By Bruce Stambaugh
Living in rural Holmes County, Ohio, I normally am not part of a group that tops 100,000 people. A recent Saturday afternoon, however, found my son, Nathan, and I in just such a crowd.
For both of us, it was only our second time watching an Ohio State University football game in storied Ohio Stadium. We had gone to our first contest 25 years ago. We considered it an honor to be able to go again. For what we observed, so did everyone else.
Though the forecast wasn’t the most promising, I expected we’d see a decent game and enjoy a lively half-time show. By kick off, the skies had cleared to a pure blue with only a few puffy white clouds zooming overhead at game’s end. The weather wasn’t the only pleasant surprise.
Given all the focus on Buckeye football in Ohio, I was expecting a rousing if not a raucous crowd decked out in scarlet and gray in the fabled horseshoe stadium. They indeed were colorful, but mostly because of their home team garb.
Something else impressed us besides the sea of scarlet. Although they won, what caught our attention certainly wasn’t the lackluster play of the Buckeye team, though their overmatched opponent gave a spirited effort.
My son and I were both amazed at the demeanor of the packed house. The crowd was exceedingly polite. From our seats in the first level near the middle of the north end zone, we had a very good view of most of the proceedings.
These were loyal Buckeye fans to be sure. We had walked through parking lot after parking lot of tailgating parties prior to the game. People were having a genuinely good time. Youngsters tossed footballs. Young adults huddled together laughing and talking. Older generations watched over the grilling of brats and burgers.
The throngs of people funneling to the entrances were equally congenial. People patiently lined up. Ushers were courteous and helpful.
Prior to finding our seats, we watched the boisterous student cheering section clamor down the sloping ramp to the field. The famous OSU marching band closely followed them. The students were painted and dressed for victory, the band energetic to the point of periodic chest thumping. They were pumped.
Save for one couple that sat a few rows in front of us, no one seemed to have partied too hard or too long. Fans were there to watch their team and the band. And that’s exactly what they did.
Sure there were a few boos at the officials when a call or two went against Ohio State. For the most part, people were just plain mannerly. When the lady sitting beside me accidentally bumped my arm, she kindly apologized. I did the same when I bumped her, too. With that many people squeezed into bleacher seats, a little unintentional elbowing could be expected.
Throughout the game, most everyone was well behaved. People urged on the team by yelling, “Come on boys,” as if they knew them personally. Foul language was non-existent.
The crowd reverently sat for most of the game and enthusiastically stood for the entire halftime show. With more than 400 alumni band members present, it was a special treat to watch four different script Ohio’s simultaneously unfold on the field.
I could readily see why OSU tickets are so hard to come by. Attendance there just isn’t solely for football. It’s a time-honored, refined tradition.
The column appeared in The Bargain Hunter, Millersburg, OH.
Photos courtesy of Nathan Stambaugh.
© Bruce Stambaugh 2012