Ask An Indie Rock Dude About Sports with Robert Pollard of Guided By Voices
Today’s Ask An Indie Rock Dude About Sports finds us in the brisk, roughneck flatlands of Dayton, Ohio. Robert Pollard might have written more rock songs than anyone else on the planet. From his legendary mid-’90s run with first-ballot Indie Hall of Famers Guided By Voices, to his extended solo career, and through the litany of other groups he’s started and disbanded, nobody comes close to matching his pace. He still has it at 57, and offers yet another dosage of his skewed, fuzzy perspective with Ricked Wicky: I Sell The Circus, which came out Feb. 2.
Outside of that, Robert Pollard is also a huge a sports fan. He was a quarterback and a pitcher in his youth, famously throwing a no-hitter for his alma mater, Wright State University. These days, he’s a big fan of Ohio State, so we asked him about his feelings on the National Championship, next year’s quarterback drama and the genius of Urban Meyer.
Extra Mustard: How did you first get into sports? Was it a family thing? A specific team?
Robert Pollard: My dad was a hardcore sports fan. The big three: football, baseball and basketball, and that's it. It just rubbed off at a very young age. Of course, the close proximities of Cincinnati and Columbus made us Reds fans in baseball and Ohio State fans in football and basketball.
EM: Dayton doesn't have a namesake sports franchise, but obviously Ohio is a huge sports state. What's the general sports climate in Dayton? Does it err on the side of Cincinnati? Or is it mostly all Ohio State?
RP: Dayton is predominantly an Ohio State town, with a few stray Michigan fans. In baseball, it's all Reds, but in football it's not just the Bengals. There are a lot of Browns and Steelers fans. Indianapolis is only 100 miles away, but there aren't many Colts fans to my knowledge or observation.
EM: Let's talk about Ohio State for a minute. When Braxton Miller went down did you ever expect to be celebrating a National Championship?
RP: Not even the longest shot. I was completely depressed. Braxton Miller is my all-time favorite Ohio State player, along with A.J. Hawk. They're both from Dayton. I still would like to see him at quarterback next year. I think he's earned it, but it's just unbelievable how J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones were able not only to step up and fill in adequately, but to excel the way they did this year. The greatest Ohio State football team ever, and Urban Meyer is the greatest college football coach ever. Talk about motivation. I quit watching them for a couple of games after the Virginia Tech loss. I was like "they're not good," but they certainly won me back when I watched their gutsy performance at Michigan State.
EM: Were you more confident going into the Alabama game or the Oregon game?
RP: Oregon by far. Once Ohio State beat Alabama I felt that they had already won the championship and there was no pressure. They had a destiny that had to be fulfilled. I did get a little nervous... no, a lot nervous with the fumbles before halftime. I was thinking there is no way you can give an explosive offense like Oregon's that many opportunities. I thought they might have blown it, but again, you saw their determination and resiliency.
EM: Obviously Cardale Jones is on the tip of everyone's tongue right now, because it's unclear what's going to happen next year with the potential for Braxton, J.T. Barrett and Jones to return. Who would you prefer to see quarterbacking the Buckeyes next year?
RP: Like I mentioned earlier, Braxton. As good as the other two guys are, I think he's the best. I know he's the most athletic. But I'll take any of them. All of them. I've heard they've got the best high school quarterback coming next year also. What a terrible problem to have. It's Urban Meyer's problem, not mine.
EM: What has Urban Meyer meant for the Ohio State program coming out of Tattoogate?
RP: I loved Jim Tressel. Look what he did for the program, especially with the Michigan rivalry. But Urban Meyer is just… he's Urban Meyer. Could anyone really doubt him? It's inspirational, the level of camaraderie and family spirit that he instills. I want to try out for quarterback, or at least be a water boy or something.
EM: What's your favorite Ohio State team? Who's your favorite Ohio State alumni?
RP: This year by far. I loved the year they won the National Championship with Craig Krenzel at quarterback. I was a quarterback, so my favorite alumni are quarterbacks. Rex Kern, Joe Germaine, Troy Smith, Art Schlichter. Some great personalities at the linebacker position also; A.J. Hawk, Andy Katzenmoyer, James Laurinaitis, Chris Spielman, Ryan Shazier, Randy Gradishar. There've been a lot of greats at other positions too. Santonio Holmes, Robert Smith, Eddie George. The list goes on and on.
EM: What, if anything, do you think makes Ohio sports fandom unique?
RP: It's hard to tell, living in Ohio. It's probably the same for most states. Ohio is centrally located in the midwest. It's a heavily, densely-populated state, and people are serious about football, from pee-wee on up to the NFL. The Pro Football Hall of Fame is here. Ohio State is here. Good fall football weather. A lot of Buffalo Wild Wings bars. A lot for people to get excited about.
EM: You were obviously a great pitcher in college. Was going pro ever a possibility for you?
RP: I think I could have been had I not injured my elbow in the summer after my senior year in high school. I had a much livelier arm before that happened. I threw much harder. But after the injury it was very sporadic. Also, I don't know if I had the temperament. I was a hot head. I thought I knew all there was to know and didn't accept criticism gladly. It would have been my downfall, and it would have been humiliating. I'm glad I went into rock and roll, where I can humiliate myself in a slightly more acceptable manner.