By Clint Andersen
I’m a big Husker football fan. No, really, I’m a HUGE Husker football fan. So, you can imagine my excitement when I was offered the chance to have a sideline media pass to the Huskers’ game vs Purdue last Saturday. I usually attend a couple of Husker games each year, but this was an opportunity to get a much closer look at what goes on both on and off the field at a college football game.
Armed with two cameras and the biggest lenses I could get my hands on, I eagerly started my mission a couple of hours before game time. I started by checking out the areas of Memorial Stadium that fans don’t usually have access to. From the highest level of the west side of the stadium to field level next to the Husker bench, I checked it all out. With the players on the field for warm-ups, I started to realize that every photo that I took was of people. Players on the field, vendors, the band, fans and a host of others filled my viewfinder.
When I go to a game as a fan, I’m usually zoned in on the game and how it will play out. Will the offense move the ball? Will the defense make a big play? Is the guy sitting beside me going to be annoying? But this was different. I was aware of the football game being played and I got some really neat photos of Husker players on the field, but I found myself taking pictures of the people who help make the game and the atmosphere in the stadium.
One of the events that I really wanted to see was the Unity Walk. This is the team’s entry into the stadium when they arrive on the buses. This is a chance to see the players up close and maybe even get a fist bump for a few lucky fans. Hundreds of fans line up to greet the team along with the band and cheerleaders. The anticipation builds as the band plays and the cheerleaders do their thing. This is a great place for kids to join in the fun and there were a LOT of them there. If you are ever taking kids to a Husker game, I would recommend this as a must-see activity.
The signature event at every Husker game is the Tunnel Walk when the players come onto the field through a cloud of billowing fog with Alan Parsons’ “Sirius” blasting over the speakers. I was going to get in position to get the best photo ever of this unique event. Not surprisingly, I was not the only photographer who had this idea. I jockeyed for position and got some good shots of it.
I’ve always enjoyed watching Der Viener Schlinger from my seat, but today I saw it work from close range. Der Viener Schlinger is a device that uses compressed air to fire hot dogs into the stands. It takes two people to haul this device around the stadium and it certainly looks like a lot of fun to operate.
I had no idea how busy the sidelines can be. I found myself dodging other cameramen, video crews winding and unwinding miles of cords, sideline reporters for TV and radio, ball boys, recruits, and even the pilots of the jets that flew over the stadium during the National Anthem. When I did find an open area to shoot pictures, it usually didn’t last long before I had a host of other cameramen around me.
I learned that there is a difference between the Husker cheerleaders and the Scarlets. The Scarlets are a dance team, but they also stand on the sidelines and cheer during the game. I expected these girls to be mostly interested in their next dance routine and somewhat distant from what was happening on the field, but that was not the case at all. They were there to have fun and they were extremely entertaining with their banter and impromptu cheers for the team. They were very knowledgeable about the game and added an incredible amount to the atmosphere of the stadium.
I also realized how much the band adds to the feel of the game. From a distance, they are “The Band”, but up close, I began to see them not as a homogenous group, but as individuals and I had a great time getting shots of them both while entertaining and relaxing. Their instruments sparkle in the sunlight, and the colors of their crisp uniforms are SO vivid!
Perhaps the thing that made the biggest impression on me was how standing on the field with 90,000 fans screaming at the top of their lungs makes a person feel REALLY small. Down there, everything seems bigger from the size of the players to the immensity of the stadium to the deafening noise. I’ve heard about home field advantage, but feeling it up close puts it on a whole different level. I really don’t know how players can concentrate with that much noise going on around them – it is truly impressive.
After everything was over and I had a chance to process the day, I came to the realization that what had started as a mission to photograph a football game turned into an opportunity to discover all the people who make an event like this happen. I can’t help but wonder how much I’m missing at other events and activities. Am I so concerned with the action that I’m missing a bigger picture? Perhaps the chance to see the Tunnel Walk will help me to avoid tunnel vision.
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