Wild Game Yields Wierd Postgame
By John Porentas
The finish on the field was almost surreal. The finish after the game was definitely surreal.
The touchdown that wasn't, the two penalty flags that helped force a field goal rather than the TD, OSU's desperate attempt for a final drive that was highlighted by a near-miss on deep ball to DeVier Posey and low-lighted by a spike on third down to bring up fourth; all of it combined for high drama and emotional swings that left even the most stoic of fans adrenaline filled and gasping for breath. Then came that last pass that looked like it might be caught, but was intercepted to end the game.
The Wolverine win triggered an emotional release in Michigan Stadium that swept forward like a tidal wave. For those of us who were standing on the sidelines as the clock ran out, the immediate thought was that some large portion of the 114,000+ fans in attendance would soon be streaming onto the field. That, we thought, would make the field a dangerous place.
A quick glance at the field revealed OSU's players at first standing still in stunned disbelief as the clock ran out. Boom Herron stood just staring at the scene, as did several of his teammates, but for the most part the Buckeyes collected themselves and realized that getting off the field was the only sane thing to do. We figured the same and followed closely behind them. That's when it got strange.
The pathway to the tunnel leads through about 20 or 30 rows of Michigan fans above, and the "greetings" that were being sent down were to the point. It was not pleasant for those of us not wearing a football uniform. It had to be a figurative root canal for those who were.
As we cleared the area of the stands we suddenly exited the bright sunlight of the stadium and were immediately enveloped by an oppresive shadowy gloom that was the tunnel. Around us, Buckeyes were heading toward their locker room looking like shawdowy figures barely discernable in the murky light. Some of them were moving swiftly, as if trying to break out of the gloom and reach a sanctuary. Others were not.
Redshirt junior saftety Orhian Johnson was one of those who moved slowly. He walked aided by an OSU trainer, barely limping along on his own power on what was clearly a painful leg injury. He was literally the walking wounded, a casualty in the war that was this year's "Game". As he struggled up the incline in the gloom of the tunnel, gleeful people wearing Maize and Blue ran past, snapping quick photos of the hobbling Johnson, photos that would serve as cherished momentos for them of a moment of elation, the same moment that was for Johnson a moment of excrutiating physcial and emotional pain.
As we neared the halfway point in the tunnel most of the Buckeyes peeled off and headed toward their locker room. Only the stragglers remained in the semi-darkness. It became quiet for a moment, but only a moment.
Suddenly the Wolverines came running up the same tunnel raising a caucaphony that was the hard-won joy they had earned on the field. "It doesn't get any better than this" was shouted by a shawdow that was made almost invisible by his dark blue jersey in he semi-darkness. "Finally" yelled another at the top of his lungs as they all streamed past with hordes of fans adorned in Maize and Blue. The crush of their passing forced us to the side of the tunnel, shrieking in the eccstatic delight of victory.
Suddenly, they were gone, into their locker room, and we were free to finish the climb up the tunnel and into the light provided by the open bay door above leading to the street level of the stadium.
Signs directed us to "Visiting Media", and we followed them down the hall to a media room we hoped would be roomy enough to accomodate several players at once. It wasn't to be. The room was relatively small with just two rows of seats, each row with no more than a dozen or so chairs. The early arrivers were lucky to get a chair, but at least 30 or 40 reporters and camera men were suddenly jammed into the room, standing in every nook and cranny of the small space, shoulder to shoulder and two deep around the chamber.
Then, nothing happened. The assembled reporters waited, waited, and waited some more for the appearance of Luke Fickell, not really knowing if he was on the way or not. The room actually began to stink a little. People got antsy, and some left hoping to find word on whether Fickell was indeed on his way. Nearly 15 minutes passed, and the room got more and more full, more and more uncomfortable, but finally Fickell arrived.
He was seated at the microphone that everyone assumed was not only a radio and TV feed, but also a PA system in the interview room. It wasn't, and Fickell was barely audible in the second row of the seats. For the most part he was subdued therefore barely audible, so we sat and watched him but could not hear his words. We all just hoped that the recorders piled up on the table in front of him were picking up the audio.
That changed when a reporter tried to steer the questions away from the game and toward the question of Fickell's future as a head coach. The moment the question was asked, Fickell slammed his fist on the table in front of him. It was not the question itself that angered him, but rather the fact that the question was a departure from discussion of the game that had taken place, the game that he holds in highest regard and respect. Fickell, one of the toughest defensive linemen ever to wear the Scarlet and Gray, was clearly on the verge of losing his composure, and letting everyone see just how hurt he was by the outcome of the game. Were I a betting man, I would have bet he was not going to make it, but somehow he did, admitting his pain and disappointment, and gutting out the rest of the interview.
The interview was cut rather short by the Ohio State representive from sports information. Fickell was led out and was followed by DeVier Posey, and following Posey, Boom Herron. Their unamplified responses were also either unaudible or barely audible, and those of us there had to wait to hear them until we could listen to the recording devices we had placed on the table. It was wierd. We were right there in front of them, and didn't really fully know what they said.
The sesson finally moved out of the cramped room and into a larger open area where several players were stationed. Ryan Shazier described his injury, John Simom, Mike Brewster and Tyler Moeller did their best to describe the game while Jim Bollman occupied the podium in the interview room.
Then suddenly it was over. The players disappeared and all was quiet. All that was left was the walk back down the dark tunnel, then the climb from the floor of the stadium back up every step of the stands to return to the press box. We did that as darkness slowly engulfed Michigan stadium, just like the darkness of the tunnel had engulfed the Buckeyes retreating from the scene of their shattered dream.