Big Ten Tournament: Michigan

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.

Waaaay up.

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Michigan: Make it seven.

I have an irrational dislike of Michigan. I don’t know why. I grew up in New Hampshire, for crying out loud. My visits to Michigan have been high-speed dashes across the state. I have spent one night there in my entire life, when I was 10.

But when I see someone in Ohio wearing the blue and yellow, I instantly think they are suffering from some sort of mental deficiency, and are best approached with soothing words, and perhaps a helmet for their fragile head*. Or maybe they are just jerks. I have met plenty of those, too, people who are only Michigan fans because their brother/uncle/father/cousin/mailman liked Ohio State and they were just being contrarian.

*this does not include people who are actually from Michigan. Some people are just unlucky, and most likely victims of someone else’s bad decision.

There I go again.

The best explanation my for curious state is some kind of affliction; scarlet fever, perhaps.

So nothing would put a bow on my football-shooting season like a win over Michigan. They could come south, and leave with the butt-whipping they so richly deserve.

As I mentioned a few sentences ago, I grew up in New Hampshire. My high school didn’t even have a football team. My exposure to football was some lousy Patriots games (because they were terrible when I was a kid). Football did not exist to me until I got my first job at a newspaper in the late 1990s.

And here I am, a decade plus later shooting The Ohio State vs. Michigan, and loving every minute of it. Especially the Michigan butt-whippings, of which Saturday should be number five.

Longaberger tailgate

Tailgate, Longaberger lot style.

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Penn State: Not fun, not fun, not fun, fun.

Driving to my Friday night football game an hour from home, all I could think was “#@$ football, I wish it would just end.”

Pre-game dinner, Friday night, between bites; “I hope they get blown out so I can leave by half.”

At halftime, Friday night; “I hope they win so I can shoot another game next week.”

Halftime, Saturday evening; “Stupid Buckeyes. They should just call this now so we can go home.”

When I arrived in Columbus early Saturday morning to gauge the pulse of Buckeye Nation, I knew I was in for a long day when I didn’t even have to slow down until the bottom of the Lane Ave off ramp. I didn’t really want to be THAT early, but I didn’t want to have to sit in traffic, either, a fine line I missed by a mile. In truth, I am not much use at home waiting around to leave any way.

So I geared up and headed out. I marched across the river toward the ESPN College Gameday set, where I was presented with a sea of humanity waving flags from Washington State, Notre Dame, among others. Eh? Washington State?

cheer on cue

Do we cheer yet?

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Purdue: Homecoming redemption

A beautiful dawn spread its golden rays across Mirror Lake Saturday morning, wiping away the bitter taste of last week’s defeat as past and present Buckeyes gathered for Homecoming.

Ok. That might be a touch of hyperbole. But hyperbole is one of the main fuels of college football, so it fits. It is not hyperbole that the excitement of the homecoming court was contagious. I caught up with them at the Kuhn House, home of the Honors and Scholars program. It is a lovely little chateau on the edge of Mirror Lake, where the court and other guests gathered for brunch.

After breakfast, we boarded buses and headed over to the Skull Session. Anyone looking to get the full experience of a football Saturday in Columbus should definitely check out the Skull Session.

We were all gathered together in a corner of the court, waiting for the band to make its thunderous appearance when I looked up the tunnel and saw Jim Tressel giving Elvis a hug. It felt a little bit like seeing a yeti and bigfoot, without the hair. Somehow, I didn’t see anyone with a camera phone, which is sort of like seeing a yeti riding a unicorn.

he lives

Like a phoenix.

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Indiana: Clockwork

Of the three speakers that started my Saturday morning at the Ohio State Advocates Fall Event, Archie Griffin, Gene Smith and E.Gordon Gee, one would be hard pressed to predict who would give the most entertaining speech. The talk turned serious quickly though; big changes are ahead for the Ohio State campus in the form of ProjectONE, a huge new hospital that will further cement Ohio State’s roll as a leader in Cancer research.

After listening to Dr. Steve Gabbe and Dr.Michael Caligiuri outline the new plans for ProjectONE, I felt kind of proud that my adopted state would host such a visionary project.

Since the event was in the Archie Griffin ball room at the (new) Ohio Union, I got a chance to walk around campus a little bit, probably only the second or third time I have done so. I joined the crowd making its way across the famous Oval, avoiding the stinky nuts littering the ground on the west side of the oval.

The Advocates event kind of put the game in perspective. Curing cancer is infinitely more important than beating Indiana in the world-view scheme of things.  Hopefully a cure for cancer is as sure a bet as beating Indiana.

It was a glorious fall day in the ‘Shoe, with temperatures in the perfects and the stands (mostly) filled with scarlet-clad fans. The Buckeyes came out and got right down to business, scoring a few minutes in, setting the tone for the first half early. As in, score a bunch, and shut the allegedly high-powered Indiana offense down.

first on the board

Six for one.

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Eastern Michigan: Meat judging

Founded in 1849 in Ypsilanti, Michigan, Eastern Michigan hosts 5 Colleges and competes in 14 intercollegiate sports*.

Founded in 1870, Ohio State hosts 15 or so colleges, and competes in 20 intercollegiate sports. And has a meat judging team.

(*sports period, not divided by gender.)

Buckeye brauts

Eatin’ Buckeye.

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Ohio: Times Flies

To say that Ohio University’s visit to the ‘Shoe was a let down from last week would be unfair to the experience of watching a game in Ohio Stadium.

That said, it was hard to get too excited about the actual game to be played, despite Ohio’s hard-fought 26-14 loss during their last visit in 2008. History seemed unlikely to repeat itself.

I breezed into Columbus  at nine a.m. and came to a hard stop on 315 south of the King Avenue exit. A long line of traffic snaked up the hill, around the curve, and out of sight. A shot of adrenalin; I hate being stuck in traffic, and paranoid visions of walking into the shoe halfway though the first quarter stomped around my head.

A half hour later I pulled into a half empty Fawcett Center lot (I always though of it as the Longaberger Lot, personally). Where was everyone? Yes, the parking lot has been remodeled, and an added dimension has been added to tailgating in the form of a long red line, but really. I am pretty sure that if an accident prevented fans from attending a game, there would be tailgates set up in the median of I70.

OOO

Variations on a theme.

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Miami: Blown away

So I was talking to Archie Griffin on Saturday…

Ok. So I wasn’t really talking to Archie Griffin on Saturday, other than introductions, but I did follow him around for a little while, during the Ohio State Alumni Association’s Scarlet, Grey and Green bash Saturday morning. It is pretty cool to watch a legend at work, signing autographs, posing for pictures, making rousing speeches (to the dismay of a pair of Miami fans in attendance). The bash was cool too, powered by a generator burning sunflower oil, stocked with biodegradable everything, from balloons to straws, and stocked with some pretty darn good chicken from, of all places Raising Cane’s.

It is funny, because they were playing the ‘Canes, get it?

playa

For a poisonous nut, he is pretty popular.

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Marshall: Corralled

I did everything I could think of to not be in Columbus a ridiculous amount of time before kickoff on Thursday. I cut my hair, shaved, cleaned my car (kinda), tidied up the house (a little) and even drove slower than normal. When I got to Columbus, I stopped at Barnes and Noble on Olentangy River Road near campus and wandered the aisles for a little while.

I was still on campus at 3 p.m.

So much for not being early.

After a visit with my friends at The Association, I humped it across campus to the ‘Shoe, lingering among the beautiful people who love the Buckeyes. The tailgates were just getting started, and most of the parking lots were half empty. There were only a couple of people in the photo dungeon under the “open” end of the stadium, and the stands were empty except for a few knots of ushers and a bright yellow cluster of vendors.

Standing at the field level and looking up, my plan was to do a time-lapse series of photos of the stadium filling up. Halfway up, I began to seriously reconsider. Lacking a Sherpa for aid, even lightly loaded the trip was arduous- and of course once I got to the top I remembered the elevator. I had walked up from the bottom to check various vantage points, but it would have been much easier to start at the top and walk down, since I knew I wanted to be at least 2/3 of the way up the stadium.

Oh well. I could work of the ridiculous chocolatly drink thingy I had at the bookstore. Except, as usual, I was early. I chatted with an usher as I waited for the scarlet masses to arrive, while being buffeted by a fairly strong and warm wind.

At 5:00 the ushers took their positions, silent sentries posted at each exit. They could have been talking, but the wind whipped away half of every sentence I attempted with my usher companion. And then the first pair of fans appeared.

And a few more here, and a few more there until slowly, very slowly, the ‘shoe began to fill. Meanwhile, every 15 seconds, a picture.

Some half-a-thousand pictures later, leaving myself five minutes to get back to field level, I wrapped it up and headed for the elevator. Unfortunately, it took 6 minutes to get back to field level, and as I walked down the ramp I could hear the low roar of the pre-kick chant start. As I was gearing up, another massive roar and the Buckeyes were on the board. I had missed the first touchdown of the season.

side steppin'

Saine steps…

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Big Ten Champs: A Look Back

It was quite a time, watching the Buckeyes this season. Started with a skin o’ your teeth, ended with a skin o’ your teeth, with a few blowouts and a heart breaker or two in between. The energy of the USC game was incredible, the lack of it for some of the mid-season foes palpable.

distant

Navy: Everyone was nervous at the end, even the guy in the upper atmosphere.

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