Jeff Simpson / The Lantern
Cold wind carried droplets of rain into my face Saturday afternoon as I stood soaked along the sidelines of Ohio Stadium and watched the Buckeyes battle Illinois. I was drenched and freezing, but I only noticed between plays. I didn’t noticed the cold because I was wrapped up in the game. I didn’t notice because I am a Buckeye.
As Photo Editor for The Lantern I have an all-access photo pass to the home football games. It allows me to eat free hotdogs and ice cream before the game, and on Saturday it meant I had a warm cup of coffee waiting for me in the press box at half time.
I have always enjoyed photographing athletic events. I enjoy waiting for the perfect moment to snap my shutter. Waiting, anticipating that moment when the athlete’s eyes and facial expressions tell everyone exactly what he is feeling and thinking. But Saturday’s game against Illinois was a different experience. I saw more than just the athletes.
Before the game even started I decided to make the energy of the fans the center-point of all of my photographs. I wanted to capture the fans, and it helped me learn a lot about what it means to be a Buckeye.
I saw the fans outside the stadium sharing drinks with one another before the game. I saw fans who had never travelled to “The Shoe” get directions from the veteran tailgaters. Inside the stadium I looked at the fans as individuals, rather than a hoard who were slowing me from reaching the elevator. I saw their smiles, I watched them laugh and I saw that each of them were nervous and excited for the game to start. They were all Buckeyes.
I stood on the sidelines and watched the players prep one another for the game. I watched Tressel pace the sidelines as he usually does, but from only a few feet away I could see just how excited he was for the game to start. I turned around and saw the thousands of fans, all of them ecstatic that the game was about to start.
The stadium was filled with tons of voices, chanting and cheering for the Buckeyes as the game went on. Even when the rain poured, the fans were loud and exuberant.
I spent most of the game wandering the stadium, photographing students and fans and players and anyone else who seemed to be happy and excited about the game. I climbed to the top of the student section and visited my girlfriend’s sorority block. All of them were cheering and excited, despite being soaked and freezing. They were excited because they are Buckeyes.
Closer to the field the band played on, paying little attention to the rain and the wind. The cheerleaders kept rallying the crowd. The police and ushers in the back of the crowd still smiled, and even chatted with me for a second as I stopped to make sure my camera wasn’t getting too wet.
Ohio State won the game by 30 points, and the whole team and an array of fans swarmed to the south end zone to listen as the band played Carmen Ohio. Children and adults teared up, and everyone put their arms around one another as we Buckeyes celebrated the victory together.
And then we all left. And the love was gone.
Outside of Ohio Stadium, cars were towed. Tickets were written, fights were fought and property was damaged.
We left the haven of “The Shoe,” and went back into the harsh and unforgiving world in which we live. Not even on campus during a normal school day can a person find even a semblance of the love and brotherhood we Buckeyes share during a football game.
So this week, as you wait for the next home football game — As you wait for the next time we can all fill Ohio Stadium and be happy together — try to show some of that Buckeye brotherhood around campus. Show it around town. And show it when you go back home.
We are all Buckeyes, even when we’re not watching football.