I peeled off my Gortex jacket, exposing my screaming-scarlet Ohio State sweatshirt just as our waiter began to introduce himself to us. My wife and I were settling into our booth at Tadich's Restaurant in San Francisco with our Bay-area friends, Rob and Marie.
"My name is Barry," the waiter began, when he spied my sweatshirt and stopped. "All right, Buckeyes! You and I are going get along just fine!" He gave me a high-five.
Each time Barry came back to our table, we learned a little more of his story. He grew up in the Cincinnati area and landed in California. But he was still a big Buckeyes fan. "I wanted to go to the Fiesta Bowl," he told us, referring to the game of several days ago in which Ohio State ultimately defeated Notre Dame in only the fifth meeting between the two storied football programs, "but I couldn't arrange it."
As our dinner wore on, Barry warmed to the topic of Ohio State football. Turning to our California friends, as though he was a sawdust evangelist trying to convince pagans of the truth of the Gospel, he said, "Bank it: Ohio State will beat Notre Dame. No contest." He let that sink in just a bit and then told them, "And Texas will beat USC."
He turned to me for a second to his emotion. "I don't know if the Fiesta Bowl will be 'no contest,'" I said, "but yeah, OSU wins, definitely, and Texas wins, definitely."
There were a few moments during last night's national championship game in the Rose Bowl when I wondered whether Texas would beat SC. But I realize now I was guilty of momentary insanity. I had forgotten one very important fact: Vince Young, the Texas quarterback.
When, with about three-minutes left in the game, Young pulled his team to within five points of the Trojans, I turned to my son and said, "Vince Young is the best college quarterback I've seen in my life."
Of course, there's data to support such a statement. The biggest piece of evidence: Young is the first QB in college football history to gain 2500 yards in the air and 1000 yards rushing. But all you have to do is watch him play to know how good he is!
I confess to feeling a certain wistfulness about Texas' performance in the national championship game. In what was my beloved Ohio State's second game of the season earlier this year, the Longhorns beat the Buckeyes by four points. It was a game which most of us in Buckeye Nation felt that our team should have won. Maybe if the Buckeyes hadn't been forced to platoon the quarterback position at that early point in the 2005 campaign, there would have been a different outcome. I wonder what might have been.
But there is little doubt that just as the Ohio State squad improved immeasurably over the course of its season, the Longhorns did the same thing. I always felt that they would beat USC's Trojans. I just didn't realize how hard it would be for Texas to pull out this victory, having underestimated, as we Easterners are wont to do, how great the Pac10 champs are.
One final point: A wonderful man named John Warner of Houston, Texas, designed the web site for the congregation I serve as pastor. Several years ago, John initiated me as a member of an exclusive club: The Buckhorns. The other two members are University of Texas fans who esteem Ohio State. I'm an Ohio State fan (and alum) who respects Texas. So, tonight, in honor of my brother Buckhorns, I'll say something I've never said before: Hook 'em horns! Good job, Texas. And good job, Vince Young!
And Barry, wherever you are tonight, you and I were right, man!