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Ohio State Michigan rivalry transcends the field

Urban Meyer speaks to the media during Ohio State's football media day Aug. 11.

Urban Meyer speaks to the media during Ohio State’s football media day Aug. 11.

When you hear “Ohio State” or “Michigan,” the rivalry and The Game are one of the first things that come to mind.

Growing up in Ohio with OSU alumni in my family, I view The Game no differently. It’s the biggest rivalry in sports with the most intense fans, one that culminates at the end of the football regular season for two teams that want nothing more than to beat each other.

Whether you’re a football fan or not, if you hail from Ohio or Michigan, you’re ready to cheer come time for The Game. The most dedicated fans can never waiver to the other side, even for reasons completely unrelated to football.

You stick with your team and root for them to win, no matter what.

But there are some things even bigger than the biggest rivalry in sports, and one of those things is cancer.

When Grant Reed, then 11 years old, now 12 years old, was diagnosed with cancer, he used the rivalry as his motivation to beat the disease, which kept him in the hospital for weeks at a time. Both of Reed’s parents are OSU alumni and former marching band members, so being a Buckeye was something Reed was born into.

That’s why Reed decided to name his brain tumor “Michigan.”

And then he beat it.

Last December, when OSU football coach Urban Meyer found out about Reed’s creative choice in naming his tumor, he visited Reed at Nationwide Children’s Hospital while Reed was still undergoing treatment. Since The Game takes place in Ann Arbor, Mich., this year, Meyer wasn’t able to offer Reed tickets to the game.

That’s where Michigan football coach Brady Hoke came in.

When Hoke heard about Reed’s tumor, he felt the need to reach out to the young Buckeye fan.

“Well I think as a father and a parent, we’re glad in this instance that he beat Michigan, and that’s probably the only time I’ll say it,” Hoke said. “But that’s important, it’s important for us, we’ve got a great, unbelievable opportunity to help kids and help people understand.”

He said this was an obvious case where something was more important than the rivalry.

“This is a great rivalry, the greatest there is, it’s competitive, and it’s passionate,” Hoke said. “But at the end of the day there’s a heck of lot more things more important than those rivalries.”

As I am not a parent, I can’t relate to Hoke’s reasoning for reaching out to Reed in that aspect. But as a human being, you can’t help but feel Hoke’s compassion and the compassion coming from Buckeyes and Wolverines elsewhere.

Hoke gave Reed and his family four tickets to come watch the Buckeyes and the Wolverines face off on Nov. 30.

Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner agreed that this opportunity wasn’t something the Wolverines and coach Hoke could pass up.

“That’s great on the part of coach Hoke. The rivalry is so big, what he’s fighting is so much bigger,” Gardner said. “If what he needs to do is name his deal “Beat Michigan,” I fully support it. But when he comes to The Game, I don’t support that in any way.”

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