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Cracking the Bucknut

How Ohio State fans came to be so obnoxious, and who we should blame for it



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"It's everything negative and easily mockable about the Midwest compressed in a single entity," he deadpans. And it's more than just a vibe. The classic Bucknut has a defining set of traits all his own.

"The stereotype is angry, probably has a goatee, probably watches MMA and wrestling on the side, may live with his mother — may. And also, he's perpetually defensive about Ohio State's struggles.

"They wear jerseys," he adds. "People don't wear the jersey in the SEC. It's not something adults do."

And Buckeye Nation has earned the appropriate national accolades for it. According to the Bleacher Report's list of the 25 rudest fan bases in all of college athletics, Ohio State came in fourth — the highest ranking of any Big Ten program. (The top 3 spots were held down by West Virginia, Alabama, and LSU, making OSU the No. 1 rudest team among civilized cultures.)

"They don't live in the real world. They live in a world where they see everything in the world of sports, with these scarlet-and-gray glasses they have on," says WKNR's Goldhammer. Born and raised in Colorado, he delights in riling up listeners by putting a finger in the eye of Brutus Buckeye.

"I've seen Yankee fans, [Colorado] fans, Bronco fans, University of Wisconsin in Madison — nothing is like Ohio State that I've seen. Nothing even belongs in the same conversation."

Bruce Hooley is Goldhammer's stationmate at WKNR, an OSU graduate who wrote about Buckeye sports for The Plain Dealer for years. In exchange for his effort, he sometimes received death threats.

According to Hooley's math, 20 percent of Buckeye fans are passionate alumni. Another 40 percent are simply sports fans with an even keel. But the remaining 40 percent have repackaged whatever personal insecurity complexes they're hefting around into a superiority complex about OSU football.

"For the 40 percent freak faction, really, their quality of life is tied to how the football team did on Saturday," he says. "There's a reason why they say a few bad apples can spoil the bunch."

Most observers agree that Buckeye fanatics hit their most rabid just as Jim Tressel began his belly-flop from grace over failing to report the free swag his players were stockpiling like Halloween candy. An NCAA probe has resulted in a one-year ban from competitive play. Sadly, college basketball's governing body has no authority to rein in Ohio State fans in any similar fashion.

Naturally, Bucknuts responded by calling BS or blaming the media — ESPN in particular. Many believe the broadcasting empire went after Tressel because it felt threatened by OSU's influence among fans. Even now that Tressel has resigned from the program, a bad aftertaste lingers.

"It hurt, because I knew Michigan fans were just waiting for this, they were going to urinate all over us," says Risko. "There are those who don't like Ohio State, so naturally they hate and pile up. But Bill Clinton can sleep with more women than anyone in the White House, and everybody loves him and they forgive him. But Jim Tressel? They don't want to forgive, except for us loyalists. We look and say he paid a heavy price."

Perhaps nobody has felt Buckeye Nation's misplaced wrath more than former quarterback Kirk Herbstreit.

Now an acclaimed analyst on ESPN's GameDay, Herbstreit sits in the penthouse of college football broadcasting: the smooth-talking nice guy called upon to handle the network's biggest games. But along with that job goes a need to speak objectively. When he believes his alma mater is overmatched, he says so. When their coach screws up mightily, he calls for his resignation.

Of course, Buckeye douchebags have no use for such genuine expression. And so they abuse Herbstreit at the slightest provocation.

"Five times a day, there would be a car parked at a stop sign, people knocked on the door, they'd ask for autographs at the front door, they'd drive by real slow, 12:30 at night," Herbstreit told the sports blog Outkick the Coverage last November, referring to the mobs that would form outside his Columbus home. "I was getting up in the middle of the night to see cars outside in the street. I had no idea what they were doing there. The thought that in this crazy world we live in, somebody's driving by your house five times a day or more, that starts to work on you emotionally. But we dealt with that for four or five years." (ESPN didn't respond to Scene's request for an interview with Herbstreit.)

The Columbus Dispatch didn't help matters when, in the summer of 2009, it published Herbstreit's home address and included a handy map to his place on the front page.

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