A night to just be a football fan

With a job like the one I’m fortunate enough to have, sometimes it’s easy to forget what it’s like being a fan. There is definitely a different perspective watching a game as a media member than as a fan.

Friday night I got to see how the other half lives.

After covering the Upper Sandusky volleyball team in the state tournament Friday, and my hotel not letting me change my reservation, I was stuck in the Dayton area for the night.

Side note, I apologize to all the Upper Sandusky fans, as me booking a hotel for Friday night was probably what jinxed the Rams.

But what better way to spend a Friday night in a strange city then to find the nearest playoff football game? The nearest one to me was a Division III matchup between unbeaten No. 1 seed Tipp City Tippecanoe and No. 8 Springfield Kenton Ridge.

I’ve heard about Tippecanoe from reading message boards and it could be an eventual opponent for Columbian perhaps in the state semifinals if both teams should reach that far, so why not see what they bring to the table.

As a media member, I realize we have a lot of advantages over normal fans. I first noticed this as I walked to the gate and by-passed the media sign-in sheet, to hand over $9 for a ticket, and another $2 for a program so I knew who I was watching.

Secondly, I’ll never take a press box view for granted again. With the home stands already packed when I arrived, and the visitors’ stands close to full, I grabbed a spot standing along a fence atop a small hill near one of the end zones.

The spot was great when the action was coming way, but when the teams were going toward the opposite end of the field, I was relying on which crowd roared to figure out which team had a good play.

One advantage though for the fans’ perspective was the concession stand. Don’t get me wrong, press box food nice and I appreciate those that supply us media members with sustenance.

I do enjoy seeing what different communities features in its concession stands, but all too often I pass it up for the free pizza.

With no free pizza available to me, I went to see what the concession stand had to offer. The answer: amazing chili.

Another side note, best concession stand ever belongs to Lowellville High School, a small Italian-heavy community just outside of Youngstown. Home of the Rockets, and the “Hard Rocket Cafe.” Cavatelli. Chicken parm. Wedding Soup. Enough said.

But maybe it was the low 40s temperature, but Tippecanoe’s chili hit the spot. Perfect thing to enjoy while settling in for kickoff.

Time to see what kind of football these southwest Ohio boys have to offer.

While covering a game, I spend a lot of time looking for angles, things that would make good topics to write about. It’s not often I can take a step back and just watch and enjoy a game.

Some would point out that I have a chance to watch and enjoy football with the NFL every Sunday, but I’m a Jacksonville Jaguar fan. My Sundays are usually spent pounding my head into the counter at Steamer’s.

The game turned out to be not as competitive as I would’ve hoped, but I was able to enjoy the clinic Tippecanoe put on. The Red Devils won the game 42-7. But being able to simply watch the game helped me appreciate their athletes and the plays they were making instead of thinking “How am I going to write this up?”

It was nice being able to watch a player break a few tackles and take a punt to the house without trying to add up yardage or scramble to figure out where he caught the ball.

As a reporter, we have to stay even-keel while watching the game. No yelling or screaming or huge reactions to big plays. As a fan, I was able yell out a “Woah. Ouch” when a Tippecanoe linebacker lit up a Kenton Ridge running back.

As a fan, I also was able to converse with other fans about what a coach was thinking with a call or wonder aloud “Who the heck was that to?” after a poorly aimed pass. Needless to say, that’s frowned upon in the press box.

I left Tipp City Park impressed with Tippecanoe’s defense, mostly. Though I wonder how much of that might have been due to Kenton Ridge’s offense not doing very well. It’s one of those things impossible to tell, really, not knowing much about either team or its competition during the year.

But watching those kind of games are fun – not going in with any preconceived notions of who you expect to be good and instead letting players stand out for their performance instead of reputation, all while soaking in the local flavor of an unfamiliar environment.

And it was a nice change of pace for once to get a different perspective on a game, simply by watching it as a fan.

Tony Maluso is a sports writer for The Advertiser-Tribune.

He can be reached at:

tmaluso(at)advertiser-tribune.com, or on twitter (at)TonyATSports.