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Redemption

The Stadium for OSU game against Georgia

Football games are really stories when all is said and done. Not stories structured beforehand like screenplays for movies. But in the end, more dramatic than any piece of entertainment Hollywood can cook up. 

For OSU, after Thanksgiving of the year, the Buckeyes were possessed by the most dramatic plot of all. That of redemption. The word redemption is an interesting word related to things like being save from sin or evil by the act of redeeming or atoning for a fault or mistake. It relates to the word deliverance or rescue from sin. It relates to the word salvation also. Somehow, it seems much more of a word about winning some sports event. There is a religiousness to the word. Salvation seems to come close.

All of these words bundled into one was what it was when the Buckeyes arrived in Atlanta to play Georgia in the semi-final national championship playoff game. It was a game of redemption more than anything else. 

The feeling of a need for redemption hung all around the OSU team when they arrived to play Georgia. It’s was a different type of motivator. They had played one of the worst second halves they had ever played in their loss to Michigan over Thanksgiving. It was more than a bad loss. It was an embarrassment to the team. A loss that needed to be redeemed somehow.

* * *

Yet the Buckeyes seemed finished for the year and the chance to go any further in a bid for the national championship.  The OSU v. Michigan game is probably the most famous game in all of college football. It certainly is the most important game on the yearly schedules of the Buckeyes and the Wolverines. 

But the feeling of embarrassment for their second half performance against Michigan was something that simply could not be forgotten or willed out of memory. This game mattered more than anything each year. More than anything else. It was the type of rivalry where each team could lose all their regular games each year and win just the Big Game and the season would be considered a success. 

The embarrassment for the Michigan game was felt by the Buckeyes in December after their loss over Thanksgiving to Michigan. It was a helpless type of embarrassment that the Buckeyes could only feel as they watched the college football season wind down for the year. Michigan played in and won the Big Ten championship game against Purdue 43-22. The Buckeyes continued to watch as the college season wound down. 

Their chance of being selected for the final four to make the playoffs was stacked against them for sure. Las Vegas was certainly betting against the Buckeyes for going any farther after the loss in the Big Game to Michigan.

Strangely, things began to happen in December and the Buckeyes continued to drop in the standings from around 8 they went up to after the loss to Michigan. They now were hovering around five or six in the rankings.  Then amazing things happened to USC and TCU and a few other teams and the Buckeyes dropped into the top four for the national championship game. Many had seen this as an impossibility. But they were there. 

* * *

A particular mood must have come over the Buckeye team at this time. When they knew they had made it to the Final Four. That they would be in the national playoffs. And, they knew too, they were playing not just to win. Winning is one thing. A good thing about numbers and one set of numbers dominating over another set of numbers. But numbers were nothing compared to that need deep inside oneself for redemption. 

I felt that the Buckeye team must have felt this feeling and need for redemption so much. 

even went to the dictionary and looked at the definition of redemption. Some of these. an act of redeeming or atoning for a fault or mistake, or the state of being redeemed. deliverance; rescue. Theology. deliverance from sin; salvation. atonement for guilt.

To repeat a national win for Georgia. Sure this was important to them. But it wasn’t as important as the redemption that the Buckeyes were playing for. This need for redemption. There are many things that motivate in life. Winning is one thing. But redemption is something altogether different. Something hard to explain unless one has ever felt the need for it in oneself. Unless one has ever found themselves pursuing this. Like members of the 2022 Ohio Buckeyes football team.

Competition and winning is one thing. But redemption is something very different.

This feeling of redemption must have seemed almost like a physical entity to members of the Buckeye team in December of this year. Present like some ghost hanging around that December. Felt by all members of the Buckeye team.

* * *

The chance for redemption for the Buckeyes finally came on New Year’s Eve 2022 with their match-up against the Georgia Bulldogs in Atlanta. The number one team in the nation and the holder of last years’s national title.

Earlier in the day, the Buckeyes must have felt good in some way that Michigan was defeated by TCU in an amazing back and forth slugfest. Perhaps this was part of getting redemption against the “team up north.” But it was only a partial redemption for the Buckeyes. Their goal was to redeem themselves to the football world and not just the Ohio and Michigan fans.

When the Buckeyes came on the field against Georgia in Atlanta, there was the chance for this type of redemption for them. After all, they had lived to play another day this year in the national championship after their embarrassing second half against their arch-rival Michigan. Now, redemption might come in playing against the national champions. 

It was an amazing game. I watched it with a cold bottle of Lamarca Prosecco. One of the best and most passionate and spirited games I’ve ever seen the Buckeyes play. More passion than any game in memory for me. One of the best games in semi-final history for the national championship game. 

* * *

But in the end, the Buckeyes lost in the last few seconds to Georgia: 42-41.

They didn’t win the game. Yet they did win back redemption that New Years Eve. It is what they really played for. Redemption is such a strong, unknown type of motivator. Winning was important but getting redemption that night even more important. 

I think that they proved to all who watched the game that night that they received redemption that night. Not against Georgia. But against all disbelievers that the Buckeyes were for real.

It was funny. There was really no need for redemption against Georgia. The Bulldogs were a team they hardly ever played. Rather, redemption was against all of those who had lost faith in the Buckeye football team.

The game against the Georgia Bulldogs was enough to give anyone watching the game renewed faith in the Buckeyes. It was a back and forth punching match but the Buckeyes showed they were more than ready to go against the national champions. These disbelievers of the Buckeyes were made silent in the game against Georgia. One could see this. Feel this. Sense this. This feeling of having achieved some form of redemption.

* * *

The second half in the Big Game against Michigan was something that could now be officially retired from memory like a bad dream. Replaced with the amazing performance against Georgia. Michigan was knocked out of the playoffs by TCU so the Buckeyes could never get that dream re-match and playoff against Michigan for the national championship. 

Yet after the game with Georgia, this didn’t seem all that important. The Buckeyes had lived with the thought of redemption all through December and on the last day of the year, they received this redemption for all the world to see.

It gave hope to me that perhaps we all could receive a type of redemption in the new year.

That arrived at the very end of the game.

A new year.

And redemption perhaps important for many today.

And perhaps the Buckeye football team of 2022 shining a little light about how this might be accomplished. Not just for college football teams but for us all.

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