Saturday, November 13, 2010

A study in scarlet and gray

Ohio State football is practically a religion around here. (After all, "Carmen Ohio" is set to the tune of the traditional Christian song "Spanish Hymn".) People around the state take it pretty seriously too, but in Columbus things seem to grind to a halt when the Buckeyes are playing. Just ask anyone who decides to go to the grocery store when a game is going on. You won't encounter crowds in the aisles.

I was an Ohio State fan growing up, became somewhat disenchanted with the madness around town (probably from the regrettable mistake of listening to local sports talk radio), and have been working my way back to rooting for the team while ignoring the other stuff. It's amazing how much more I can simply enjoy the games when blocking out the talk show hosts and newspaper and TV reporting and analysis.

Until today I'd never seen an Ohio State football game from the stands. I've worked two games in the press box, but that doesn't provide the fan experience whatsoever. I've seen the long gone and forgotten Ohio Glory (of the long gone and forgotten World League of American Football) in the venerable Ohio Stadium. I also saw a decent number of Columbus Crew games when they called the Horseshoe home, but they play the kind of football we Americans call soccer.

So I jumped at the opportunity to attend this afternoon's game against Penn State when offered a free ticket. They were playing a traditional power and decent team, which was better than could be said for the two games I saw from the press box. Oh yeah, I'd never been invited to go before.

We parked in a nearby neighborhood, thus avoiding the outlandish parking charges various lots were requesting, and hoofed it to the stadium along with the other 105,000+. The seats were perhaps not quite half the way up in C Deck, but suffice it to say that getting there required climbing plenty of stairs. We were near midfield, which made for a terrific vantage point on this lovely, unseasonably warm day.

It took awhile for the stadium to get hopping as Penn State had a 14-3 lead at halftime. The way the Nittany Lions shredded the Buckeyes' defense had people justifiably concerned. Then the tide turned and the party began. C'mon, when have you ever been in one place with that many people, not to mention that many with the same rooting interest? (Penn State fans were sprinkled among the sea of scarlet and few in numbers.) It certainly is something to experience firsthand.

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