BY LARISSA VERONICA HEATHER
Managing Visuals and Layout Editor
In the heart of America stands Penn State University, boasting the second largest football coliseum in the country, where exhilaration permeates the air. As tailgates unfold and the gridiron gears up for an epic showdown, a sea of Delaware students travel nearly three hours to be part of the football spectacle on September 9. Among them, I, with the esteemed Review photographer Audrey Tong by my side, delve into this electric atmosphere, ready to capture the defining moments of the game.
From the moment we entered, chaos ensued. The elusive will call, our golden ticket to access, remained hidden, prompting a frenetic trek to the stadium’s polar end. A wild goose chase for the media room saw us end up in an obscure corner beneath the bleachers. Surrounded by shadows, our sole companion was a lone faucet, seemingly waiting for a hose.
In an unexpected twist, Penn State wasn’t just our photographic playground for the day but also our stylist! Presented to us were some otherworldly large khaki vests, the ultimate photographer’s jersey, a blend of function and flair. As I slipped into mine, I felt a rush of pride at seeing the bold “71” emblazoned on it. This wasn’t just attire; it was a badge of honour at this iconic venue.
An aroma filled the air, and for once, it wasn’t Newark’s usual signature scent. No, this was a more intangible stench: the unmistakable whiff of bias. The home media team seemed to bask in privilege, their lips quenched with bottled water. Meanwhile, we, the visiting media, were relegated to a cramped room with not even a drop of beverage to soothe our dry throats. The disparity was evident, and our thirst wasn’t just for water but for equity.
Emerging from our whirlwind of emotions, we set foot on the field a full two hours before kickoff, only to find the teams already soaking in the atmosphere. The pregame scene provided an unexpected boon: a chance meeting with a venerable pro from Getty Images. His warmth matched his expertise as he generously imparted nuggets of football wisdom to us, from highlighting the teams’ star players to speculating on future NFL prospects. Most intriguingly, he emphasized an unconventional rule exclusive to Penn State’s arena: the insistence on standing behind a blue line, not the traditional white. Little did I know how pivotal this nuance would become in the unfolding saga of the day.
As the clock ticked down and the stadium came alive with anticipation, a sudden influx of eager children and their parents swarmed the field, intensifying the ambiance. The photographer’s enclave swelled, turning the turf into a chessboard of lenses and angles. The palpable undercurrent of rivalry among photographers was hard to miss. Sensing the strategic advantage of diversification, Audrey and I took a calculated gamble; she anchored on the left while I plunged into the right flank.
With the roar of the crowd and the referee’s whistle, the game ignited. The vast majority of photographers instinctively knelt, lenses, poised for the perfect shot. A few towered behind, trying to find an elevated vantage point, while others, less considerate, obstructed the view by standing directly in front of the rest. As plays unfolded and cheers echoed, the proximity of fellow photographers felt almost suffocating. Casualties of the chaos, my ankles bore the weight of unintentional missteps, an unwelcome hand brushed against my backside and the sanctity of personal space was but a distant memory from the coin’s initial ascent into the air.
Suddenly, I found myself encircled by two individuals with a saccharine odour hanging about them. They launched into a critique, taking issue with my choice to stand behind the blue line rather than the customary white. With every smug remark and chuckle, their intent was clear: to undermine and provoke. Only the cool shade of my sunglasses concealed my gaze, and I offered a non-committal glance in response. Their laughter crescendoed as they prodded me for a reaction. Succumbing to their baiting, I confronted them, reiterating my instruction to adhere to the blue boundary. They scoffed, arrogantly positioning themselves closer to the field’s action. However, their smirks were short-lived. An official soon directed them back behind the very blue line they mocked. It was poetic justice in its finest form.
Amid the game’s mounting intensity, an audacious spectator decided to stand directly before me, seemingly indifferent to my ongoing photographic mission. The chaos and prevailing dismissiveness were testing my patience, but committed to the craft, I ingeniously found a unique perspective through the space between his legs. Just as I was relishing this creative workaround, an unexpected tap interrupted my focus. Turning, I was met with the gaze of a fellow female photographer. Assuming she sought solidarity in this tumultuous setting, I greeted her with a reassuring smile. Yet, her words left me momentarily perplexed as she singled out my face for a compliment amidst all the commotion.
As the University of Delaware continued to lose (badly), the clock ticked inexorably towards the game’s conclusion. Despite the team’s bleak performance, there was a silver lining for me. Although our football team may have left empty-handed and embarrassed, I left with 3,000 photos and the ability to brag that I had survived the war zone of Beaver Stadium’s field.