Dan Salter / Lantern photographer
There are more than 18,000 seats in the Schottenstein Center and none of them are terribly far from the action, but when I went to my first Ohio State men’s basketball game there, I was nearly too close.
I almost got run over by OSU junior guard Aaron Craft.
During Tuesday’s game against Winthrop, which OSU won, 65-55, I got the opportunity to take photos for The Lantern. It was my first time going to a basketball game at the Schottenstein Center and I had one of the best “seats” in the house.
If you look closely along the baseline you will see little boxes drawn onto the floor in black paint. Each one is about two feet square and has a number on it. They are there for photographers and videographers.
Mine was “A2,” and it was almost right under the basket.
I must have looked like a kid on Christmas morning when I arrived at the seat. I could feel the massive smile spreading across my face and the excited butterflies swirling around in my stomach.
After taking a moment to indulge my unadulterated joy, I regained my composure and put on my journalist face.
I was there to do a job.
Some of the shine wore off of the incredible seat the first time I got a referee’s rear end stuck in my face. It just so happens that when one is sitting on the floor, butts are almost exactly at eye level.
As if the slightly awkward view wasn’t enough, I have at least a dozen photos of the official’s back side to remind me of it. The ref seemed to have a sixth sense for when to step in front of my shots. No doubt, spectacular plays were occurring on the other side of the offending posterior, but all I have to show for those awe inspiring moments are pictures of a nameless official’s black pants.
Moving past the discomfort of having a random booty shoved into my face for a good chunk of the night, I fell into the rhythm of the game.
With about two and a half minutes left in the first half, Craft attempted to coral a loose ball along the baseline right in front of me.
My excitement over having point blank shots of this event quickly turned to horror as the ball bounced off him and headed out of bounds directly towards me.
Strapped down with about $4,000 worth of Lantern equipment that I had signed for, and was financially liable for, my significantly poorer future flashed before my eyes.
I continued snapping away as I contemplated a very uncomfortable conversation with my faculty adviser, and I wondered if pointing the finger at a star player would be the end of my career as a student journalist.
As Craft flew out of bounds in my direction, he threw the ball backwards over his head in a wild attempt to keep it alive.
He missed me by a foot.
With the immediate danger passed, and my incredibly expensive equipment intact, all my previous concerns evaporated in an instant and left me with some nervous excitement and one burning thought.
Please, God, tell me I got that shot!
The five minutes between then and halftime, when I could look to find out, passed relatively quickly. My sole focus was on trying to get every play I could onto my memory card, so that maybe my editor would let me do this again some day.
Halftime was spent frantically trying to look through about 400 pictures so I could send the best ones to my editor.
As I came to the ones of my close encounter with Craft, I held my breath.
The first one was good – “Yes.”
The second one was better – “Yes!”
And the third one was perfect. “Yes! I got it!”
All I wanted was to get up and do my victory dance, but I had a deadline to meet and the players were already starting to warm up for the second half.
The victory dance would have to wait for later.
About halfway through the second period the other disadvantages of ‘floor’ seats started to become apparent.
My back was killing me and my legs were completely asleep.
I also learned an important lesson. The little numbers on the boxes we are assigned to mean nothing to the other photographers.
While I wasn’t any further from the court, it meant even more pictures of the ref’s rear end. He seemed to be camped in front of me every time the action was at our end of the floor.
After the game came to a close, and I was done scrambling to send the rest of my photos to the editor, it stuck me what an incredible opportunity it was to have been given this assignment.
As I left the floor of the arena, I took one last look around and reflected on the night’s events.
My back hurt, my knees hurt, various officials had stuck their posteriors in my face, and I had almost been crushed by a basketball player.
I sure hope they let me do this again.