN’s College GameDay.

After hanging out with the buds, we met up with my dad and several uncles and headed toward the stadium for food, souvenirs and to listen to the Best Damn Band in the Land, the Ohio State University March Band, give their traditional pre-game show n known as Skull Session n

at St. John Arena. Heading down the hill toward the intersection of Olentangy River Road and Lane Avenue, all I could see was a sea of scarlet and gray. A lone voice would shout out “O-H,” and the swarm of thousands of Buckeye fans would answer with a booming “I-O.” It still gives me chills, even now, writing about it!

Ohio State fans, are, by their very nature, hardcore. I saw a life-size stuffed doll dressed as a Michigan player hanging from a light post, and a ratty wolverine tied to a stick being dragged through the streets. Painted faces, painted bodies – it was scarlet and gray all the way. Dare I say it? I almost pitied the lone Michigan fans, scurrying through the crowds in their blue and yellow (what the heck is “maize” anyway?).

Many claimed this year’s Ohio State-Michigan match-up would be the game of the century.

We won 42-39, thank God, though it wasn’t pretty. I didn’t have tickets to the game; a friend purchased a pair off eBay for a few thousand dollars. I’m a dedicated fan, too, but my pockets aren’t that deep.

Still, it was fun to watch the game from the comfort of my uncle’s house with a big screen TV and instant replay.

Now I’m waiting to see if, in the fight for the National Championship, there will be a rematch between the Bucks and the Wolverines. If that happens, I’m not going to predict an outcome because I don’t want to jinx us.