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Commentary: ‘Battle of Ohio’ splits Ohio State students

Cleveland Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer (6) attempts a pass in the second quarter against the Minnesota Vikings. The Cleveland Browns defeated the Minnesota Vikings, 31-27, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Sunday, September 22, 2013. Credit: Courtesy of MCT

Cleveland Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer (6) attempts a pass in the second quarter against the Minnesota Vikings. The Cleveland Browns defeated the Minnesota Vikings, 31-27, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Sunday, September 22, 2013. Credit: Courtesy of MCT

On Sunday afternoons on Ohio State’s campus during the fall, chances are that plenty of people will be wearing brown and orange in support of their favorite NFL team.

The Cleveland Browns and the Cincinnati Bengals play each other twice every year in a rivalry known as the “Battle of Ohio.”  Columbus is located roughly between the two cities, 127 miles southwest of Cleveland and 97 miles northeast of Cincinnati.

The “Battle of Ohio” began in 1970 after the AFL/NFL merger and the two teams have played 79 times. The Bengals lead the series, 42-37.

The Bengals have held an advantage since the new Browns franchise joined the NFL in 1999, after the original franchise relocated to Baltimore.  The Bengals have won 18 of 28 games in this time span, giving Cincinnati fans reasons to brag to Clevelanders.

Last season, the Bengals finished 10-6 with a spot in the playoffs while the Browns finished 5-11, a typical record for the team in recent years.

The histories of these two teams are very closely related. The Browns were formed in 1946 and named after their first head coach, Paul Brown.  Brown, who was the head coach at Ohio State for three seasons, including their 1942 National Championship year, continued his success as he led the Browns to seven league championships in their first 10 seasons.

Brown’s time in Cleveland came to an unexpected end when he was fired by the new owner Art Modell in 1963.  He wasted no time returning to football, and joined the newly-formed Cincinnati Bengals as their first head coach in 1968, bringing many of his own traditions, such as similar uniforms of dark brown jerseys and orange helmets as well as tactics like the two-minute drill and player intelligence tests that he created in Cleveland.

The rivalry has been very tense for players and fans both on and off the field. An example of this was during a game between the Bengals and Seattle Seahawks in 1989 when Bengal fans threw snowballs at Seahawk players, prompting Cincinnati coach Sam Wyche to grab a microphone and say, “Will the next person who sees anyone throw anything on the field point them out, so we can get them out of here! You don’t live in Cleveland; you live in Cincinnati!” Cleveland fans took this shot personally, and the next time the Bengals played in Cleveland, Wyche was booed by Browns fans.

Both teams have had successes and failures, and the number of fans supporting either one may depend on who is having the better season.

The “Battle of Ohio” will be played twice this year, on Sept. 29 at First Energy Stadium on the Cleveland lakefront and on Nov. 17 at Paul Brown Stadium in downtown Cincinnati.

Football fans at Ohio State will proudly wear scarlet and gray on Saturday afternoons in support of the Buckeyes, but the brown and orange many wear the next day depends on where they are from, and which Ohio team they are rooting for.

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