June 17, 2020

A Buckeye Abroad

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Drive up and down the streets of London. Buckeye flags fly and the Block O logo litters lawns. Scarlet and gray is a fixture and fall Saturdays are sacred.

Stay on the right side of the street for that drive, though. This is a snapshot of London, Ohio.

As for London, England? Definitely a different scene – one in which Ohio native Skyler Martin has played a part for years. “I’m pretty much alone,” he said about his Buckeye fandom.

His London flat faces Emirates Stadium. While his neighbors rep red for their hometown Arsenal F.C. …
… you’re more likely to see Skyler in some selection of Scarlet and Gray.

It’s been that way since 2009, the year he took Buckeye Nation international. That’s when he won a scholarship to London’s Royal Ballet School at an international dance competition in New York, securing a spot in the prestigious academy.

Originally from Wheelersburg, Ohio, Skyler’s split the past 11 years living between London and Amsterdam – performing, perfecting the art, and practicing creative ways to keep connected to his beloved Buckeyes back home.

His flat is scattered with memorabilia, like this replica championship ring resting atop field turf from Ohio Stadium and sheet music for the entire version of Carmen Ohio.
Two of Skyler’s most-prized possessions, these footballs signed by the 2014 title team (first photo) and Archie Griffin (second photo) are too valuable to him to even leave Ohio, where they’ve stayed with his parents.

One of those practices turned into “one of the most unexpected interactions” he’s ever had.

It was September 21st, 2019. Skyler’s show started at 7:30 that evening. A 3:30 p.m. Ohio State-Miami (OH) kickoff stateside meant an 8:30 start in Britain. So Skyler caught the game in the middle of a record-setting 42-point second quarter, when “it was already over.” Still, he streamed it on his cab ride home and finished watching with two friends at his place. Inspired by six Buckeye touchdown passes, they decided to toss a few of their own.

“This was probably like 2:00 in the morning,” Skyler said. “There was no traffic around, so we thought there was no problem passing the football in the street. Saw a police car pull up and I immediately start to panic a little bit, getting ready to apologize to them.”

Turns out Skyler’s not as alone as he once thought – this British cop was an American college football fan himself. He recognized the Block O branding the ball. He even knew the second-quarter explosion was record-setting. Before a touch pass to Skyler out of the wagon, he asked if Skyler saw the final score.

Out of everyone in London, “he asked the exact, perfect person,” Skyler said.

Ohio State Buckeyes
Skyler and the British policeman recapping the day’s record-setting Buckeye game.

But being that exact person isn’t exactly easy. Crunched for time a few time zones away, Skyler fits his fandom into an already grinding schedule.

“He’ll come home after a day of rehearsals or shows and nap so he can watch later,” his father Rob said. “He gets up, watches the Buckeyes for a few hours, and goes back to bed.”

Case in point: New Year’s Day in 2015. For Skyler, over in London, it was already January 2nd. “The Sugar Bowl against Alabama started after 2:30 am that night, ending after 6,” he said. At 7:00, he boarded a plane back to Ohio to celebrate the holidays, and the win, with his family. Ten days later, he knew he was in for another essentially sleepless night. “I flew back and watched the Championship game from the same spot.”

Ohio State Buckeyes
Skyler Sugar Bowl ready on New Year’s Day in 2015.

And don’t sleep on his ability to make the early games work too. Take, for example, this year’s rendition of The Game. He was performing in – actually, he can’t remember. The English National Ballet visited six different venues for four different productions during the fall season. What he always remembers, though, is that The Game is must-see TV.

“The show started like right when the game started, so I watched it in the wings with my headphones in,” Skyler said. “I set it down, went on stage and did my part, came back and checked the score, went on and did my next part, came back and checked the score. And then I was done after the first act, so I watched the rest of the game on my laptop in the orchestra pit. I make it work.”

All that work, and he says he’s never missed an on-stage call. “Not yet, at least.”

Skyler’s also never strayed far from his Ohio roots, no matter where in the world his feet are.

“I always have this Buckeye that I carry around with me in my backpack,” the avid traveler said. “After all these years away, I keep it as a reminder of where I came from. It’s a big piece of how I grew up. Ohio’s my home, and this ties me back home.”

Ohio State Buckeyes
On game days, Skyler stows this Buckeye in his pocket. While at work or traveling, he stores it in his backpack. No matter how he carries it, he says, it carries good luck.

Since he started ballet at the age of three, Skyler’s lived in almost 10 different cities – from mid-Ohio to the mountains of Colorado, from Philly to Florida, and of course a pair across the pond.

He’s also visited 10 different countries. The Martins have been all over the map, and they’ve painted it scarlet and gray. According to Rob, “We do anything Buckeye-related we can when the opportunity arises.”

Ohio State Buckeyes

Skyler’s seized that opportunity in London. “My friends kind of had Ohio State forced on them a little bit,” he said. “If we’re hanging out on Saturday, I’m going to be watching the game. It’s just always going to be on. I just had to explain the rules and it grew on them from there.”

Thus, he’s growing a fresh crop of Buckeye believers in Britain. Skyler dances the role of the Nutcracker and travels the world as a nut carrier. He’s a proven member of Buckeye Nation fulfilling his fandom a few nations away.

Skyler can still enjoy “Fight the Team Across the Field” from across the pond.