Now, how did you expect I'd react to the news that Ohio University was once again the No. 1 Party School in America? Write something scholarly?
Heck no. I'll, of course, re-post this boozy love letter to the place where I became, for better or worse, who I am.
It’s probably because of my years at Ohio University I drink responsibly whenever I should and irresponsibly whenever I can.
It’s a vast over-simplification to say, but the only thing I can recall learning with any clarity there from 1981-1985 was never mix Ouzo and beer. In the same glass.
We used to do that all the time and, guaranteed, whenever we did someone was bound to lose their pants.
You can’t spell bourbon or ouzo without OU.
It was a fountain of knowledge where I went to drink.
Those were some of the T-shirts they sold on campus when I was there. I still see variations of them when I go back once every year or so to see the old gang.
We fly or drive in from all over the country and get two or three rooms at the diviest hotel down near the Hocking River. In a town where big guys are called “Tiny,” the hotel on the lowest point in southeastern Ohio is called The Highlander.
Tell someone who attended most any other college a group of 40 somethings are going to go back to the university they all attended in the 1980s and many assume lecherous activities will ensue.
They think the guys will slip off their wedding rings and spend their nights chasing around the comely innocents.
This is wrong on multiple levels. First: I never met an innocent at OU, not to be confused, please, with Ohio State University in Columbus.
Second: most of us are too fatigued and too wise to chase anything anymore.
Third -- and this is key: there’s not a soul within a 50-mile radius more important to us than the dozen or so people clustered around those tables tilting from too many pitchers of beer.
It was after leaving Athens I began to understand games were for people who were inept at the art of conversation.
Why would you engage in any distraction that kept you from learning more about the people sitting right next to you?
Those were some of the things that crossed my mind when I learned Ohio University was named by the Princeton Review as the No. 1 Party School in America.
It’s a chicken and egg sort of question, but I didn’t go to Athens because it was a party school. But I did go there because at the time the Ohio drinking age was 18.
I learned later on -- surprise! -- it had a great school for journalism. Hey, I liked to journalize!
If anything exceeds its reputation for being a party school, it is its reputation for grooming dynamic journalists.
Media big shots Roger Ailes and Matt Lauer graduated from there. Legendary actor Paul Newman dropped out of there.
My academic achievements fall somewhere deep in the middle of that spectrum.
I remember when I went for one of my first post-graduate interviews. It was at the Nashville Banner. The managing editor, a fine southern gentleman, saw Ohio University on my resume and asked if that’s where Woody Hayes coached.
No, sir, that was Zero State in Columbus.
“How long were you on the school paper?” he asked.
One year, I told him.
“What’d you do the other three years, drink beer?”
“Good. I did it for four.”
In a world where crabby tight asses seem to make all the rules and then more rules regarding the original rules, convivial folk will always have a way of finding one another.
I got that job and it was instrumental in launching a career that has led me to friendships with some of the world’s most fascinating individuals.
Athens was where I became who I am.
So cheers, Ohio University. I’ve been under your influence for 30 years now.
And gloriously under the influence for many of those years.
And it’s all just been one hell of a good time.