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OSU-UM rivalry comes to full boil

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"How dare he?" Ohio State Buckeye loyalist Kim Zamary said when she arrived home Tuesday night.

The downtown apartment dweller stared with contempt across the hall at her neighbor's door. There, taunting Zamary from a doorknob, hung a maize-and-blue Michigan hat.

Disreputable anytime of the year, it was too much for an Ohio State graduate the week of the football game against Michigan, the 100th anniversary of the famed rivalry.

"He started it," says Zamary, whose cat is named after Eddie George, the former Ohio State Heisman Trophy winner. "But he doesn't know what he's begun. I have quite a few Buckeye items to overwhelm his lame Michigan attempt."

And so by Wednesday evening, the area in front of Zamary's door had become a tribute to all things scarlet and gray, dwarfing the display of her neighbor, University of Michigan law school alumnus, Michael Marrero.

Welcome to Ohio State-Michigan week. Friends become enemies. Neighbors turn into rivals. Husbands and wives clash.

According to the schools, there are about 10,000 Ohio State alumni and 2,200 Michigan alumni in Greater Cincinnati. The two groups used to get together at area sports bars to watch the game, but stopped more than a decade ago because they couldn't get along.

The annual showdown brings out the best (and worst) in fans from both schools.

And this year, there's more at stake than usual. The Big Ten championship is up for grabs in Ann Arbor, and both teams potentially are still in contention for a national title.

The rivalry may not be the spectacle here in Cincinnati that it is in Columbus or Ann Arbor, but it is just as intense among the thousands of alumni and fans living in Greater Cincinnati.

"There's always a lot of trash-talking going on," says Kim Sherwood, president of the local Michigan alumni club, the Cincinnati Wolverines Spirit Group. "With Ohio State squeaking by with wins this year, they'll have their work cut out for them against Michigan."

The Buckeyes have won the last two games, which meant Sherwood was supposed to wear an Ohio State outfit to the annual Ohio State-Michigan alumni luncheon at the Hyde Park Country Club on Tuesday. He refused.

"Ohio State clothes itch," he says. "The last two years have been pretty tough."

Not if you're on the Ohio State side of the fence. Karl Sturtz of Mariemont weathered the "painful John Cooper years" in the 1990s before coach Jim Tressel and Co. finally broke the Wolverines' stronghold on the series in 2001. Sturtz is a former Ohio State halfback and was a member of the 1950 team that lost to Michigan in the so-called "snow bowl." He got worked up just watching half-century-old highlights of the game that were shown Tuesday at the luncheon.

That deep feeling is why Michigan fans say Ohio State rooters have a complex with the Wolverines.

"We don't hate Ohio State as much as Ohio State hates Michigan," says Marrero, who recalls a time when he watched the game in a mobile home with five other Ohio State fans. "It nearly came to fisticuffs inside that mobile home."

Bill and Susanne Herrnstein showed up together at Tuesday's luncheon, but come Saturday the Centerville couple won't be speaking to each other.

She's an Ohio State grad, he's a Michigan alumnus, and for 45 years and counting they've watched the game in separate rooms.

"The one who wins is very careful not to gloat," Bill says.

Not everyone is so polite. Madeira resident and Ohio State grad Mike Folan says his blood pressure rises every time he sees a Michigan license plate, and he's sure to let out a "Go Bucks," cheer whenever he crosses a Michigan fan on the street.

But Folan wears blue and gold on Friday nights. His son plays football for Mariemont, which displays an "M" on the helmet and dons Michigan's colors.

"I can barely put those colors on for Friday night," Folan says. "It's so hard. And I take them off as soon as I get home."

Folan is wearing his scarlet and gray up to Ann Arbor on Saturday, braving the pro-Michigan crowd to root on the Bucks, who are one-touchdown underdogs.

Michigan fans say it's about time they take back control of the rivalry after watching Ohio State celebrate the last two years.

Michigan alumnus Richard Mayer said those two games will quickly be forgotten after Saturday.

"We had to let the other team win once in a while," says Mayer of Finneytown.

"Otherwise it's not a rivalry anymore."

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