Akron: Let the mystery begin

Nary a cloud floated in the azure sky as the scarlet clad warriors thundered across the hallowed plastic turf of Ohio Stadium to vanquish their marsupial* foe.

I am aware they are the Akron Zips, but their logo is a kangaroo, fer cryin’ out loud.

Before I could witness the spectacle and revel in the mystery of what this year’s Buckeyes would look like, I had to gain access to Ohio Stadium. Not much was stirring on the asphalt meadows surrounding campus, so I geared up to march over the Olentangy. With a camera dangling off each shoulder, a group of belt pouches, a backpack and a sound recorder, my pack mule appearance generated three “that guy needs more cameras” and incredulity from a youngster I fell in step behind on the way to the stadium. He pointed me out to his brother, mother and father and was going through them again when I told him I would take his picture in the stands and gave him my card.

I forgot he would be there with 105,000 of his closest friends.

The lack of tailgating was almost jarring-it seems to have been in steady decline for the past few years, at least in the locales I frequent at the times I frequent them. So I headed to the stadium to lighten my load and then check out the skull session.

The media check in had a sign directing me to the adjacent Huntington entrance, where I picked up my personalized credential (it has my picture and everything!) and then I unloaded and untangled so they could search my bags.

As usual, they were very kind and gentle as they checked out my gear and affixed an arm band on each piece. Then I had to go back out the gate I came in, and in the next gate down. Where I was searched again. Almost apologetically.

I told the guy I was going to go back out again and he kind of groaned. I dropped most of the gear off in the photo dungeon and headed to the skull session, where the combined TBDBITL and Alumni TBDBITL were blowing the roof off the place.

Maybe he was just hot.

As soon as I got to floor level, I immediately noticed a guy in seeming contemplation with his trumpet. He seemed vaguely melancholy, as if missing his time at OSU, or just spending time with his memories. So of course I took his picture. After climbing 150 flights* of stairs to the balcony and shooting a few frames of the massive assemblage of brass and bass, I mulled my options. My plan was some food in the press box, and then photographing the alumni band as they marched into the stadium.

*it only felt like it

We have you outnumbered, TBDBITL.

Scarlet and loud.

As far as I could remember from last season, the band marched over about an hour before kickoff, give or take. So I could squeeze into an elevator, ride up to the press box, snarf down some bar-b-que, wash it down with something fizzy, grab some waters and then back down the elevator, through the concourse, up some ramps and then stake out a spot on the balcony overlooking the walk from St. John Arena.

And do it all in a half hour, by the time I got on the elevator. I did, too, and came huffing and puffing up to the people gathered at the railing overlooking St. John. An old couple immediately moved over and offered a spot, squeezing themselves into the wall. A teenager who was beside them looked at me sullenly and then returned his gaze to the scene below.

I told the older couple they were fine and they decompressed a bit and we stood there and waited.

And waited.

And waited.

Turns out I misremembered. The band doesn’t come over an hour before the game, it is closer to a half hour before the game. So we stood in companionable silence for a while, enjoying the breeze. Finally, a commotion below us marked the impending arrival of the band. I expected the Alumni Band first, but a man with a bullhorn soon appeared, sending the security people into a frenzy to clear a path. Then the first glint of brass through the trees and the band thundered into sight. And despite having made more or less the same photo last year, it is still an impressive sight.

Arriving in style.

A short while later, the army of Alumni TBDBITLs arrived, wave after wave of scarlet clad alumni marching in time and waiting patiently for their turn to enter the ‘Shoe.

And standing there overlooking the scene, I realized that I was in the loving bosom of Buckeye Nation, where no one was going to deride the program, or take delight in its misfortunes. And it felt nice. No talking heads trying to hide a smile as they explain the Buckeyes woes, but a universal appreciation for all things Ohio State.

Never question a man wearing long sleeves on a 90 degree day.

The crowd was so happy to see the Buck’s, they didn’t even seem to notice that Akron had arrived, sparing them the boos that sometimes accompany the opponent’s entrance. Indeed, all eyes were focused on Luke Fickell and the Buckeyes as they stormed onto the field behind a phalanx of cheerleaders of varying vintage.

And then, as they say, it was on.

Pretty good for an old guy.

One of the few thoughts that weren’t melted into a thought stew was ‘that’s Bauserman?’ after his scramble into the end zone on a busted play for the first touchdown of the season. Who would have thought a quarterback scrambled for the first TD, and it wasn’t some guy named Pryor. He was blocked as he crashed into the red, but I did get a shot of him sneaking past the line.

Another thought, incidentally, was ‘boy its hot.’ Paraphrasing.

Smith on the stroll.

Thundering Hyde.

Jake Stoneburner is a fine young man and I look forward to seeing more of him.

Look! More Stoneburner!

And another; 14-0 in the second quarter? Really? Against Akron? Akron must be playing their arses off. I unthunk that thought pretty quickly on further consideration.

Leaving headless defenders in his wake; Bauserman the Destroyer.

Raise your skinny trombone to the sky like fists.

Dotter.

At half time, I went in for some water, and came out to hear something about Les Wexner come crackling over the PA. Then I spied a guy on the sidelines and using what was left of my powers of deduction, figured that he was going to dot the eye.

Getting a picture of the I dotter is kind of hard. Especially if there is more than one I. Many layers of people to shoot through. So when I saw Mr. Wexner head into the sea of scarlet, I scrambled for a spot to get a picture. Even shooting through the band, I could see that he was beaming and having a great time. For a guy with riches beyond most imaginations, who has probably experienced cool things beyond most imaginations, he seemed to be genuinely happy to be there. You just can’t fake that.

[wpaudio url=”http://www.crookphotography.com/audio/boundforglory.mp3″] Bound for Glory

After the dotting, the band went into Bound for Glory, which is one of those songs you have heard before but can’t quite place. It also sounds like the theme song for a Western.

Blasting through.

The game began to drag, mostly because of the heat. The sidelines, not at all crowded at the beginning of the game, became even more spacious. A stalled Buckeyes drive that resulted in a missed field goal had one photographer shouting “Fickell Ball!” We were getting loopy from the heat.

During the third quarter, I made my way down to the south end zone. The band had taken off their jackets and most of them had bags of ice on their heads. There was only one thing to do.

Time of our lives.

At some point in the third quarter, I reached for my second camera dangling around off my shoulder and nearly dropped it. The metal frame was hot to the touch, to point that I began to worry about it melting the camera’s innards. When I raised it to my eye, I had to hold it by my finger tips.

Take a seat.

By the fourth quarter, I must admit I wanted it to be over. Judging by the empty seats, nearly everyone else did too. Akron certainly did. I saw people streaming to the exits before half time.

Happy/Sad.

Celebrate with your friends.

In the fourth, after missing a spectacular catch right in front of me (maybe I need three cameras, for an easy-access wide angle I would use once a season) the only mystery that remained was how good really are the Buckeyes? (The same mystery we had at the start of the game.) Bauserman looked good, and the addition of Braxton Miller was enough to push that dynamic former Ohio State quarterback and current Raider out of mind for a while. The defense held the Zips scoreless, but they had a lot of help from the hapless Zips offense, too.

E-boned.

Seriously, Terrelle who?

Elbow room.

Fight for your right to Carmen.

And yet when will the mystery be solved? Toledo is better than Akron, but shouldn’t present too much of a problem. Miami has been beaten up by its own (much worse) transgressions, and Colorado, despite being in the Pac 10, doesn’t exactly inspire fear. We shall see. It is certainly going to be an interesting season. So many new faces, I caught myself wondering “who?” after more than one play.

As the clock wound down, I headed to the south end zone again to catch some Carmen Ohio action. Coming down the visitors sideline, I could see the photographers coming from the other side being corralled behind a rope, with a grey-shirted security guy gesticulating with authority at them. As I watched, the area they were in got smaller and smaller, and they began to push up against the ladder the band conductor uses to conduct. He looked down with concern.  The team arrived, and the security guys formed a beaming (and slightly goofy looking) cordon around them.

And thus protected, the team performed the sacred ritual and retreated to the cooler confines of the locker room, mystery intact.


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Check out the OSUAA home page for a photo gallery from Saturday’s game.

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One Response to Akron: Let the mystery begin

  1. Brian Harrier says:

    I really enjoyed reading this. The pictures were amazing as well. I’m ready for a rail related blog now!

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