this year, so the photographic aspect of our coverage is obviously enhanced. I think all of us who have staffed Buckeye 50 understood that Ohio State can’t just hand out media credentials like candy, but to have our efforts recognized and gain this type of access is definitely rewarding.
I had the pleasure of seeing the press box a few years back as part of a Stadium tour in the offseason. Gregg had actually been selected as a winner in the Columbus Dispatch’s “Pick The Points” contest but was unable to take the tour due to work obligations, so I filled in for him. This time, however, was my first visit in an actual game setting so I headed from the West Campus shuttle bus to the press entrance on the west side of the Stadium. The friendly “redcoat” punched the credential I had around my neck while a deputy sheriff had his dog sniff my duffel bag to make sure I wasn’t hauling any explosives upstairs. Next I set the bag on a table so the security crew could check it out, and of course it was right then when I realized I had forgotten to pack the power cord for my laptop. My game plan had been to have my usual game summary article done by the time I left, but now I’d be at the mercy of whatever juice my battery had.
So now it was off to the elevator, which the media shares with the folks heading to the suites. Athletic director Gene Smith actually went up in our elevator, and somewhat ironically in the wake of the announcement of Mr. Smith cracking the million-dollar salary barrier at OSU, he greeted the elevator operator with “How you doin’, Money?”
Reaching the press box level, I checked a map on the wall to see where my assigned work station was. There are actually three rows of such stations on the press level where writers from various newspapers and radio and TV talent take in the action. Usually during October and November the windows in the press box are shut, and from what I’ve been told it all but muffles the outside world. Now for a working environment, that’s fine. But on this late September day the windows were cracked, which enhanced the experience for me since the crowd and band sounds could filter in.
I had been forewarned to wear a long-sleeve shirt or bring a jacket as the press box is kept cool, probably to accommodate all the computers and other electronic equipment in use. My work station area had a game program there along with statistics packets for both teams and from the Big Ten, and much to my chagrin a hole in the desk where one would ordinarily run a power cord down to my very own outlet. Up above hanging from the ceiling were several TV’s tuned to ABC’s broadcast, so between looks at the scoreboard and those TV sets, replays were taken care of.
Longtime Central Ohioans probably remember Barry Katz, who for years was the lead sports anchor at WBNS-TV in Columbus, the local CBS affiliate. Katz serves as the P.A. announcer for the press box solely, not the one that the crowd hears outside. He will keep track of yard lines, who has the ball, results of plays and drive recaps. Honestly there were times I wondered what game Barry was watching- on one occasion he announced a two-yard gain as a three-yard loss. The guy from the newspaper next to me exchanged a puzzled look and a chuckle with me as we both leaned to check the scoreboard at the south end.
Numerous “celebrities” abounded. Both Earle Bruce and John Cooper were there, and at halftime Jim Lachey came from the radio booth to grab a bite to eat. My high school football broadcast partner Jeff Ruth was kind enough in the first quarter to bring me up a pulled pork sandwich and drink, so I didn’t really get to examine everything that was available food-and-beverage-wise in the lobby area behind the work stations. Cups and ice were available for a nice selection of fountain drinks, and although I didn’t see it, the press box has been legendary for years of maintaining a Wendy’s Frosty machine.
When I say “working” area, it’s just that- sort of like a library. Low-key conversations with your neighbors were the norm, and as you might imagine any kind of cheering is verboten. I didn’t get a complete rundown about cell phone usage, but considering I didn’t see anyone else using one, I wasn’t about to pull mine out. The Athletics Communications Office staff brings around quarterly statistics, which exhibits good hustle.
I was able to get most of the first half of my game summary onto the computer before the battery gave way. It was a perfect game for my first trip to the press box- not a critical, “big game”-type matchup so I could just be a working stiff for a day. The bigger a game is, especially when the team is on the road, the less inclined I am to try and “work” on my game story during it. Pacing back and forth and hollering at the TV doesn’t lend to good writing. As much of a thrill as it was to watch/work a game from the press box, I don’t see how I could ever do it during a Michigan game, this year’s Miami game or last season’s Iowa game as examples. I’m happy to be “Joe Fan” on those occasions and be out with the other noisy rooters in the stands.
It was a fun, exciting change-of-pace for witnessing a game at the ‘Shoe, despite my lack of a power cord for the laptop. When Gregg and I joined the staff of Buckeye 50 five years ago, I’m not sure if either of us foresaw enjoying halftime conversation at a table in the press box, but it was a neat moment and one hopefully both of us can do again in the future.