All photos by Brian Kaiser
If you have landed on this story, the odds that you are looking for the final results of the basketball games over the weekend are slim to none. ESPN and company beat us to that by a landslide. Instead of giving the typical coverage you can find on Twitter and Facebook, we set out to cover March Madness from a new perspective. We wanted to follow the madness on the court as well as the hard working people behind the scenes helping make this multi-million dollar machine operate at full potential.
The stage is set and the characters are in their respective place. The fans file in and find their way to the seats, the student-athletes (or athlete-students depending on your perspective) emerge from the locker room to the court to the sound of cheers and boos alike. Meanwhile, eager photographers and journalists make their way to their red taped areas for an office away from the office in what feels like a kid taking a field trip from class for the day. This is March, and this is madness.
The basketball circus that occured over the weekend wasn’t a surprise to anyone in the city. If you’re on social media in March, there’s no escaping college basketball and brackets. It’s entrenched into our sports-loving, midwesternite brains and the $6 million in revenue the city made over the weekend proves that money making madness isn’t going the way of the dodo anytime soon.
Through our time at Nationwide Friday and Sunday, we wanted to highlight the madness that doesn’t make it on TV. Though the athletes and coaches on the court are ultimately the performers who create storylines that not even Hollywood can dream up, what’s a production without an audience? And if a six million dollar tree falls in the city and no photographers are around to take photos of it, did it even happen?
From the photo pit on the baseline, the sounds are deafening and the sights are unlike any other sports viewing experience. You can feel the electricity and tension on the court, you can see the frustrations and trash talking (you can also hear the band director admit to his band, “they don’t tell us anything so when I signal to play, start playing immediately.”), and you can sense when one team is losing momentum. There’s somethings television just can’t capture like true, raw, and live viewing can.
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In the stands, you’re yet another brightly colored t-shirt and hat amongst waves and wave of other brightly colored garb and swag. You’ll find Tennessee fans sandwiched in between Iowa fans as well as Ohio State fans who just snagged tickets for the love of watching the game. You’ll even find some Michigan fans, like the military veteran who was first met with high cheers during the honorary segment for vets and heros but then a few playful boos once he pointed at his Michigan basketball shirt. It’s all love during the madness.
The view from the press level, however, is unlike anything else during the games. This entire weekend is action packed excitement with 30-minute breaks in between. But for journalists and photographers, this is an art of time management and efficiency. While photographers enjoy almost the best seats in the house, they are constantly at battle of capturing the moment in an effective manner–publications don’t want blurry shots, and what do you mean you didn’t get any shots of the big dunk? For writers and journalists, it’s a battle of speed and access. How quickly can I get this story posted after the game? Did that comeback really happen? Now I have to rewrite my story before this press conference with the coach.
Once the weekend wrapped up and the dust settled, workers at Nationwide began their duties of teardown and clean up almost immediately. As the locker room fills with reporters and photographers anxious for that big sound bite or feature photo, the event staff begin cleaning the seating areas, removing the hardwood floor, and start prepping for the next game—only this time the athletes are on ice. Just like the athletes, photographers, and everyone in between, it’s time to go back to reality. The office calls and the classroom beckons for them while the rest of us watch on.
Brian Kaiser is the photo editor at 614 Media. To see more, visit @brianmkaiser on Instagram.