Here's a book that will be absolutely, positively loved in one state and hated and reviled in an adjoining state. Then again, Joe Menzer probably wasn't counting on his book about Ohio State's football history, Buckeye Madness: The Glorious, Tumultuous, Behind-the-Scenes Story of Ohio State Football, to be a bestseller in Michigan. No matter. This nicely written book serves as a fine recap of one of college football's most successful programs.
Menzer made several good decisions in the course of writing this book. The first was to spend more than half of it reviewing Woody Hayes' time as Ohio State's head coach. Hayes took over the program in 1951, won a long list of championships and bowl games, and left in disgrace after punching an opposing player on the field in 1978. He was one of those legendary coaches who left no one he encountered without an opinion. He could punch one of his players in the stomach during practice at one point, and hours later quietly pay for the medical care of someone he didn't even know. That Hayes won a ton of games justified his methods to some, but not all, who watched.
Ohio State football has been a little less dramatic since Hayes left, but the program still has been generally successful. Its biggest moment in recent years came in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl, when it stunned unbeaten Miami (Fla.) to win the national championship. In reviewing more than a half-century of play, Menzer generally sticks to remembering memorable players (Archie Griffin, Chris Spielman, Keith Byers) rather than reciting scores of games that don't matter much any more.
The exception to that last rule, of course, is when Michigan is involved. The two universities might have the most rabid, durable interstate rivalry in college football, and the big wins and tough losses are thoroughly and wisely reviewed here. A book like this is designed to satisfy the thousands who pack Ohio State's stadium every autumn or who follow the team from a longer distance. It does that, but it's done well enough so that other college football fans will like it, too. Except, of course, for those in Michigan. Budd Bailey works in the sports department of the Buffalo News.