I made my first visited to storied Ohio Stadium...aka...The Shoe...on Saturday to cover the Wisconsin-Ohio State football game. You all know the outcome didn't come out as Badger fans had wanted, but then again it was on that mysterious thing known as the Big Ten Network, so nobody is really sure if they actually played the game. You've probably read all you can about UW's 38-17 loss, so I'll give you my thoughts and tidbits of my first trip to the stadium for a game.
1. The atmosphere is everything advertsied and a game at Ohio State is a must for every sports fan. I bet many of you have tailgated at Camp Randall Stadium and gotten there early, but they take it to the hightest level, much like Badger fans, but add another 20,000+ fans to the mix. We arrived about 4 hours before the game and the lots were full and it looked like people had been tailgating for hours. There were people that actually had a generator hooked up and had a Direct TV dish on a pole so they could watch the college football pregame shows while they indulged in their pregame activities. Good stuff.
2. Once I got inside the stadium, since I was never there before, I took the "lap" to check out the historic complex. It definatley has the old school feel. The concourses are HUGE....maybe 3 or four times widers than The Camp. I actually got the feel under the stadium that I was at a county fair concourse, but then when you looked inside the stadium you saw the field. Another thing I like about the stadium is that, yes, it has 100,000 plus seats, but they are very steep so you feel like you are on top of the action. At places like The Big House in Michigan, the seats are angled in a way that you feel like a game is going on a mile away, not at The Shoe. There is also this huge flag pole inside the stadium, maybe 10 yards off of the field. When I say huge, I mean HUGE. The thing is probably two feel wide at the base and actually spans as high as the stadium. Old Glory couldn't look any better, with the best seat in the house, right near the action. Now I might think differently if I was a fan who had to keep looking around the flag pole when game action was on that end of the field.
3. We were out the night before and noticed EVERYONE was wearing red and grey. In Madison, you see tons of Bucky Badger garb, but this was litterly everyone, every place, from the hotel front desk person to people are at the bar, to gas stations. We come to find out that every Friday in Columbus is a Red and Grey Friday and people seem to have bought into it.
4. The Badger band was in Columbus and did there thing before the game and at halftime and they were great as always, but Saturday was also my first time to see The Ohio State Marching Band known as "The Best Damn Band In The Land." I'll tell you this, I never thought, I'd say it because I love the UW Marching Band, but OSU's band was unbelievable! First of all, when I say down on my seat in the press box I noticed there was a "band media guide" Taking a look through it, it actually broke down the bands actions for the day. I got to see in advance what the band would be doing, but they also had charts and breakdowns of the formations that they would be doing. The halftime theme was movie soundtracks and it was great. They did the James Bond theme and formed the oo7, did the Batman thema and I felt like Commissioner Gordon had turned on the Bat Signal, they did Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, and formed a bow and arrow shooting at the UW Logo, and then Brutus the Buckey "pulled" the arrow back and show the "W" it was pretty cool. The most famous thing that the Ohio State Band may be known for is "Script Ohio" It happens every pregame. The band will spell "Ohio" (see above photo) in cursive and then the crowd hold's there breath to see who will "dot the eye." It's considered a great honor to dot the eye and on Saturday a drummer from Dublin, Ohio took his turn. Sometimes fans (Minnesota) will boo anything to do with the visiting teams on game day. The OSU fans gave the Badger band a nice ovation for their work when they were done with their performance.
5. The scoreboard is impressive as well at The Shoe, but they better get the spell check out as they had a Badger preview up on the board, with various, tidbits about UW. You know stuff like the schools enrollment, team info and they had the Badgers are coached by "Brent" Bielema...Oops, I guess Brett will have to win a few games against OSU for them to get his name right.!
6. Now on to some important stuff, the Press Box was top notch at OSU. Upon arriving in the press box it can sometimes be a challenge to see where your assigned seat is and after getting told it was various places and looking lost, a "veteran" of the staff named Frank led us in the right direction. Frank was a very friendly man who has worked there for year, after he helped us, he made conversation every time we walked by, concerend if I had everything we neede or if we got enough food. Speaking of food, I alway like to rate the food in the press box. As a member of the media, the teams usually provide a pregame and halftime meal and what you get various. Some places throw cold hot dogs in a Nesco add some popcorn and says go at it, while others step it up. UW has pretty good press box food and Ohio State was the same. Some great scrambled eggs, the hot dogs and popcorn was there and they had pork sandwiches from a local restaurant that were top notch. To top it all off, McDonalds was there making McFlurries on the spot and also giving out their new ice coffee. Solid stuff!!!!!
7. One of the cool things about covering big time sports is that you get to go on the field before and at the end of games. There is nothing like walking out on Lambeau Field or the Camp, or some other venue on game day. Usually it's the last five minutes of the game you venture down on the field because its a long walk from the press box and you don't want to be late for the post game press conferences. Its funny the stuff you hear on the field. I was standing where the Badgers players went into the locker room and there were all of these fans just yelling..."Go Dance on the O now!" as UW's players showed some disrespected by dancing on OSU's logo on the 50 yard line after there last win there. The OSU fans failed to realize that the Buckeyes did that at UW first...anyways...I love hearing fans, even uninformed fans heckle.
8. Also, when we got to the press box, me and the guy I was there with, saw the line for what we thought was the pregame meal. It looked like it was eggs, bacon, and other top notch breakfast items. My stomach was ready. Then as we got to the front of the line, my friend Nick noticed the sign said "Welcome Big Ten Network" and he figured out this was for the crew working the game on the Big Ten Network broadcast and not for common folk, so we got out of line. The interesting thing was there were a ton of people eating....it was packed, and I came to the conclusion that more people actually work putting together a BTN broadcast that can actually see the games on the network....but that's another whole blog.
9. I am not working for a major company so I got the honor of driving to Columbus this weekend. It took about 8.5 hours to get there and about 7 hours and 20 minutes to get home thanks to a fast drive through the heart of Chicago. When you go on major road trips you never know what the interstate may bring. On the way down, I made one mis-calculation thanks to construction in Chicago ended up on the wrong side of the divided south-bound lane. Rather than take the express side with no exits, I got caught up with all the slower local traffic, but that was just minor. Also..a note and tip for you, GET the I-PASS for tolls. It only costs 10 bucks and you will have money in your account at all times and you don't have to stop and pay tolls the computer just picks up an chip mounted in your car and you can speed right through the city without stopping. Another travel note, Hebron, Indiana, about half-way between Chicago and Indy, may have the worst service of any Burger King I have ever been at. We get in there, during the noon hour and they have one stinking employee. The line was a mile long, and this older woman screwed up three people's debit cards in a row and then I think they had to go slaughter the cow after I ordered it, it took so long. UGH! I'm all about speed and they do not offer it there....The McDonalds next door is a much better option. I guess it was a bad service weekend, because when we got to Columbus, we went out to a national wings chain, and I thin we got the worst waitress ever. After waiting a long time just staring at the wall, a person, who was our server came and helped us out and took our drink order. She carded the fellow member of the media I was with and goes...Oh, you're from Wisconsin..."Go Bucks" and then walked away. It only took 10 minutes from when we ordered a drink to actually get it as our server didn't quite have the concept of waiting tables down yet I guess. Anyways, she still got a nice tip, because the guy I was there with's wife was in the restaurant business and he knew tips were important.
OK...those were just a few of my thoughts from my trip to Columbus. Lets see if Bucky can bounce back next week at home against Michigan.