For first-timers and seasoned fans, title game ‘incredible’

Josh Weir

Another national title game appearance for Ohio State. Ho hum.

Not quite, say Tony and Kristen Kaplanis.

Seated at the base of the Superdome sign on Canal Street, the Canton couple soaked in the pregame atmosphere of downtown New Orleans as Ohio State prepared to face LSU in Monday’s BCS title game.

“You’re talking to two people who’ve never been to one,” said Tony Kaplanis, a Canton criminal defense lawyer. “I mean, we’ve been to Buckeye games but not a bowl game. So for us, this is incredible.”

As soon as West Virginia lost to Pitt on Dec. 1, Tony Kaplanis got on the Internet and got tickets. The Buckeyes were all but assured of their third national title game appearance in six years and second straight.

“I don’t think it’s lost its luster,” Kristen Kaplanis said.

“I think last year prevented that,” said Tony Kaplanis, a 1986 OSU grad, referring to the 41-14 loss to Florida. “If we had won last year, I think we would have become a little complacent. I don’t think that will happen this year.”

Rick McKenna, a Cleveland native who now lives in Memphis, made the drive from Tennessee. He was in Arizona last year when Buckeye nation took over Glendale.

“That was like a home game,” said the 1974 OSU grad, who also attended the Ohio State men’s basketball team’s appearances in the Final Four in 1999 and 2007.

This year, in the heart of Cajun Country, Buckeye fans are mere visitors.

“This is like one of their home games,” McKenna said. “There’s way too much purple and gold. But that would make it that much more special if we win.”

LSU fans were out in full force, creating a long procession of Tiger colors — with sprinkles of scarlet and gray — on their way to the Superdome. They were tailgating. And threatening. As a couple of Ohio State fans parked on a side street, a well-hydrated LSU fan blurted from a balcony, “Hey, Ohio State, you better hope no LSU fans do anything to your car.”

Matt Craft and Matt Kentner of St. Marys are experiencing a national title game for the first time. Monday was special for a lot of reasons.

“I think it means more given all the national media bashing,” Craft said.

“After last year’s loss, we’re not getting any respect,” Kentner said.

Reach Repository sports writer Josh Weir at (330) 580-8426 or e-mail