My mission was clear: meet Ryan the camera man and Buster Brown, my unlucky opponent on Market Street on Saturday morning for a face-off to see who could nab the most Ohio tourists and con them into photo opps — and all of it would be captured on video. I believe the prize was everlasting notoriety on the pages of the City Paper.
As I suited up for my challenge — red Ohio State T-shirt, red Ohio State baseball cap (I'm a sucker for costume opps) — I worked on my plan of attack. I had to expect the worst: there would be no Buckeye Staters in the Market on this boiling Saturday, and I would just look like a bumbling idiot sweating to death in the heat.
Two minutes before I ran out the door I had a quick pep-talk from my roommate, Bree, an Ohio-hater in her college days, who hails from Michigan.
"What's their mascot?" "Buckeyes." "Who's their competition?" "The Michigan Wolverines." "Wolverines?" "Yes, Wolverines." "Weird."
She even taught me a little song that ruthless Ohio State fans sing to heckle Michigan fans: "We don't give a damn about the whole state of Mi-chi-gan, the whole state of Mi-chi-gan, the whole state of Mi-chi-gan!"
This pep-talk would later play an important role in my shtick, when I approached an Ohioan who caught me off-guard and accused me of not even being from Ohio. This was moments after he admitted to me that he wasn't even an Ohio fan, but instead rooted for (gasp!) Michigan. Immediately pegging him as a traitor, I pulled out my fresh literature. "They are your biggest rivals! How could you?!" To draw attention away from his prior (and spot-on) accusation (I'm from Queens, after all), I proceeded to sing him Bree's song. Strategery, my friends.
One might think that roving the Market and accosting mere strangers would be awkward, but as it turns out, people from Ohio are quite amiable. As I set out down the narrow aisles crowded with beach bric-a-brac, sugared pecans, and shell earrings I shouted out "Buckeye fans? Are there any Buckeye fans around here?"
Sometimes I spied a nearby tourist grinning from ear to ear and pounced. "Excuse me, are you by any chance from Ohio?" They thought they had just won the lotto. "Why, as a matter of fact, YES!"
But every time I elicited this response from another couple of strangers, I couldn't help but be tickled at my luck. "You are! Really? That's so great! Would you pretty please take a picture with me?" Who knew I would find 14 Ohio tourists in 20 minutes covering three blocks? Simply amazing.
The challenge turned out to be quite a bit of fun, and I was able to flex my acting muscles from back in the day. I had to come up with a good bit of improv, explaining to the layman why I was stalking the Market for Ohio tourists. So, if anyone asks, Ohio is the state of the month.
And btw, I beat you Buster.