Toledo: Road trip

I rolled through downtown Cleveland, down mostly empty streets, waiting for that moment when Lake Erie appears as the horizon, half expecting to run into an impenetrable line of traffic. Instead I rolled slowly around Browns Stadium and into a desolate parking lot in the Port of Cleveland. A handful of tailgaters had set up shop along the lake’s edge, alone in acres of pavement.

But it was still early. I went over and paid a visit, not quite getting the photo I was after, and then headed up to 6th street for the Buckeye Bash. It was mostly up hill, and I was feeling it a little by the time I got there. I was travelling light, too, much lighter than my normal trips around the parking lots and tailgate spots of the Olentangy Valley.

So I rolled in, passing pockets of tailgating, under highway viaducts, filling in the nooks and crannies between the mass of the city and edge of the world.

6th Street was not exactly hopping at 8:30, but there were a few people around, early risers and staff from the various establishments and organizations at the Bash. I was there to take some pictures of Archie Griffin and sponsors of the event. His arrival was a moment after mine, and the crowd seemed to thicken instantly.

rock star

A wrist workout for Archie.

After the pictures and some kind of sausage for breakfast, I hit the streets to check out the bash. It was filling up now, a good crowd starting to form. The band struck up a tune, and I elbowed my way (politely) through the crowd. As the appointed hour approached, I found Mr. Griffin again, to be around for pictures. A few minutes before the Bash formally started, Mr. Griffin, the staff from the OSUAA and the Cleveland Police Department officer assigned to keep an eye on things in Archie’s immediate vicinity went in the gated off area in front of the stage. I joked with the officer that part of him was going to be in hundreds of pictures after today, and he laughed.

a sliver of officer

Rock star autographs and a sliver of officer boot.

A moment later, I spotted E.G. Gee making his way through the crowd, spotting him about a second before the crowd did. He joined Archie signing autographs along the fence, two of the biggest rock stars at Ohio State.

Archie Spoke, and President Gee spoke, and Gene Smith spoke, and there was some good stage shindiggery, and then the band showed up. In a near repeat of the moment my friend turned to me and said something about there being plenty of room for the band, he turned to me and said “this is going to be tight.” We squeezed against the fence as the band marched into the area in front of the stage. When they had all arrived, I squeezed along the fence to the back stage area, and got back to work.


Brutus gets nutty.

band of the rising sun

Part of tbdbitl


Waiting for the cue, Carmen Ohio.

I got up on stage as the band started to play, huddled between the cheerleaders and the edge of the stage. The band stretched out before me, backlit in the rising sun as it climbed over the skyline. The band played, the cheerleaders cheered, and a good time was had by all.




Tailgating with a view.

red tide

Red tide.

As the bash wound down, I followed the band out, and headed back to the stadium, hitting a few tailgating spots on the way. Soon I joined a scarlet tide of humanity rolling toward the Erie shore, as we all marched down hill toward the stadium.


Tunnel march.

I was deep in the bowels of Cleveland Browns Stadium when I heard a commotion and the band marched past. I grabbed my camera and boosted the ISO and lowered the shutter speed- and totally screwed up the shot. I wanted some blur, but I didn’t really want the walls all overexposed. Sometimes that happens.


At least four other photographers were photographing this scene.

Out into the sunshine, I wandered around the sidelines, looking for  pictures. A half hour before the game, the stands were filling with scarlet, a small pocket of blue-clad Toledo fans slowly being surrounded.


Act natural.

flag runners



Sideline entrance for an “away” game.

Home game for who, I wondered, as O-H-I-O echoed around the stadium. The cheer for the Rockets was loud, but the cheers for the Buckeyes were louder.

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On the kickoff, the oooooooooh-h-i-o of a normal game at the ‘Shoe.

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As the ball flew through the air, it was time to get down to business. All the pregame events and wandering comes down to the game, the various pushes and pulls of different pictures, the late night machinations of Friday night high school football distilled to fuel that feeds the itchy finger waiting to take that first football picture of the day. As the ball sails through the air, it draws away the pressure of a long night and long morning.


Footsteps, and breath on the back of the neck.

the great dane?

He needs a nickname.


No rest.



rolling six

Ugly, but effective.

And it was on. It felt like seconds between the time the ball settled into the Toledo return man’s arms and Dane Sanzenbacher reaching out to pull in a pretty pass from Terrelle Pryor on his way to the end zone. And a moment after that he was back again, rolling into the end zone with his and the Buckeyes’ second score of the day.

Meanwhile, the Buckeye defense harassed and harried the Rocket’s quarterback. After the first hit, he heard footsteps after every snap, dancing in the pocket, desperate to unload the ball. Every few plays he had to dust himself off after a visit from Denlinger or Heyward. The Buckeyes were rolling.

meet the buckeyes

Mr. Collins, meet the Buckeyes.

small tackle

Tackles; Small, Ray- 1


Bad spot.

Saine in flight

B. Saine leads the parade.


It took two to derail Pryor.

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The view from the East endzone. Dispatch to the left of me, ‘Dealer to the right.

I kept waiting for a flaw. There were a few bad Buckeye drives, and Pryor had an interception, but they looked pretty good. Surely the Rockets would break out for a big play, and the shutout would end…

A few minutes before half time, I ventured into the stands to try for a double script Ohio from on high. Unfortunately, Cleveland Browns Stadium is harder to navigate than Ohio Stadium, and I found myself wandering around trying to figure out to get to the middle of the stadium. It was blocked off from each end, behind closed doors.

Fortunately, I had a photo pass, and thus gained admission to the hallowed confines of the AT&T City View Club.

Turns out behind closed doors there was a bunch of concession stands and a lounge area, with large windows looking over the Cleveland skyline. Actually, kind of looking up at it, although I paid more attention to fighting my way through the crowd than the view out the window.

high stepping

Throwing the goat to script Ohio?

double script

Too many dots. Dang TV guy.

Finally, I figured it out, and although I was a little further down the stadium than I wanted to be, I got my shots.

I got back to ground level as the second half kickoff was soaring through the air, and settled down in the west end zone to let the Buckeyes come to me.

go go go

T.P. is a terrible nickname. I like Ice. Because he is so slippery.

And come to me they did. Terrelle Pryor marched them down the field, breaking out for a nice long run, leaving a wake of Toledo defenders behind him.

After a short play that brought the Bucks near the end zone, I took a look at the back of my camera to check the results of my shooting. Nothing, a black frame. Hmm. I checked my exposure- it was set correctly, roughly what I had been using all day, give or take a half a stop. I pushed the button again, to be greeted by the mechanical purr of 8 or 9 frames per second. I checked my screen again. Nothing, a black frame.


R.I.P. shutter.

At this time my stomach began to sink a little bit. After a conversation with the photographer beside me and some other desperation tries with my camara, I opened it up and took a look at the shutter.

Toast. One of the paper-thin pieces of aluminum that makes up the shutter was out of its track, barely noticeable, but it rendered the camera blind. Then my stomach hit rock bottom, and I gathered my belongings, and hit the road.

Out through the dim labyrinth under the stadium to the quiet parking lot on the lake’s edge. The sidewalk was full of fans with the same idea; the scarlet tide recedes after the game. I listened to the game on the radio, feeling alone and out of sorts.

I was in Akron by the final whistle, putting distance between me and my personal disaster.

Join the OSUAA here.

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3 Responses to Toledo: Road trip

  1. Jimmy says:

    That’s why you NEED BACKUP gear wherever you go if you want to do this!

  2. Chris says:

    You got me there. Ever year I reinvest my freelance earnings, trying to build a parachute in case my newspaper shooter career falls out from under me. A second body is on the list, but as my family grew, it kept getting pushed down. Fortunately for me, the shutter failure occurred late enough in the game that I was still able to fulfill my obligations.

  3. David says:

    Nice article about Stoneburner. Too bad TP had a problem throwing to Ballard the last two years. We would have won alot more bowl games and scored alot more points if TP would have passed to Ballard, like how open he was last year in the end zone at the Michigan game but TP passed a tough pass in coverage instead. TP scored with that pass while Ballard was standing under the goal post by himself. Or that poor excuse for a pass the Ballard caught anyway in the Rose Bowl? It took three years to figure out we have tight ends?

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