CORVALLIS, Ore. — The last time I covered a collegiate sporting event was in March.
When I walked into the Pac-12 Tournament, I knew it would probably be the last basketball game I would see in awhile. I had no idea it would be the last moment I would receive a credential until November.
It's been quite a few months navigating a pandemic that largely featured no live sporting events, especially live sporting events in our area. In a way though, it's been a fun challenge to try to think outside of the box and do different things in the sports department.
Speaking of different, I wanted to talk about what it was like to once again be back in a stadium for WSU's game against Oregon State on Saturday. So here goes:
SAME AS IT EVER WAS
Some things didn't feel that far off from normal.
Getting in to the stadium, for example, wasn't too much of a task. Yes, I had a temperature check, but at this point we're all used to having our temperature taken.
Once I got in, it was easy to get to where I needed to go.
Also shooting video the game didn't feel that far off from the normal experience. We had to shoot the game in the stands, but that's something nearly every sports reporter has had to do at some point in their career.
Not having fans around didn't feel too different either because of the crowd noise. It honestly kind of felt like shooting a game at Joe Albi. Not taking a shot at that stadium, but the majority of games there don't feature a plethora of fans. It just kind of felt like I was shooting a game there with more high level athletes.
There were some things that were a bit abnormal.
When you walked into the press box, each seat had plastic dividers to stop people's breath from getting on each other. It was a bizarre sight in a place that is normally pretty familiar.
I also was placed in a back room to edit my footage, instead of the press box due to social distancing. That mean that when I went up at halftime to go through clips, I had no idea how much time was left in half time. Eventually the fake crowd noise let me know that I needed to hustle because the game had started again.
There was no food in the press box as well. Because of this, the only full meal I had on Saturday was at 10 a.m. I got to the stadium at 2:45 p.m. to prepare for my live shots and then stayed until about 1 a.m. I'm not saying this to complain, but just giving the reality of what no food in the press box looks like for journalists who are constantly hustling.
The other situation that I wouldn't have anticipated was navigating the elevators. We had to use those from going from the stands to the press box and vice versa. No one was really keeping track of how many people were on an elevator at each time. Sometimes people would ask if you were okay with them getting on an elevator with you, sometimes they would not. I felt uncomfortable at least once with the amount of people who also hopped on the elevator I was on.
Here's one fantastic difference: Parking. Oh my goodness. You could literally just drive up to the gate that they were checking media in at and walk right in. Sometimes media members have to park a long ways away. That is especially difficult when your carrying a camera, tripod, laptop, and numerous other items. This situation was a dream.
Although having the crowd noise was nice, there were some weird things about it. There was a generic crowd soundtrack that played throughout the entire game. However, on big third downs OSU would ramp sound up. The thing was was that they would just layer louder sound over the generic crowd sound. So all of the sudden out of no where the sound was loud and then it would be taken out and all of the sudden it was back to the generic crowd noise again.
That wasn't the only weird thing about the crowd noise. Normally, when a call doesn't go a team's way, a crowd will boo. There was no booing at all at OSU. It was a weird feeling when a controversial call happened, and there wasn't a complaint in the place (at least in the way we would normally hear it).
During an injury timeout, the crowd noise was stopped once as well. It felt extremely eerie. You can hear that for yourself here:
Finally, before the game there was another weird moment. OSU played the national anthem with no teams on the field, so it was basically the press box and security guards taking in the tune. I would venture to say that sports reporters and athletes have heard the national anthem more in their lives than any other group of people outside of the military. I've never experienced it without fans before. That was the moment where all of sudden the reality of no fans in the stands hit me.
So there you have it. That was my first experience of covering high level sports in this pandemic, and it won't be my last. We'll see how it goes next week in Pullman, as the Cougs host their first home game of the season against the Oregon Ducks at 4 p.m. on Fox.