There are some traditions associated with The Game, though: there is the annual "Beat Michigan" blood drive, the rubbing of Thompson's nose, and the weird "kiss the giant sloth" ritual that I understand is held by a small cult of geology geeks in the Orton Geological Museum.
One of the prime traditions, one that most people will talk about, is the crazy, crowd-inspired frenzy of jumping into Mirror Lake with all your clothes on (or, depending on the exhibitionary nature of the jumper, naked).
Mirror lake was what sealed the deal on me coming to OSU. I don't often think about it that way, as other factors are primary in my head: the rejection letter from U of I, the fact that I saw an OSU-Pitt football game that ended 78-0, and the encouragement of my father all play large roles. But it was orientation when I decided to come here, when I walked out of a building and looked down at Mirror Lake. It took my breath away.
I remember my Freshman year, when I saw the first people jump into the lake. I didn't go in myself, knowing how damn cold I'd be and knowing how far from home I was that night, but I watched. I enjoyed. I had fun. There were about ten people in the lake, and the rest of us just sort of stood by and were jealous from the sidelines.
Today, I walked to the Lake after hearing about the revelry two weeks ago, pushed on by the frenzy and media hype, as well as ESPN cameras being there. I saw pictures and video from that night all over the 'net and on TV.
For some people, it's a religious experience. For others, it's a purification. Perhaps to a small minority it's similar to the Aztec notion of human sacrifice, that by immersing themselves in the cold water they experience a form of death and rebirth that carries their teyola to the football team to forge victory and sustains the legacy that is Ohio State.
Regardless of why, they jump in. There is no way to stop them, and I'm not sure I'd want to.
I admit, I was astounded today when I arrived at Mirror Lake for the first time in several weeks and saw the amazing damage. There are, of course, footprints in the mud everywhere. The grass is torn up. That's all expected.
What was unexpected was the dark, blood reddish colour to the water.
The party that had occurred had stirred up enough sediment to still be suspending the mud throughout. I immediately thought of the animals that depend on that water, because there are many: fish, ducks, herons, and the occasional migrating crane.
Once upon a time, there was even an alligator.
The question that bubbled to the surface was another of those questioning lines that doesn't really need an answer, but bugged me: we all know that things live in Mirror Lake, so how do we forget about them?
The sediment that ends up in the lake can suffocate the fish who count on the generally clear water to breathe. Gods only know what's at the bottom of that lake now: shoes, socks, broken glass. But when we jump in, we don't think about these things. I think now, nine years after I almost jumped, about hospitality and being a good guest in someone else's home. How would I feel now if I'd jumped in then?
There's an ecological impact to jumping in. How does that mesh with the vaguely religious aspects of the football game that surrounds it? I don't really know, nor do I think I'll find the answer, or even that the answer is necessarily important.
Mirror Lake, of course, will recover, and it will look like it always has. But for now, what have we done to it? I'll leave you a picture of how I remember it best, with wishmaiden studying nearby with the flowers.