Fond Memories of Freezing Mirror Lake
I attended The Ohio State University from 1990 to 1994. I knew nothing of the OSU/Michigan Game tradition when I arrived as a freshman, but it didn’t take long to learn. I came in on the waning end of a great tradition known as “Phantom Band,” which OSU tried to control and/or stamp out every year. Basically, it worked like this…late one night during Michigan week, the marching band would “borrow” their instruments and start playing the school songs around the campus dorms. The band would collect a following of lively students, singing along and throwing toilet paper in the November chill. Eventually these groups merged across campus and marched down the Oval to Mirror Lake. Mirror Lake is really a manmade pond, only a few feet deep and pretty nasty as standing water goes. My first time, I was surprised when dozens of students took to the freezing waters of the lake and thrashed around, singing the fight songs (some good anti-Michigan songs there :)). I didn’t swim that year, but I did the next three. The cold water was always a shock, but not so bad with the encouragement of the crowd and the music. My nights would be completed with a hot shower and a preemptive shot of Nyquil to fend off any illness, and I never got sick.
Now it seems that there’s not much left of the tradition besides the jump in the lake. I found an article from the 2000 Lantern where students acknowledged it, but a school VP denied the tradition existed, and an article from this year saying that just a few students jumped in the lake, no band mentioned.
I can see how the school wouldn’t want to condone the event, since occasionally stuff got broken and a few people got hurt, but I think the students should take responsibility for themselves. My friends and I never saw any property damaged or anyone get injured; all we did was have a good time walking the campus and singing songs. I wanted to write this blog entry to let people know that the Phantom Band did exist and it was a blast. Jump feet first and Go Bucks! Beat Michigan!
Update 2004-11-20: The Bucks pulled it off, 37-21! Jeers to ABC for not showing the game nationwide like they did the previous 5+ years. It wasn’t on TV here in the south, and I had to settle for listening on the net.
Update 2005-11-17: This article led to my recollections being published in the Lantern!