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December 20, 2009

Time for work and play

A generation ago a team getting to a bowl game may have been a bigger reward than it is now. There are more than 30 bowls out there and teams who just hit the .500 mark can be pretty much assured of prolonging their season for at least a couple more weeks. But there is something different about the Rose Bowl. There is the history, the exposure and of course the climate and sightseeing don't hurt either.

Ohio State will be leaving for sunny Southern California on Christmas night and while the team knows that this has to be a business trip also know that there are some perks for winning the conference and representing the Big Ten in the Granddaddy of them All on New Year's Day. But there has to be a fine line between "having fun" and "getting business done".

"We are young adults and we still like to have fun and go out there and have fun with our teammates but at the end of the day when you prepare, when you have practice you do it to the best of your ability," defensive lineman Doug Worthington said. "But you can't be up here and be stiff and stay in the rooms, you have got to have fun but know when not to."

The schedule will be full of fun things to do including a trip to Disneyland, a night at a comedy improv club and of course a Rose Bowl tradition going to the annual Beef Bowl.

"My brother was telling me about a place out there called Lawry's, he was telling me the Rose Bowl teams get to go there," safety Anderson Russell said.

The Beef Bowl has been going on for more than 50 years and pits the two teams against each other (on separate nights) to see which team can put away more prime rib in pounds. The Beef Bowl itself is older than most of the current bowl games in operation.

While there is plenty of excitement on the team to make the trip out, not every player is going to allow themselves to get star struck and caught up in the whole West Coast scene.

"I'm not too big on L.A. and California," cornerback Chimdi Chekwa said. "It's never been something big to me, going to L.A. It's nice weather, it's a nice place to be, it's a nice place to vacation, but I've never been real big on L.A."

For players that grew up in the Midwest the beach is a big deal living in states that are not known for big surf or a vacation destination coastline. But with a roster full of Floridians there are plenty of players who grew up with the beach in their backyard.

"I lived in Florida for about four years and I never went to the beach when I lived there," Chekwa added. "The first time I went to the beach was when we went to play USC we went down to Santa Monica."

But the trip out west also opens up new opportunities for several players including some family reunions that have been long in the making.

"I have a lot of family out in Orange County," punter Jon Thoma said. "Some of them are going to be watching me play for the first time live. A couple others came to the USC game, but they stuck them way up in the corner. Just seeing my family, being out there is going to be a special time. I got a couple extra tickets, but some of them had ways to get tickets out there, too."

There will be a fine line of how much freedom the players will get but that is mostly on the seniors who annually set curfews for the rest of the team. The current seniors should be well versed in what pitfalls can be associated with these kinds of trips.

"We definitely have curfews and there are a lot of times that guys will pull you to the side and be like, 'let's just all get together and do a movie and then go home,'," Worthington said. "You want to do something as a team and go out there and have fun and enjoy the scenery and enjoy your bowl game but at the end of the day you have got to let people know that this is not a party… you need to be in your bed on time and know we came out here to win a game and not just to have fun and look at the trees."

This year unlike other years the Buckeyes will have an opportunity after the bowl game to have a little time on their own as well.

"In the past we've had some jump on a plane because school had started or we were four days into school or whatever so we're not leaving until about 7:00 at night on the 2nd, so our guys will have the evening after the game plus virtually the whole day the day after the game, the 2nd, to do a little bit of exploring," head coach Jim Tressel said.


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