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?

At first the security guys weren’t going to let me into the inner sanctum of college game day because I had a backpack on, but then one saw my field pass, and let me in. I was surprised, but I guess a field pass translates to some level of trustworthiness. So I stood around in the scrum and watched people yell and wave flags for a while. Everyone went crazy when the aerial  camera zoomed overhead, but I didn’t have anything to wave so I just stood there, probably looking disagreeable. Then I left, because it really wasn’t that exciting, mostly because I am too short to be able to see over anyone.

I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll pull your bus down (the street).

On three, hernia!

On Lane Ave, a huge muscle-bound guy was pulling the College Gameday bus with a rope. It wasn’t really that hard, because it was so full of hot air.

Zing. I saw a couple signs declaring affection for Mark May in terms usually used to describe anatomical cleaning tools. I was just wondering if the crew would talk about the games in terms of Penn State losing, rather than Ohio State winning, as ESPN did after the Miami game.


Herbie, Corso, Fowler and some guy from Michigan.

I was standing around waiting for something interesting to happen, when one of the Lords of Olympus, Chris Fowler turned and thanked the crowd below him for coming, and then mentioned the crew was going to do a piece on a Mississippi State player who had recently died from cancer. He said to show “your usual class, and then go back to your rowdy selves.” Which was pretty nice, really, because it would have been kind of bad to have Ohio State fans going bonkers and then introducing a story about a football player who died of cancer at the age of 20.

That Fowler is ok. Unless you are from Tennessee. None of the other three turned around. Then again, it is not like central Ohio doesn’t know what Kirk Herbstreit looks like.

After hanging out for a while, I had my fill of orange and headed out. The place was not exactly hopping, it still being rather early, so I headed up to the top of the Tuttle parking garage, where a nice guy gave me a cookie, and then back down, since it was pretty empty up there, too. What I really wanted to do was get rid of my backpack, which was holding my big lens, which was heavy and awkward.

the thin red line

Hold the fort.

I lumbered back down to earth-level and across the semi-vacant parking lot to the ‘Shoe, passing a line of red coat waiting to get in, and exchanged some baseball trade-talk discussion with the security guy who checks the bags.  He is a Yankees fan. I am a Red Sox fan.

End zone bound

Because knowing where is half the battle.

I dumped my bag in the photo hole, and then surveyed the empty stadium. I ran up to see if the Block O kids were there yet, which was not the case, and not expected for a while. Meanwhile, down on the field, a cart had arrived bearing the yard markers and nets for the goal posts. A couple of students went around and placed the markers and pylons, and I dutifully recorded them for posterity.


Bringing the noise.

The press box provided more good natured Red Sox ribbing, but no food, so I headed back over to the Tuttle garage, the upper level of which had been transformed into a tailgating paradise. On the way, I intercepted the Penn State band, making their noisy way across campus.


Party on high.

It is awesome on top of Tuttle on game day. A fine view of the proceedings below as well.

the march

Woke up this morning…

Rare air wandering completed, I headed back down to see if the Block O kids had arrived. I arrived in the stadium shortly before the team, and they walked across the field to their traditional tune, which I am sure made everyone feel like a bad ass.


The Block O crew had arrived. Tucked in a hallway in the north end of the stadium, they were being painted scarlet, the letters for their slogan already painted in white across their bellies. We Are Ohio State, they collectively read. The south enders would read “400 and none.”


Scarlet and grey and read all over.

Some of the males were getting grey facial hair painted as well, with varying levels of ridiculousness.

With that, one of my missions for the day, completed, I went down to get geared up and began the interminable wait for the game to start began. The last 45 minutes are the worst, although I did get to talk to a colleague I had not seen in a year. As we talked we snapped photos of the crowds, both on the field and off.

middle fives


There was a group of kids lined up along the south end zone, and they reach out for a high five every time a player came near. They were obliged every time.

picket line

Ready. Set…

just because

Pulse quickening.

into the light

Into the light.

Then it was time to work the elbows for a spot to shoot the band. It was packed down there. The Penn State Marching Blue band was to perform as well, an added treat. The bands really give a game that college football feeling. The Pro game doesn’t have marching bands, to their detriment. (At least the pro games I have shot didn’t. It has been a while though).


A fine tribute.

After the bands took the field, I headed down to the other end, to shoot the team entering the field. As I was lining up Brutus in my sights, I saw a pair of U.S. flags waving over the mass of helmets and plumes. I searched the crowd and picked Cam Heyward and Bryant Browning bringing the flags onto the field. They looked like toys in their hands, but it was a nice touch.

As the national anthem concluded, there was a fly over by a pair of jets. It was cool. Flyovers are hard to shoot though; with a wide angle, the jets are tiny specks. With long glass, there is no context.

Kickoff, and the game was on. Let the blowout commence, I though. Hooray for action!

Except that is not what happened, and it was not fun for anybody.

the dreaded ankle tackle

So good, he only needs an ankle.

It was so crowded along the sidelines it made for difficult shooting. ESPN, for all its invaluable contributions to college sports, sports, and society in general, also brings about a million interns, producers and hangers-on to the games it covers. So every time I (and all the other people shooting the game) tried to move, I had to duck in between the various people standing around watching the game and kneel down in front of them. Because that is how it works. If someone is standing, you kneel down in front of them and then you can shoot, and they can see. But every time I did that to one of the standers arounders on Saturday, I would get a dirty look, with an air of doyouknowwhoIam about it. The answer to which would be no, and I would kneel down in front of the pope if he were in the way too.  Because you can’t take pictures through someone. Physics.

[wpaudio url=”″] Sweet Caroline, extra raucous.

So I was in a bit of a sour mood by half time. I was cheered a bit by the band’s rendition of Sweet Caroline. The Red Sox play that at Fenway Park these days (I miss baseball already). Ohio Stadium responded to it with gusto, making for a rousing rendition of a song I couldn’t actually listen to in any other context.


Boom is my hero.

Fighting my way to an accessible spot at the start of the third quarter quickly dampened my spirits. I got Herron’s touchdown, but gave up on shooting the resulting Penn State drive from the Buckeye end zone because some guy kept bumping me and leaning in front of my lens. So I fought my way down to the other end, and as I got about halfway down the bench, Devon Torrence stepped in front of a pass, tipped it up in the air and raced into the end zone, for the Buckeyes’ first lead of the game.

Luckily, the stadium was loud enough that my stream of profanities was drowned out. I would have been in a bad spot for the return anyway, as I was on the west sideline, and the angle would have been too tight to shoot, but still.

I was now officially in a bad mood.

As the third quarter drew to a close, I said #@% it, and found a spot in the north end zone and settled in. I had a spot, and the hangers on didn’t usually hang out in the end zone. Let the Buckeyes come to me, and if they didn’t, well screw it. One more game and I could be down with this mess and I could have my weekends back and screw it, maybe I should just leave anyway.

tip drill pt 1

Good thing they didn’t call pass interference.

So TP drops back and heaves a long pass to Posey. I line Posey up and start firing. The ball tips out of Posey’s reach, and I follow him to the ground. I don’t usually, but this time I did. Panning to my side, I bump into the elbow of the photographer next to me and the lens goes black. The crowd goes crazy.

What the what just happened? Sanzenbacher was being mobbed by a group of teammates. The photographers around began to investigate the screens on the backs of their cameras. I followed suit.

I have what you could call a high performance camera. No credit to me, I just bought the thing and know how to use it. When you are shooting at 10 or so frames per second, most of what you see through the viewfinder is black as the shutter fires. In those milliseconds of daylight, you have to concentrate on keeping the little red box, the focus point in use, on the subject, and keep the subject in the frame. It is easy to cut off something in the frenetic seconds of a big play. Feet are ok, but heads are a no-no. You don’t really see what happens per se, you just have a sort of feeling.

finger tips

Coming up roses.

Turns out that the non-catch had been tipped right into Sanzenbachers arms on the run, and he glided into the end zone without being touched.

And that is exactly what the back of my camera showed.

Well now. Maybe things weren’t that bad today.

big catch

We can talk about focus later.

Minutes later, Travis Howard intercepted a pass and fought his way into the end zone. This too happened in the confines of my viewfinder, although my camera was more interested in nearby Chimdi Chekwa.

mood lifter


And a few minutes after that, after trying to pound the ball up the middle and into the end zone, Stoneburner pulled in a pass in a perfect spot for me to take his picture doing so.


I love you guys.

All was right with the world. I was surrounded by friends, and Carmen Ohio never sounded sweeter.

I can’t wait for Michigan. Maybe I can squeeze in a road trip to Iowa next weekend…

Now you can;

Join the  OSUAA.

View a photo gallery of the game.

or you could become an OSUAA fan on Facebook.

You could like me, because who doesn’t like a liking?

Or you could take a look at last season and earlier games this season by looking at previous posts.

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