USC: Festive to Funereal

Festive: adj 2. Merry or Joyous.
Funereal: adj 2. Appropriate for or suggestive of a funeral; mournful.

American Heritage Dictionary, Third Edition

I arrived early outside the Longaberger Alumni House so I could wander around and gauge the pulse of Buckeye Nation. The parking lot was packed, with as many tents as I have ever seen, even at 1 p.m. The crowd was festive, although not overly confident about the Buckeyes actually winning the game.

there is no secret agent in this photoFine form in the Longaberger lot

rv lotCornhole could be an Olympic sport if they held the games in Columbus.

On the small lot along the river, I marched up to a guy and said “with flames like that, you have to take a picture” and took a picture of the flames of his grill licking the hamburgers he was cooking. He immediately offered me one, and I felt kind of bad. That wasn’t why I took his picture, and I declined.

flame broiledFlame broiled on the Olentangy.

tune inTop of the line tailgate.

A few hours later I was so hungry I was hoping someone would offer me anything, but no one did.

Parking lot to parking lot I roamed until I ended up outside the ‘shoe. With three hours still to go before game time, I  wanted two things; to shed my backpack of gear and lunch.  I checked in and headed down to the photo area to drop off my gear before heading out again.

I figured the spread in the press box wouldn’t be out yet,  so I took a walk around Ohio Stadium. I had never actually been all the way around it, and took a slow stroll around the historic structure to see what I could see.

future journalist, second from rightGrilling in the shadow of the ‘shoe.

evening commuteInto the belly of the beast

usher conventionUsher convention on the east side of the ‘shoe.

shadow of the block oPractice on hallowed ground.

tuba or sousaphone?Do sousaphones get group discounts?

student sectionIt isn’t sign fairies after all.

glee club from on highBalcony view of the glee club.

In the time it took me to get all the way around, with a side trip the parking garage, the crowd around the ‘shoe had grown exponentially. It was time to head in.

I sat enjoying a braut in the press box, overlooking the slow commotion that comes with the approach of game time. The Buckeyes walked across the empty visitors sidelines on their way to the locker rooms. A single red suit stood out among the other more formally attired players. On the near sideline, a crew from ESPN wrestled with the invisible wires that hold up the suspended camera. A few USC players idly warmed up, more than two hours before kickoff. I realized I should have been up there with my camera, but at the same time it was nice to just relax a little, and enjoy the quiet. Most of the rest of the media was enjoying the food, the field invisible from their vantage point.

I headed down to the field a few minutes later to begin getting my gear ready for the game. The photo area was more crowded now, and I headed out to the sidelines to await the arrival of the teams.

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The crowd was not pleased to see the Trojans, and gave them a hearty boo every time one appeared on the field. The USC band was drowned out by a stadium-wide O-H-I-O cheer. The place erupted when the Buckeyes appeared to warm up, running to midfield and staring at the Trojans with bravado, false or otherwise. The Trojans seemed unperturbed.

johnny fiveA massive 3d camera rising above the huddle reminds me ;Johnny Five is alive.

red and yellowThe Trojans were unperturbed.

10 ton 3d3d cameras; consider the camera men!

red eyesThe team runs on the field to hundreds of flash pops and the tiny red eyes of video cameras.

And then it was on. Lamar Thomas caught the kickoff and ran into the teeth of the Trojans kickoff team. It looked to me like he made it to about the 25 or so, an ok return, I thought, but he jumped up and the team celebrated. At least they were pumped up. It was a good start in that respect, at least.

The place was earsplittingly loud until Pryor threw an interception, when it got real quiet. Then again my ears rang as the Buckeyes made 3/4 of a goal line stand, until the Trojans punched it in. Again, near silence except the boisterous USC crowd in section 8AA. The band struck up the fight song again, which sounds like a TV show theme song.

big upsDeVier Posey has some ups.

leapfrog:failYou’d be lousy at leap frog if you were that big too.

terrell's secretMr. Pryor has a secret but Boom knows what it is.

closeSanzenbacher brought it close enough to smell the end zone.

td pileSomewhere under there is Boom Herron.

facemask: bad; neck:ok?Facemask=bad, neck=ok?

frenzyFans in a frenzy.

closeThose two wanted it as bad as Saine.

It was a pins and needles game. Much of the time both teams were too far away for me to take a decent photo. Due to its natural lack of lighting, Ohio Stadium is a very dark place for night time football, the huge portable lights the raise over the stands able to fight off the gloom nearly enough for TV, but not well enough for easy still shooting. My camera was almost maxed out just to be able to get anything, and I couldn’t use my extender to make my 300mm long enough to cover the vast expanse of turf that usually separated me from the action on the field.

you the manSomeone block him, over there, please?

bad viewYou will know Joe McKnight by the trail of missed tackles.

bruised, not beaten“Funny ’til someone gets hurt” doesn’t really apply to opposing quarterbacks.

Near half, when USC’s kicker Jordan Congdon bounced a ball off the greased up uprights, the place went crazy, the band, which had left the stands for halftime, had moved up close behind the photographers and was yelling and jumping around. It was like being in a happy riot.

downAt this point, we all thought that fatal thought: we might win.

The Buckeyes felt like they were hanging by a thread most of the game. They would hit the Trojans in the mouth, and then give up a first down run from all-world running back Joe McKnight. One spin move shook off at least four Buckeye defenders who almost had him for a loss. With each USC punt, it felt a little bit more like the Buckeyes might pull this one off. When Devon Torrence abused USC QB Matt Barkley near the USC end zone, I think the stadium really had some hope.

And then, according to the Associated Press’ Ralph Russo, ensued “one of the great drives in USC’s storied history.”

sadBe sure to silence the crowd when you lose to Sanford, Mr. Smith.

replay viewThe pain goes away in a few days, I guess.

And, as they say, the rest is history. Javon Carter made a heroic attempt to catch a pass in double coverage on fourth down, but ended up walking off the field dejected, while a Trojan held up a finger to silence the crowd. He took a last look at the scoreboard in hopes of seeing pass interference, perhaps, and then was lost in the crowd of scarlet and gray.

sad100,000 hearts sank.

The whole ride home my thoughts kept returning to the game. A song lyric would mention a year, and I would wonder what the Buckeyes’ record was that year. But mostly it turned to one thought: “What happened?”

Later, in the pre dawn silence of my living room, my ears were still ringing.

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One Response to USC: Festive to Funereal

  1. June in WV says:

    Such great pictures. I was at the USC game and it was loud!!! However, win lose or draw, there’s nothing like a night game in the ‘Shoe!

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