They live across enemy lines.
They proudly wear their uniform on the opposing side, despite sneers from neighbors.
And tomorrow, they hope to raise their flags with delight after a border-battle victory.
They are Buckeyes living in Michigan - and Wolverines who reside in Ohio.
"We're defending the northern border, so to speak," said Dr. Martin Drozdowicz, an Ohio State University alumnus who lives just to the north in Monroe Township.
"It's a challenge sometimes," added Dick Ketteman, on living in Sylvania when his alma mater is the University of Michigan.
Alumni associations from each university estimate thousands of graduates live in southeast Michigan and northwest Ohio, some with their kin and others just across the state line.
It makes for an exciting football season of rubbing elbows with rivals leading up to The Game, which kicks off at noon tomorrow in Columbus for the 105th matchup of this storied rivalry.
Dr. Drozdowicz, a 1974 OSU grad, has quite a bit of experience living amongst the foe, as he's outnumbered in his own Monroe dental practice four to one.
"When Ohio State beats Michigan this weekend, we'll just take that in stride," he said. "The game means everything."
He may be in the minority, but everyone at work knows where he stands. The redecorated reception area's tailgate theme includes some Michigan memorabilia, sure, but it's overwhelmingly Ohio State.
There are three red chairs to one blue one, a Brutus rug on the floor, a "house divided" flag on the wall, and an OSU cloth on the table.
The Brutus on a filing cabinet sings the OSU fight song, something his staff hates with a passion. One year they brought in a boom box and played "Hail to the Victors" each time the Buckeyes' mascot would get going.
He also enjoys treating his staff to play-by-play of the games, particularly a Michigan loss.
"It's all in good fun," he said.
Mr. Ketteman, who heads the U of M Club of Toledo, has a strong passion the other way for his Wolverines.
When he sees the team on the field each week, he remembers his time there. A 1958 graduate, he was a walk-on for three years and saw some action the last two.
It's been 50 years, but "every game something comes back to mind that reminds me of the playing days I had," he said.
And the Ohio State game was - and remains - intense, Mr. Ketteman said.
"There's always an anxiety and anticipation of the game coming up," he said. "After all these years, you still get butterflies."
Each week 15 to 20 Michigan alumni in the local club - one that has several hundred members - get together for lunch to be amongst friends in an area that is mostly for the other team.
But they might have it a little easier, Mr. Ketteman said, because Michigan fans on the Ohio border are still pretty close to Ann Arbor.
"We actually have a lot of company. It's not like we're living in the middle of the state," he said. "It sure makes it more interesting and more intense living in the opposition's home state."
And in the big picture, it appears that an address doesn't matter when it comes to fans.
Tom Roemer has been an OSU supporter for as long as he can remember and believes the first song he ever sang in his life must have been an Ohio State one.
The 1968 OSU graduate lives in LaSalle, Mich., and works in Toledo, so he crosses the border all the time and doesn't let his location impact his school spirit.
"Whenever I go grocery shopping in Michigan I wear an Ohio State sweatshirt or ball cap and I wear it proudly, even though I probably get a few sneers," he said.
Because of his regular border hopping, Mr. Roemer inevitably associates with Michigan fans - but never during a game.
"It's OK to have lunch with them, but when I'm at a ball game, I just want to be with Buckeye fans," he said.
When Jim Whiteman goes to a game, he's interested in more than just the players on the field.
The self-proclaimed "band man" spent three years getting the crowd into the action as an assistant drum major and twirler with Michigan's marching band.
Mr. Whiteman, who lives in West Toledo, remembers sometimes spending more hours than the team practicing to get ready for game day.
"The band coming out of the tunnel, oh I still get goosebumps," the 1965 UM graduate said.
He's always lived in Ohio near the state line and even thought briefly about going to Ohio State, but he's full-blooded maize and blue.
To display his team choice at a recent alum gathering, he wore a UM turtleneck underneath a Michigan sweater, and had engraved M logos on his slacks.
Michigan has other rivalries that Mr. Whiteman follows, with Michigan State University and the University of Notre Dame, but neither is quite like Ohio State.
"Ohio State-Michigan is the game," he said.
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