The Other Other Joe Wilson
My Uncle Joe Wilson – no, not the husband of Valerie Plame and, no, not the South Carolina Congressman who yelled, “You Lie,” just Uncle Mac – and his wife Marty are planning a trip to Colorado in October. We don’t get to see Uncle Mac as often as we’d like. He’s always lived on the coast East and Left. But, we’ve had some memorable times together.
We spent the most time together when we were both students at Harvard’s Kennedy School. Mac was in the mid-career program. I was in the more rigorous two year Master of Public Policy program. We MPP students liked to think of the mid-career program as the reason our tuition was only outrageous rather than extremely outrageous. The “cash cow” program subsidized the next generation of leaders.
Our shared experience that Uncle Mac remembers best is not our time in Cambridge. It was the 1976 Rose Bowl between UCLA and Ohio State. Dad, Alec, Uncle Mac and I scalped tickets the day of the game right after the Rose Bowl parade. Dad and Alec took one pair of tickets. Uncle Mac and I took another in the opposite side of the stadium. For an eleven sports fanatic – me – it was a thrill to attend such a big game. It was, for my uncle, life threatening.
The Woody Hayes/Archie Griffin led Ohio State Buckeyes needed only to defeat the Bruins, who they had manhandled earlier in the year 42-20, to complete a perfect season and claim a national title. The Buckeye fans were confident. The Ohio State band marched into the stadium chanting 42-20.
I didn’t know much about UCLA. I had never heard of their coach Dick Vermeil. But, I did know I was going to cheer for UCLA and cheer my heart out. I loved an underdog!
No one took much notice of my proclamation that I would be cheering for the Bruins on that day. That is until Uncle Mac and I found our seats – right in the middle of the Ohio State cheering section. Still, there wasn’t too much to worry about. The Buckeyes were heavy favorites – 15 ½ points. Bruins fans wouldn’t cheer much that day.
It was one of those games that breathes life in the old cliché, “That’s why they play the games.” The Buckeyes got off to an early 3-0 lead in a defensive first half. But, in the second half, the Bruins reeled off 16 straight points – a field goal and two touchdowns. I cheered louder each time UCLA drove down the field. When they tied the score 3-3, I was just annoying to the Buckeye fans. When they built up a 13 point lead, my cheering was beyond the pale. A big fan in a plaid shirt who had been soothing his anxiety with alcohol turned around to my Uncle and said, “If you don’t shut that kid up, you’re going to get it.”
The Bruins matched the Buckeye’s only touchdown of the day with another of their own. The final score, Bruins 23, Buckeye’s 10. Oklahoma beat Michigan later that night to win the National Championship.
I left the stadium happy that day. My Uncle left a little pale but happy to escape alive. I don’t know if he’s completely forgiven me yet or not. I’ll have to ask him in October.