Michigan vs. Ohio State: The Rivalry (DVD Review)26 Oct, 2008 By: Pete Croatto
HBO Sports turns its attention, for the first time, to college football with Michigan vs. Ohio State: The Rivalry, another excellent effort from the folks who have set the gold standard for sports documentaries (When It Was a Game, City on Fire).
The annual game between the two storied Big 10 programs has taken place since 1897. Since 1935, it’s been the last regular season game the two teams play. The conference title is usually at stake, and sometimes there are national championship implications. Always, the pride of two states and their alumni are on the line. As one interview subject explains, “If you don’t think it’s a big deal around here, just ask the guy [whose team] lost it.”
The documentary delves into that rivalry, interviewing scores of former players, alumni (including Mike Wallace and R.L. Stine), and fans from both schools who give a face to an interstate war where loyalty is absolute.
It also helps that a bulk of the program deals with the 10 games coached by OSU’s Woody Hayes and Michigan’s Bo Schembechler, two larger-than-life figures whose passion for winning was bottomless. After his vaunted OSU team lost to Michigan in 1969, Hayes immediately began working on the next year’s game. Schembechler greeted his new team in 1968 by saying, “I will treat you all the same — like dogs.”
Filled with insight, humor and human perspective, The Rivalry, like all of HBO Sports’ documentaries, shows there’s drama and meaning to sports beyond the playing fields. That’s the reason why someone who prefers Woody Allen over Woody Hayes will probably enjoy it. As for sports fans, this is manna.