It’s not that Michigan fans WANT to hate Ohio State. It’s that Ohio State keeps providing so many good reasons.
Forget about the hiring of Urban Meyer as football coach, or the seven straight times he beat the Wolverines, or the fact that when he retired, the Buckeyes immediately hired away two assistants from Michigan’s staff.
Small potatoes. Now we learn the big school down the highway — in a state where if you have a Michigan license plate you better go 10 miles under the speed limit — has applied to trademark the word “the.”
Yep. “The.” As in “THE Ohio State University.”
To paraphrase comedian Steven Wright, “You can’t have everything, Buckeyes. Where would you put it?”
Well, apparently Ohio State wants to put it on T-shirts, caps and coffee mugs. And it doesn’t want anyone else using it.
“It” being “the.”
“Like other institutions, Ohio State works to vigorously protect the university’s brand and trademarks,” a school spokesman said in a statement to The Columbus Dispatch. “These assets hold significant value, which benefits our students and faculty and the broader community by supporting our core academic mission of teaching and research.”
Hmm. Why is it whenever big sports schools want to grab money, they always cite “teaching and research?” You never hear them say, “We’re doing this so we can double the size of our weight room.”
But money is the only thing behind this — besides, perhaps, a dose of pomposity. So before we go any further, I just want to say five things.
The. The. The. The. The.
‘TOSU’ has a nice ring to it
Ohio State (sorry, but I’m not using, you know, that word) believes it has the rights to “The” because it is technically how the school is known. Back in 1878, it changed its name from Ohio Agricultural and Mechanical College (gee, why wouldn’t you stick with that one?) to The Ohio State University.
To which the thoughtful, Socratic response should be:
Who gives a hoot?
Books list colleges with “the” in front all the time, as in “The University of Florida, or “The University of Oregon.” Ohio State itself has often gone by OSU, despite the fact that Oklahoma State University uses the same letters. Perhaps now Ohio State will go by TOSU, which sounds like an Asian noodle dish.
Look, Ohio State can do whatever pretentious thing it wants in its own universe. Call itself “THE.” Call itself “A.” Call itself “AN,” “OR,” “PRE,” “EX” or “KING OF THE WORLD.”
But when you want to trademark something, you are claiming that you own it, and no one else gets to use it — not without paying you.
Which is why Michael Buffer trademarked the phrase “Let’s Get Ready to Rumble” and has reportedly collected millions from others who employed it.
And why the 3M company sued a Chinese firm called 3N and won a big lawsuit.
And why Adidas is suing Forever 21 for using a three-strip design on clothing that Adidas says is its bread and butter identifier.
Trademarking is about exclusivity and blocking competitors. So if this Ohio State effort goes through, will the Buckeyes be coming after anyone who says “The” in front of a school name — the way University of Miami football players constantly refer to their school as “The U.”
Will a Miami alum then, when someone asks where he went to college, only be allowed to say “U”? And then the person says “Me?” And the Miami guy says, “No, U.”
You see where this goes.
And let me add three more things.
The. The. The.
Sue me again.
Time to root for … Marc Jacobs
Now, according to The Washington Post, Ohio State isn’t the first entity to try and own “the.” Designer Marc Jacobs has apparently already filed for a “the” trademark (for items such as “The Smock Dress”, and “The Pajama Top”). And since whoever files first often wins in trademark wars, the Buckeyes could be upended by a 56-year-old graduate of the Parsons School of Design, where I’m pretty sure they don’t have a football team.
So the other 49 states should be rooting for Team Jacobs. Michigan fans will. And speaking of Michigan, the Wolverines countered the Buckeyes last week by suggesting in a tweet they might have their own proprietary little word.
As in University “OF” Michigan.
Meanwhile, you wonder what the athletes on the football and basketball teams are thinking as Ohio State tries to corner the money market on “The,” but still doesn’t pay a (non-scholarship) dime to its players who win all those games and bring in all those fans and TV ratings.
But that’s THE hypocrisy of big-time college sports.
By the way, in case you think we’re being hard on Buckeye nation, did you know that Urban Meyer plans to open a restaurant in Ohio this fall and have a special back area called “The 7-0 Room”?
O is for obnoxious.
And one last thing.
The. The. The. The. The.
Our lawyers are standing by.
Contact Mitch Albom: email@example.com. Check out the latest updates with his charities, books and events at MitchAlbom.com. Download “The Sports Reporters” podcast each Monday and Thursday on-demand through Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify and more. Follow him on Twitter @mitchalbom.