The 2013 LiFE Sports Spring game for the Ohio State football team had to be hosted somewhere large enough to support Buckeye Nation and the traveling army that follows it, but was Cincinnati the best place?
As I stopped at a rest area about 40 miles or so outside of the river town, I had no doubt that the directions from my iPad were sending me the right way. As I pulled into the parking lot, everyone, (with the exception of three tractor-trailers) including the stretch limo were fans donned in Scarlet and Gray. Someone shouted “O-H” as they walked into the lobby of the rest area with a hearty reply of “I-O” erupting from every corner, urinal, and stall. You can’t argue that fans travel to see their team, but it was a haul for a scrimmage.
I won’t disagree to the number of coaches and players with ties to the area, or that certainly Buckeye fans are EVERYWHERE, because clearly they are, but the numbers showed in the less than 40,000 fan crowd that was seated around the stadium.
I’m no pro-football fan nor will I allude to it, I photograph sports and am all about snapping the best photo or the most interesting angle. When it comes to pros, I would rather watch the big games and every single commercial from the super bowl than care about stats or standings. The location however I don’t feel was the best choice and the numbers speak for themselves. The second lowest attendance in 10 years, with the 2005 game being the lowest, a far cry from the 81,112 last spring, or the record 95,722 in the spring of 2009. Clearly the crowd that takes to the streets, sidewalks, buses, and that are local to Columbus bolster the typical crowd.
Why the change of venue? While its brought many questions from even the avid Buckeye fans, Ohio Stadium needed some facelifts that could not happen in the winter months. Concrete surfaces throughout the seating areas were under repair to prep the horseshoe for the onslaught of fans during the seven home games coming up this fall.
As I ventured to the press box on Saturday morning, the first thing I typically do anywhere is check out the view and start the final prep of my camera gear. Sitting at my desk, I continued to look down on the stadium and try to figure out why it didn’t move me. Was it the lack of history, the modern looking architecture, no iconic structures or names adorning the stadium? Then it hit me. It was ALL of those reasons, and the mere size difference of “The Shoe” that kept my excitement in check.
When my feet hit the artificial turf of the field and I looked up to the fans and the heights of the stadium walls that’s when it really struck me, fans of The Ohio State University are blessed with what I consider the best of facilities. A mix of old and new; history and tradition, size, space, homage, and the best of equipment fill the walls and surround Ohio Stadium to make it a premier venue and put even professional stadiums to shame.
What was I impressed with you ask? The continued work by Coach (Urban) Meyer and the rest of his coaching staff to add old traditions back into the mix. While the game away from Ohio Stadium is different, it is far from the first time that it has happened in Buckeye History.
“Coach (Woody) Hayes started the tradition years ago when they would go visit a place, he’d take them around and educate the players. We just don’t have time to do that this year,” said Coach Meyer. “I think that’s a great concept. It’s been a great trip. We’re going to take them to Montgomery Inn, the boathouse and get a little taste of Cincinnati and some Skyline Chili and Graeter’s … it’s going to be a great trip.”
While many, including this photojournalist, were concerned with what changes the Meyer era “might” bring with it, one thing is for certain, he truly has the best interests of the University and these men in his mind. The level of access to the team has changed very little, the community involvement has only improved, and Urban Renewal is far from over.
Here’s hoping Spring 2014 is back down by the Olentangy and we pack the house once again. While it was a nice day for a road trip, lets bring it back home!