Writing this with a bit of time and quite a bit of distance between me and Saturday night’s game, I can look back a bit more fondly at the overall experience. Don’t write angry.
That said, it took a long and rather profane tirade and some beer to get me to a the point where I could look at it from a more balanced perspective.
By the time I got out of the Buckeye Bash in downtown Lincoln, it was closing in on game time. I made my way onto campus, weaving through a throng of Husker fans, who were generally milling around amiably. The band was on a grassy knoll, and in the concrete canyon surrounding the art museum, a majorette practiced with her baton. I was following a costumed Buckeye fan when I heard my first disparaging words about Ohio State. It was uttered by a college kid, so it didn’t really bother me, because everyone knows college kids are perhaps a bit less filtered than someone with a little more experience in their bones.
I found my way to the stadium and wandering around trying to guess which gate I was supposed to go to. I knew it was on the west side of the stadium, but I wasn’t sure which side was the west side, since the sun had disappeared, and it looked like the long-threatened rain was at last going to come. I finally found what I suspected was the right gate and tried to gain entrance.
Without going into the machinations of the whole ordeal, security at Nebraska’s Memorial Stadium is super nice, to the point that I thought I was going to be victim of a practical joke.
After getting myself in order, I strapped on my gear and donned an 88 cent Wal-Mart special rain poncho and waddled out onto the field, look all the world, I suspect, like a man dressed as a sandwich bag.
There are rules for photographers and sidelines types at Nebraska’s stadium, as is the case everywhere. They have a special twist at Memorial Stadium though, because the North end zone is off limits, because mole people live there.
Not really, but there are a bunch of seats a little below ground level, and people watch the game from there, protected from the game (or maybe the other way around) by some red chain link fence. So they watch the game while appearing to be trapped in a cave.
At the other end, an open area under the stands looks like a large luxury box, complete with pads to protect players diving for a too-long touchdown pass. It is that close to the field. The photographers are expected to kneel down in front of them when they are positioned there.
Which is what I found myself doing before the game, hoping for a picture of the Buckeyes taking the field. Turns out tt wasn’t the spot for the shot I wanted, but I did get to chat with a fellow in the luxury box. Larry the Cable Guy walked past too.
All along the sidelines are two lines, as opposed to Ohio State’s one. One of the lines is dashed, behind which people are expected to kneel. Behind is the stand line. It is a wonderful system, because hangers-on and famous people can stand there are be seen, or, in extreme cases, watch the game, while photographers etc can kneel in front of them.
So I found myself kneeling in the south end zone, hanging out and waiting. The Nebraska band came out and did their thing, and a group of Air Force A10s did a flyover.
I was wondering how Ohio State would be received. Of course the Huskers got a deafening welcome, but Ohio State’s arrival appeared to go unnoticed. Not like the half-hearted boos OSU fans muster for the likes of Akron and Colorado, not really much of anything. I was really hoping to record the sound, but there wasn’t much to record.
[wpaudio url=”http://www.crookphotography.com/audio/nebraska.mp3″] The Nebraska fight song.
So Nebraska comes storming onto the field, and the place goes nuts. As soon as the a guy waving a big flag settles down, the Husker-Power chant starts. One side of the stadium yells Husker, the other side Power, and they go back an forth for a while. It is pretty cool to listen to.
[wpaudio url=”http://www.crookphotography.com/audio/huskerpower.mp3″] Husker! Power!
Looking around, I saw some kids in kilts with corn cobs on their heads. Brutus walked past a few seconds later, and thus summed up the beauty of college football. Pure passion, silly traditions and epic cheers. I could spend my life (weekends, at least) going to different places just to see the different traditions.
The game started, and before I knew what hit me, I was watching Braxton Miller not carrying the ball. What the deuce? I thought, who has the ball? I jerked the camera over to J-Hall, who was sauntering up the field unmolested. He didn’t have the ball either. Stuck my head up and caught a glimpse of Stoneburner running away from someone. Found him through the view finder just as he disappeared behind the ref. I listened for the crowd to react when he was tackled, and suddenly he thundered past me and flipped into the end zone. I whipped my second camera up and it got caught on my sandwich bag, resulting in a picture of his butt as he dove through the air.
Dadgummit. Oh well, I thought. At least Ohio State scored a touchdown. (At least we won’t lose xx-10.)
Things went swimmingly for a while. Nebraska scored and fans released balloons. They streamed upward as I struggled to change lenses. Still, Ohio State had a nice lead, and I felt the warm breath of optimism returning.
The rain started up again, harder than before, and I struggled to adjust myself so my camera was under my poncho. I got tangled, and I felt hands on me as I struggled to get my head through the head hole. A pair of security guys pulled the poncho down and adjusted it for me. A fellow Ohio photog laughed and made fun of me as they put the hood over my head. Carlos Hyde stormed into my view finder on his way to a touchdown. All was well with the world.
I saw the defense pressure Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez, and Martinez hoisted a ball downfield. The only person nearby was OSU DB Orhian Johnson. He did his duty. Memorial Stadium was quiet.
I don’t know who he is, but he is awesome.
As I crouched in a dark corner of the end zone after switching sides, I pulled out the fisheye to do a panorama of the scene. The Bucks had the ball, and were driving. As they pulled away, I headed to the other end. I scarcely noticed a fallen Buckeye.
I kneeled down and positioned myself to shoot whatever happened after the fallen Buck was resurrected. I glanced downfield, and saw the number 5. A dagger pierced my heart.
Hope #5 was laying there, and not getting up.
The photographer in me merely noted that it would be a different game from here on out. The fan in me alternatively vacillated between horror and morbid curiosity. Surely they would bring out Guiton, right?
The Buckeyes fumbled along for a while, allowing the Huskers to draw closer. Surely the defense, despite being less rested between drives, would stiffen and hold off the charging Nebraskans.
I was downfield, positioned for the salt-it-away touchdown when Bauserman heaved a long pass down field. I aimed at the intended receiver, and watched through a flickering viewfinder as a streak of red pulled in the pass.
And that was that. Nebraska pulled ahead with about five minutes left in the game, and never once during those following five minutes did I think the Buckeyes were going to pull it out and get a little road trip redemption. A week before, against Michigan State, I played scenarios in my head on ways they could win or tie with five seconds left. This week, they were doomed from the moment Stanley Jean-Baptiste pulled in that errant pass.
Feeling kind of pouty, I sat in the end zone as Ohio State flopped around like a fish out of water and listened as the fans got louder and louder and louder. The roar at the victory formation was deafening.
I waited to see if OSU would in some way acknowledge the crowd, maybe do Carmen or something. A shot of a Fickel would have been ok too. Instead I saw a line of dejected Buckeyes stream past, Guiton mingling anonymously as he walked past the Nebraska fans politely applauding the Buckeyes. Miller walked past, head down and disappeared into the darkness under the stands.
Now you can;
Check out a photo gallery of Saturday’s game.
Join the OSUAA.
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You can keep up with my photographic musings by following me on Twitter; @crookphoto
And the OSUAA, too @OhioStateAlumni
Thank you for reading. I was proud to represent the OSUAA on the road last weekend. And props to my new friends in Nebraska. (just wait ’til next year…)