After a pretty lousy two weeks, I pulled into Columbus hoping for a few rays of sunshine. Instead, I got cold, rain, wind and eventually, a loss.
I donned my rain gear, strapped on my various pouches and bags, placed a couple cameras around my neck, and hit the parking lots along Olentangy. It didn’t really register that my rain gear was green from head to toe until I saw a group of Spartans fans walking through the lot. Great. I wear 10-year-old rain gear for the second time at a Buckeye game, and it happens to be a Michigan State game.
There was a good crowd, considering the chill and occasional side-ways falling rain. Tailgate tents had been transformed into huts, and lines of them formed canyons between them in the lots near the Schott.
A trio of fellows sat at a table enjoying a morning meal away from the hubbub of a larger gathering. I told them where I was from, and they told me the company they owned printed the Association’s magazine for 50 years before they sold it. I grew up in a printing family, so we swapped printing tales for a while.
I wandered toward the stadium after a trip through the RV lot, where the trailgating was going on hot and heavy. I still had plenty of time before the game, so I walked through the high roller lot. A single flag visible atop the parking garage stopped me. How would the conditions be up there, exposed on the roof in the wind and sometimes rain?
I made my way across the lot, taking the long way, because with my belt packs, backpack and a monopod sticking out out of my straps I had a pretty wide profile, and I didn’t want to gore anyone with the blunt end of a monopod. Or put a scrape along the side of a Lexus, for that matter.
After elevatoring to the top, I found the top level more or less empty. But I discovered that each floor’s landing had a tailgate tucked into it. Neither snow nor rain stays these fans from the swift completion of their appointed tailgates. The dedication pleased me.
The resulting pictures less so. Such is life.
In the photo dungeon a while later, we all milled around toying with the question of how much rain gear we were going to need. A check of the radar showed nothing coming our way, so those of us with rain pants began to put them on, and cameras were sealed into expensive raincoats. As the clock wound toward kickoff, the photographers began to trickle out into the gloom of a rainy Ohio October Saturday.
The band was its usual spectacular self, and I was feeling good when the kickoff sailed through the air.
For want of a broken tackle.
The good feelings lasted right up until MSU scored a touchdown halfway through the first. They marched down field and that was that.
The rain came and went, but the wind stayed. As the game wore on, the seeds of doubt began to grow. Are they really this bad? Maybe Michigan State is pretty good? I never lost hope, but that hope began to infect how I shot.
Covering the Buckeyes for the Association is different from covering it for a news organization. I concentrate on the Buckeyes, and as the game wore on, I gave up running up and down the field and set up for a big play, staying well down the field of the Buckeyes so I could get a long touchdown pass, which seemed to be the only way they were going to score after a while. So I traded shots of running backs for a hoped-for shot of a wide receiver. You could tell it was going to be a low-scoring game until someone uncorked a long pass for a touchdown, or at least to set one up.
And I nearly got that long pass. So did Devin Smith. In an improbable series of events, Smith went up for a catch and Michigan State safety Darqueze Dennard came down with it. That was the big play they needed. And it just didn’t pan out.
Halftime morphed into the second half, and things didn’t improve. Fans began to trickle to the door. The rain had stopped, but it was still cold. And an unsettling feeling began to sink it.
Are the Buckeyes just not very good? It can’t be that.
Still I had hope. As the clocked counted down to the unimaginable, I still had hope. Down by only two scores, surely things would click and they would shock the Spartans, who have a bit of a history of being shocked anyway.
The hope was but the tiniest flicker when freshman Even Spencer raced into the end zone. An onside kick, one decent pass and a long field goal and we are going to overtime. We can do it! It might end up being the longest overtime in history, but darn it, we still have a chance.
It wasn’t to be. As I watched the Spartans leave the field, I saw a single Buckeye fan watching them leave. The look on her face, a mix of resignation and disgust, mirrored my feelings perfectly.
Oh well. It just sets up an even bigger upset against Nebraska. Hope springs eternal.
Now you can;
Check out a photo gallery of Saturday’s game.
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And the OSUAA, too @OhioStateAlumni