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Memoir of a first-time visitor to ESPN’s ‘Gameday’

Andy Gottesman / Multimedia Editor

For a sports nut like myself, ESPN’s College Gameday has been as much of a staple on Saturday mornings as watching the Buckeye game to follow. So when I heard that — as the TV show’s theme song says — Kirk Herbstreit and the gang were “heading North to see them Buckeyes,” it wasn’t a question of if I was going but how early I was going to get there and where Erin Andrews and I were going to grab lunch afterward.

Now, I had heard from people who had attended Gameday in the past that it really isn’t all that special. They said it’s just a huge crowd of people standing for an extended period of time getting overly excited when a camera shows a glimpse of them. But I had to see for myself. After all, what true Buckeye fan can turn down the opportunity to heckle Desmond Howard and get lost in Andrews’ “personality” for three hours?

And I’m glad I went. I had a blast at Gameday. It wasn’t exactly what I expected but was definitely worth going at least once.

True sports fans love atmosphere. It’s one of the things that make sports so great. And when Gameday is there, it adds to the pregame buzz. It tells you, “The college football world is focused on you today. Let’s see what you’ve got.” It makes the bright lights a little bit brighter. I felt that added excitement on Saturday even at 7:20 a.m.

Aside from the buzz, it’s interesting to see all the stuff that goes on around the show with all the cameras and crew. My favorite and least favorite thing had to be the sign wars.

Anyone who has ever watched Gameday knows the crowd brings a whole bunch of signs rooting for their team, bashing the opponent, or just being funny. But I never knew about the process to filter which signs make it to TV. Gameday is set up so the crowd stands behind the elevated stage where the hosts sit. Whenever the camera shows those on the panel talking, people watching on TV can see all the signs in the background. But there are two areas behind the stage: the gated-off area, which is closest, and the open area behind it. To get to the gated area behind the stage, you have to go through security, and if you have a sign, it has to be approved.

I stayed up late making a beautiful sign the night before that both rooted for the Buckeyes and bashed LeBron James (two birds, one stone, I figured), but when I got to the security entrance before the front section, they took my sign and tossed it in the garbage. I wasn’t alone. It turns out ESPN is a little OCD about the appropriateness of the audience’s signs.

The best signs were in the area behind the security checkpoint. Because there was no one checking those signs, the people with especially vulgar signs presented their material there. My personal favorite involved LeBron doing something to nuts, but that’s all I can say. Anyway, when those more-lewd signs went up, the ESPN sign-Nazis descended on the perpetrators, hopping fences and bumping people in their way to confiscate the signs. And just when they thought all the vulgar signs were gone, another one would pop up. It was a pretty entertaining back-and-forth.

Other than that, just seeing Chris Fowler, Lee Corso and Herbstreit’s spray-on tan was worth it. They like to interact with the crowd, and everyone gets pretty fired up when Corso puts on the mascot head gear (he picked OSU).

Oh and if you’re wondering, Erin and I went to Canes. We’re engaged to be married next fall (Buckeye game permitting).

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