Rory Ryan
Rory Ryan

There’s nothing like a friendly wager to make any sporting event a little more interesting.

Unless I’m making a bet with John Fuller, who always seems to win, I find that a reasonably amicable gamble makes any World Series, Super Bowl or other prime-time showdown more worthwhile.

Thus, it was that I reached out to one Tom Maurer, a newsroom editor at the Hillsboro (Oregon) Argus in search of a small bet on the NCAA national championship game Jan. 12 between The Ohio State Buckeyes and some team from Oregon. They might be the Beavers. No, no, no, let’s not leave it to the Beavers.

Even though Oregon is, indeed, the Beaver State, this team playing Ohio State a week from Monday is called the Mighty Ducks. Or just Ducks. Maybe they do Aflac commercials for extra credit. I don’t know.

Regardless, my proposition to Mr. Maurer of the Hillsboro Argus is as follows: “I will wager a bottle of Buckeye Vodka, made right here in southwest Ohio vs. a bottle of Oregon wine of your selection. Should you have any interest or require any proof of identification, feel free to contact me.”

I await the Oregon editor’s reply.

For some possibly interesting background (one can only hope), there are some connections between Hillsboro, Ohio and Hillsboro, Oregon.

At least one Hillsboro (Ohio) High School graduate lives (or lived) near Hillsboro, Oregon. And at least one Hillsboro (Ohio) city auditor once received invoices for road salt that were intended for Hillsboro, Oregon, perhaps from Diamond Crystal Salt, some 20 years ago.

Also, I now know of two newspapers called “Argus.”

One is in Hillsboro, Oregon. The other is in Goldsboro, North Carolina (the home of Seymour Johnson) and where Highland County Press columnist Steve Roush served as an executive sports editor not that many years ago.

While this year’s first-ever playoff format for NCAA D-I football – which gave us a “Final Four” of Ohio State, Oregon, Alabama and Florida State – has the feeling of a classic Rose Bowl matchup, it also has the need for this friendly Hillsboro vs. Hillsboro wager, in my most humble opinion.

The Rose Bowl is known as "The Granddaddy of Them All" because it is the oldest bowl game. It was first played in 1902. Traditionally, the Rose Bowl game hosted the conference champions from the Big Ten (like Ohio State) and Pac 10 (like Oregon) conferences. About a dozen years ago, the Bowl Championship Series system changed the traditional Big Ten vs. Pac 10 format.

Still, for an old-timer like me, it is appropriate that the first-ever playoff championship game has the flavor of an old-time Rose Bowl game.

Forty-five years (or is it 46?) have gone by, but I can still remember Rex Kern playing QB for Woody Hayes against John McKay’s University of Spoiled Children Trojans, led by none other than O.J. Simpson.

While it never would have occurred to me as a third-grader in Mabel Euverard’s class at Concord Elementary, it’s certainly not politically correct in this era of questioning every sports team name from the Redskins to the Indians to the Braves, to have a Pac 10 conference in which Trojans and Beavers were regular adversaries. But once again, I digress.

The 1969 Rose Bowl was the 55th Rose Bowl game. Both teams were undefeated, with OSU ranked No. 1 and USC ranked No. 2.

The Ohio State Buckeyes defeated the Trojans, 27-16, and Kern was named the Player of the Game.

USC had the Heisman Trophy winner in O.J. Simpson, who rushed for 171 yards against the Bucks, but he also fumbled – one of five Trojan turnovers.

Both Kern and Simpson went on to play in the NFL. Kern, the son of a Lancaster, Ohio barber, also earned his master’s and doctorate degrees. Of course, we all know what Simpson’s post-career amounted to.

But that was then.

This year, Oregon has the Heisman winner in quarterback Marcus Mariota. The Ducks’ head coach is the capable Mark Helfrich.

The Ohio State quarterback is third-stringer Cardale Jones, who started the season behind Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett. The Buckeyes are coached by Urban Meyer, who shares a July 10 birthday with me. He also used to coach the Utah Utes, and I’ve been to Utah. (How about that?)

On another note, the city of Oregon, Ohio, a suburb of Toledo, has announced it will temporarily change its name on Monday, Jan. 12, the day of the NCAA championship game.

One can only assume it won’t be to Portland or Salem.

So, how about it, Hillsboro, Oregon? Is the Hillsboro Argus up to the challenge? If Buckeye Vodka is too strong for you, I can offer some chocolate and peanut butter buckeyes or five pounds of Amish cheese.

I’ll still take the fifth of Oregon wine. Taking the Fifth is always a reasonable option.

Go Bucks.

Rory Ryan is publisher and owner of The Highland County Press.