The Buckeye Chair
Theresa Konwinski

Anyone who knows me well knows that I’m a lifelong Buckeyes fan. I’m sure it was predestined through the DNA of my father, a fan of The Ohio State University, who believed there was a dearth of “real coaches like Woody Hayes.” Woody also happened to be a Navy veteran like my dad, whose service to the Navy took place during the Korean War. He may have thought of Woody as “brethren,” of sorts.

When I was a kid, not many college football games were on television. We were more likely to listen to the radio. However, Saturdays at our house were not meant to be spent loafing in a recliner, yelling at the refs and eating popcorn. We were sentenced to the back yard raking leaves or harvesting the last vegetables from our garden, which was about a quarter of an acre in size. If the vegetables had already been completely cleaned up, there was always the removal of the dying plants to accomplish.

“Never fear, you guys! We’ll bring out the transistor!” Dad took the transistor to the garden with us. He knew how to keep our minds occupied while we did work we would have otherwise complained bitterly about.

My most vivid memory of a televised game is the Rose Bowl on January 1, 1969. Ohio State had won the Big Ten in 1968 and was eligible to play for what was then considered the National Championship. Dad didn’t plan any work for that day. In fact, the only person who did any work was Mom, who had four kids to feed and keep from killing each other in some sort of post-holiday melee.

New Year’s Day. We had been up late the night before, literally ringing in the new year by pulling a thick rope that sounded the bell in our church steeple. There was no other time of year that a kid was permitted to touch that bell, making New Year’s Eve a huge deal for us in our small town. Being up late did not prevent us from getting out of bed early enough the next day to watch the Rose Parade and get ready for the main event. Mom warmed up leftovers from the huge Christmas dinner she had made, and we sat glued to the television with our steaming plates on metal TV trays. No one wanted to miss a minute of the game, Curt Gowdy and Kyle Rote providing the color commentary. That year’s Heisman Trophy winner, the once-great O.J. Simpson led the charge for the University of Southern California. That was before he started killing people with knives—back then, he used his legs.

USC was undone by the “Super Sophomores” of Ohio State. The Buckeyes became National Champions that day. Young men on that team are still legends—Rex Kern, Jack Tatum, Jim Stillwagon. I don’t remember all the details of the game. I only remember that it was a happy day for my entire family, with lots of loud cheering and jumping around the living room. Fortunately, there were no tipped-over TV trays during the proceedings.

Fast-forward to 2001. I was promoted to a position of some authority in the hospital where I worked, St. Luke’s. Even though the healthcare industry was under tremendous pressure, St. Luke’s was the kind of place where people stayed for entire careers, largely because of the work environment as it pertained to co-workers.

“It’s like a family here,” one new employee told me as I walked around the nursing units. That was an apt description.

My “work family” knew I loved Ohio State, so over the years, I received a lot of Ohio State-themed gifts. In my mind’s eye, I can see my compatriots plotting the boss’s Christmas gift.

“What do you think she’d like?”

“Anything that has to do with Ohio State.”

“Oh, good. That makes it easy.”

Consequently, I received Santa Claus statues dressed up in Ohio State garb. I got a fancy Ohio State lamp for my desk. My administrative assistant painted a scarlet wooden shelf for me to display all the Ohio State knick-knacks I received over the years. The whole nursing leadership gang pitched in and bought a full set of Ohio State luggage (which I still use when I travel). When I got a new office, the staff in environmental services painted it scarlet and gray for me, even though scarlet and gray were not on the “approved palette” of paint colors for the hospital. Talk about going out on a limb! Unapproved paint colors! That’s just the kind of brave, loving people I worked with.

One of my favorite gifts was an Ohio State office chair. It was one of the most comfortable chairs I ever sat in and made the long hours in meetings and working late into the night at my computer much more bearable. It had a well-cushioned seat and a tall back, great for leaning into and pondering the solution to multiple problems that vexed us. When I retired at the end of 2013, I took my chair with me. By that time, part of the seat was repaired with red duct tape. That chair weathered a lot of seat time and was no longer fit for any other human. Plus, the next occupant of that office was a Michigan State fan.

The Ohio State chair was moved into the computer room of our home, where it continued to receive abuse as I completed my doctorate in nursing practice (from The Ohio State University, of course) and began a part-time teaching position at a local university. Now, the leather on the arms of the chair began to crack, and more duct tape was applied to cover tears in other parts of the chair, as well.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I sat down in the chair to answer e-mails. As I began to scoot the chair closer to the computer desk, the chair lurched forward, almost casting me to the floor. I jumped up (as well as a 65-year-old can jump, anyway) and looked at the chair which now betrayed me. There were black plastic parts lying on the floor, and I tried as best I could to make the chair usable. These efforts were to no avail. I had to concede that the chair was no longer safe. We made a small burnt offering and hauled it out to the street for the refuse men to pick up.

Not more than two hours after the Buckeye chair was set on the curb, it vanished. That beat up old chair disappeared before the refuse men ever had to deal with it. Someone still found value in that well-used chair. I hope they can fix it so that it’s strong and continue to use it for several thousand more seat-hours.

One more fast-forward is merited, here. Push ahead to Saturday, October 20, 2018. The Buckeyes traveled to West Lafayette to play Purdue University, and they got their butts kicked. There’s just no other way to say it. Buckeye fans all over the country were in shock, dismayed to see their beloved team unable to stop Purdue’s onslaught. When it was over, Purdue had more than doubled the points the Buckeyes had scored. It was a tough defeat, but congratulations, Purdue.

As I turned off the television and the lights, ready to head for the escape of sleep, I thought about that old Buckeye chair and the young men who had just spilled their own broken parts all over the field of play. I hope they realize they still have value. I hope they know they can use the duct tape of coaching and practice and watching game film this week to put themselves back together and become strong again. Buckeye Nation will still be here for you because, well…it’s in our DNA.

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