As I’m writing this column, I am sitting here watching a rather lackluster slate of early window games on the final Saturday before the Ohio State Buckeyes join the college football fray on Oct. 24. And as we slowly and painfully inch towards it finally being a Buckeye game week, I am left feeling a little bit sad about all of the aspects of normal game days that won’t be happening in Columbus this season due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
From the camaraderie amongst tailgaters to the electricity in the student section to the campus-area businesses losing a key portion of their income to parents taking young ones to their first OSU games, there will be a lot of things that normally make Ohio State games so special that will be missing during this oddest of years.
However, while I don’t believe that we have really gotten any clear indication as to exactly what the plans are, it appears that the Ohio State Marching Band will continue to be a part of the Saturday festivities, and honestly, thank Woody, because after the last seven months that we’ve been through, I need some TBDBITL in my life.
As you see above, I’ve written about my love for the marching band before, so it is no surprise that I am excited to see them back on the Ohio Stadium field again this season, but to me their inclusion on game days will be extra special in 2020.
For many of us, the band will serve as a surrogate, connecting millions of fans watching from home while a game is played in a nearly empty 103,000-seat stadium. I imagine that the band will provide a much-needed slice of the before times to what will be an otherwise odd and uncomfortable experience.
I have to admit that watching games in mostly empty football and baseball stadiums hasn’t really bothered me yet, and the basketball and hockey games played in bubble arenas — complete with artificial crowd noise — were obviously different, but nonetheless compelling. But, I imagine that I will have a different emotional reaction when I see the Scarlet and Gray run out to just friends and family awaiting them in The ‘Shoe.
While I will be very happy to have the team back in action, we just aren’t used to seeing football played in Ohio Stadium without a massive crowd; hell, even spring games can get damn-near 100k in the stands. I imagine it’s going to feel a bit like watching Will Smith or Tom Cruise walking through an empty Times Square in a movie. While we’re kind of used to images of an empty New York City by now, seeing it happen in our stadium, on our campus is probably going to be more than a little bit weird and creepy.
So having the soothing presence of the best damn band in the land there to lend some normalcy to these otherwise unusual proceedings will be like sleeping with a weighted blanket; sure, you can enjoy the game without it, but having them there just makes you feel a little more secure and supported.
My TV is currently on South Carolina upsetting No. 15 Auburn, and my ears are being assaulted by the incessant and annoying cock crowing sound effect being pumped into a sparsely populated Williams-Brice Stadium. While the sound is objectively obnoxious, I am sure that it is somehow soothing for South Carolina fans; tangentially, can you imagine how grating that damn Nittany Lion roar is going to be in an empty Beaver Stadium on Halloween? Ugh, might need to mute the TV and pause a few seconds to line it up with Big Daddy Paul Keels on the radio call.
Anyway, for Ohio State fans, we don’t have an annoying animal sound effect to make us feel better. All we’ve got is “Hell’s Bells” on third downs and the Pride of the Buckeyes playing before, during, and after the game. While the ramp entrance won’t be the same without the roaring crowd, and “Script Ohio” will feel different without 100,000+ fans clapping along slightly out of rhythm, it is what the marching band means to the Ohio State community that makes me so excited to see them on game days.
TBDBITL is the epitome of Ohio State tradition, and in a year in which nearly all traditions have been upended, and games will be played without fans in attendance, in a lot of ways, I think that the marching band will serve as our only connection to something resembling a regular game day atmosphere and they will be the avatar for millions of fans who can’t be inside The Horseshoe on Saturdays. So, Go Bucks, and long live TBDBITL!
After some unexpected start and stops, I am back to posting a column every single day from preseason camp until whenever Ohio State’s football season ends. Some days they will be longer and in depth, some days they will be short and sweet. Let me know what you think of this one, and what you’d like to see me discuss in the comments or on Twitter. Go Bucks!