I try and stay jaded, I really do. But after the epic Buckeye Bash at Champps on Saturday, I was ready to go. I was ready to go kick some photographic arse.
My trip to the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis came about over lunch, and within a few days I was giddy for my first big time basketball game. I have never even been to an NBA game, and the biggest basketball game I had been to at that point was an Ohio High School state final four.
And this, my friends, blows that away.
How awesome it was going to be I had no clue. But by the time I was out of the Buckeye Bash, I knew it was going to be pretty darn cool. The bash started slowly, but built to the point it was standing room only, with cheering and cheerleaders, the band, Brutus, and a handful of Buckeye legends. It was hot and loud, and everything a pep rally should be. I was pumped.
Of course there was a slight letdown after, since there was almost 2 hours before game time when I got to Conseco Fieldhouse. I went to have a look at the court, and then set about finding a high vantage point to take an overview photo of the empty building.
I told the media elevator operator lady to take me to the highest point I could go. So up we went, and she let me out in what looked like a closet. She said around the corner was a catwalk. So I went around the corner, passing boxes labeled Christmas decorations and an empty gum ball dispenser. I found a set of stairs and took them, and before I knew it (well, after ducking under a huge pipe) I was on a catwalk overlooking the court. Waaay up there.
I took a few pictures, expecting that someone would spring out from behind a beam and ask me what the expletive I thought I was doing up here. I headed back down, and then rather than wait for the elevator I went down to a more populated level, and waited for the elevator with the suite folks.
And then I had another wait before me. A meal on the Big Ten was a nice way to kill time. I chatted with a famous Columbus photographer for a while, and then headed out to the floor. I sat in my allocated spot, a butt-sized square in the second row. A fellow came up to me a moment later and asked if I had a spot on the other end. I did not. We worked out a trade that landed me a front row seat for the first half and him a spot on the other end. It worked out well. We both had a seat when our teams were heading toward us the whole game. Otherwise, our teams would have been heading away from us for a half.
So I sat on the shiny hardwood and waited. Did some Tweeting (@crookphoto) and chatted with a fellow photog. As game time neared, I was glad for personal hygiene, as it got rather cramped on the end line. I am not a super big dude, and I felt even smaller there.
A friend of mine suggested that Conseco Fieldhouse was a dungeon. I wouldn’t go that far, thankfully, although it is a bit darker than the Shot, I think. It is certainly more cozy, and seems to rise higher from the floor than the Shot, although I must admit on my few visits to the Schottenstein Center, I didn’t spend as much time gazing skyward as I did on Saturday.
I settled on email@example.com at 800 iso. I wouldn’t have minded an extra stop or two, but it seemed like it would work out pretty well. I could probably have pushed it a bit, and underexposed a bit more, but I figured I would be ok. Seems to have worked out ok, looking at the photos.
After the usual pre-game machinations, the teams took the court and it was on.
Now I am not a basketball analyst by any means, but I would classify the Wolverines as pesky. The Buckeyes just could not keep them at bay. The Buckeyes would get up 5 or 6, and Michigan would come clawing back to tie it, or on occasion, take a lead. So the Buckeyes would do it again, and again, Michigan would come back.
Showman holding court.
The Buckeyes headed to the locker rooms at half with a four point lead, and I suspect ol’ Thad Matta had a few choice words for his team.
It is sometimes hard to tell if a play result in a score is a result of bad defense or excellent offensive play. It seemed like the Wolverines were making some very nice offensive plays, but had a few turnovers too. I was waiting for the Buckeyes to put their boot on the Wolverines proverbial throat and put them away.
The teams had a funny ritual during full time outs. Assistants would bring out little seats for the team to sit on on the court, instead of the team heading to the bench. The team would sit on the little stools around the head coach and the non-starters and assistants would stand in a circle around the gathering. It reminded me of a picnic.
Except when I caught a glimpse of Matta yelling at his kids. That wouldn’t be a very fun picnic.
He yelled less as Ohio State climbed to an 18 point lead late in the second half. His smile evaporated as the Buckeyes kept bringing the ball down the court, killing time, and then coming away with no points. Michigan began to chip away, and I began to play out mathematical basketball equations to figure out how badly Ohio State could play and still manage to win.
The Buckeyes kept the Wolverines at bay though, winning without getting too worried, despite Michigan’s charge that cut the lead to 4 before the Buckeyes stifled them and punched their ticket to the final with a 7-point win.
Leaving a basketball game is not at all like leaving a football game, and within a half hour of the game being over I was back in my hotel room sorting out pictures with a cold beer to keep me company.
Ah, the life of soft deadline. I can’t wait for tomorrow. Go Bucks!
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