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30 FOR 30: SEAM ROUTE

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THE ORAL HISTORY OF THE BIG TEN CHAMPIONSHIP’S MOST GRIPPING MOMENT

NCAA Football: Big Ten Championship-Ohio State vs Wisconsin
THE GREAT DIVIDE—AND HOW ONE MAN HEALED IT
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel-USA TODAY Sports

What if we told you that ripping a hole in a football field...was the one thing that could sew together a divided nation?

Erik Harlow, ‎Field Manager - ‎Indiana Convention Center & Lucas Oil Stadium: Most games are pretty normal. The work gets done. I had a sandwich for lunch and like most days didn’t expect much. Most of the time I suggest you do the same. Most people think turf management is simple work.

It is. [pauses] Until it isn’t.

Jim Delany, Big Ten Commissioner: I really didn’t see what happened at first. Most of the time when I watch a game, I’m focusing on the student-athlete, not the turf. That’s the focus at the Big Ten: On the development and growth of the student-athlete. Our revenue sports contribute to the university, not the other way around.

Suite server at Lucas Oil Stadium: Commissioner Delany requested the Pol Roger Sir Winston Churchill because the Dom he brought to the suite was corked.

Jim Delany: It’s our mission, and we take it seriously.

Server: We only had some Cook’s. He was pissed—but he still drank it, lol.

Jim Delany: But surprised? Oh sure.

Paul Chryst, Wisconsin head football coach: It didn’t surprise me. Our offense is mostly based on plowing.

Head referee Stan Johnson: I still don’t know what did it. It’s like the field saw all that Wisconsin coming and just gave up.

Erik Harlow: I knew it was bad. Sometimes you hear it and just know. It’s a sixth sense you get in turf work.

Paul Chryst: It’s a farmer’s offense, we like to say. One furrow at a time.

Erik Harlow: You don’t ask for it. You either have it or you don’t. And I knew this was bad before I ever saw it.

Jim Delany: It was important, and we acted quickly. I put my best man on it.

Random Guy with a Green Rake: This big bald guy came runnin’ out in the street and told me to go buy “the biggest fuckin’ rake I could find for five bucks.”

Random Guy with a Green Rake: Joke’s on him. I stole one off a city truck parked outside and kept the five bucks.

Urban Meyer: 01001001 00100000 01100001 01101101 00100000 01101110 01101111 01110100 00100000 01100001 00100000 01100111 01110010 01100001 01110011 01110011 00100000 01100101 01111000 01110000 01100101 01110010 01110100 00101110 00100000 01001111 01110100 01101000 01100101 01110010 01110011 00100000 01110011 01101000 01101111 01110101 01101100 01100100 00100000 01100010 01100101 00100000 01100011 01101111 01101110 01110011 01110101 01101100 01110100 01100101 01100100 00101110 00100000

Head referee Stan Johnson: I went over told the coaches, hey, this isn’t safe, we have to suspend play until we get it fixed. We had 80,000 people waiting. Millions at home. All these people on social media, and we’re waiting on someone to fix a tear in the turf.

Joel Klatt: It was a dangerous situation and I think they did the right thing. I just think they didn’t realize how dangerous situations breed other dangerous situations. The whole place becomes a pressure cooker. Not everyone handles that real well. Some worse than others.

GUS JOHNSON FROM A PERCH ON THE CEILING HE IS CLINGING TO WITH HIS FINGERS AND TOES: OH MY GOD—-

Joel Klatt: It can get dangerous

GUS JOHNSON: OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH THE RIP!!!!!

Joel Klatt: It took five EMTs and a crowbar to get him down.

GUS JOHNSON: AAAAAAAHAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH—- [/falls off chair]

Chuck Klosterman: There’s something very Midwestern about tearing a hole in a football field with your own heft. It’s quaint almost, like a kind of gravity of uncoolness. People from the Midwest get what I’m talking about. Like the feeling that your uncoolness will sink into the earth itself and anchor you there. It’s the football equivalent of a Hold Steady record in its self-conscious gravity. It is the Zen Arcade of football plays. It is an angry, brutal missive against the weight of your own existence. Only the young can play it like that. For the rest of us, it’s a memory we pay to watch. Or used to, before the end of the monoculture.

Interviewer [off camera] : What does that mean?

Chuck Klosterman: gotta go [/throws down smoke bomb]

Paul Chryst: I told our boys to relax, drink a gallon of milk each, and think of one thing they were thankful for in that moment. That thing was Aaron Rodgers. You already knew that.

Erik Harlow: I had to work fast. Rubber pellets are key. You simply can’t put enough rubber pellets into a Field Turf gash.

Interviewer [off camera]: Why is that?

Erik Harlow: [pauses angrily] Even if I told you, you’d never really understand, would you?

Barry Alvarez, Wisconsin Athletic Director: I thought to myself, Barry, who’s a good guy to go out there and get this done?

Also Barry Alvarez, Wisconsin Athletic Director, Addressing Barry Alvarez: I thought I could do a pretty good job of fixing it up, now that you’re asking.

Jim Delany: Barry asked me which way to get down to the field. I told him how to get to the parking lot. He couldn’t get back in. I’ve found that sometimes leadership is distraction in the name of the greater good.

Barry Alvarez: They had hot dogs out there! It was great.

Also Barry Alvarez: Damn right it was. Truly a championship evening.

Joel Klatt: Killing time like that in a broadcast situation is hard. You want to reflect the absurdity of the situation, but also acknowledge how frustrating it is for the viewer. It’s a fine line to walk, for sure. But I think we did it.

[clip of Gus Johnson narrating a FieldCam shot of the turf being repaired]

Gus Johnson: GAAAAHHHHHHHH! THE CHASM HAS BECOME A PHANTASM! THE RIP IS NOW THE SHIP DRIVING THIS BIG TEN GAME TO THE BRINK! AND THE CAPTAIN WENT OVERBOARD SIX MINUTES AGO! SAVE TEN PERCENT ON YOUR CAR INSURANCE WITH GEICO! MY GOD! ABANDON GOD! AAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH!

Fox Producer Mitch Hastings: It wasn’t ideal but we did what we could.

Erik Harlow: It got heated out there. I was working hard. Sweat all over the place. Someone in the crowd yelled “TURF MAN, RETIRE BITCH.” I don’t know what that means.

Jacob Ellis, the man who screamed “TURF MAN, RETIRE BITCH” at Erik Harlow: I’m from Chicago and was shocked at how cheap the beer was in Indianapolis. Like shit this place must be poor as shit! But if they’re pourin’ em for that, I’m drinkin’ em for that

Erik Harlow: I did my job and ignored the pressure. It’s what we do.

Jacob Ellis: I dunno, I guess Indianapolis is just broke broke like that. More beer for me, tho.

Urban Meyer: 01001001 00100000 01110111 01101001 01110011 01101000 01100101 01100100 00100000 01110100 01101111 00100000 01110000 01110010 01101111 01100011 01100101 01100101 01100100 00100000 01110111 01101001 01110100 01101000 00100000 01101111 01110101 01110010 00100000 01100110 01101111 01101111 01110100 01100010 01100001 01101100 01101100 00100000 01110000 01110010 01101111 01110100 01101111 01100011 01101111 01101100 01110011 00100000 01100001 01110011 00100000 01110010 01100001 01110000 01101001 01100100 01101100 01111001 00100000 01100001 01110011 00100000 01110000 01101111 01110011 01110011 01101001 01100010 01101100 01100101 00101110 00100000 01000100 01100101 01101100 01100001 01111001 01110011 00100000 01101101 01100001 01101011 01100101 00100000 01110000 01101100 01100001 01111001 01100101 01110010 01110011 00100000 01110011 01101100 01101111 01110111 01100101 01110010 00100000 01100001 01101110 01100100 00100000 01101101 01101111 01110010 01100101 00100000 01101000 01100101 01110011 01101001 01110100 01100001 01101110 01110100 00100000 01100001 01101110 01100100 00100000 01100001 01101100 01110011 01101111 00100000 01101101 01101111 01110010 01100101 00100000 01110000 01110010 01101111 01101110 01100101 00100000 01110100 01101111 00100000 01101001 01101110 01101010 01110101 01110010 01111001 00101110 00100000 01010100 01101000 01100101 00100000 01110000 01101001 01111010 01111010 01100001 00100000 01101111 01100110 00100000 01100100 01100101 01100110 01100101 01100001 01110100 00100000 01110111 01100001 01110011 00100000 01110100 01101111 00100000 01100010 01100101 00100000 01100001 01110110 01101111 01101001 01100100 01100101 01100100 00101110 00100000 01001001 01010100 00100000 01001001 01010011 00100000 01000001 01001100 01010111 01000001 01011001 01010011 00100000 01010100 01001111 00100000 01000010 01000101 00100000 01000001 01010110 01001111 01001001 01000100 01000101 01000100 00101110 00100000

Jim Delany: He was working hard, but I don’t think the turf guy had much more in him. We were almost out of options. He was working hard, but the rip just kept getting bigger.

Erik Harlow: I had the situation under control, and was almost finished when-

Random Guy with a Green Rake: They didn’t even ask me for ID, I just walked onto the field with a rake.

Green Rake: IT WAS OUR TIME.

Barry Alvarez: The guy with the green rake reminded me a lot of myself.

Also Barry Alvarez, addressing Barry Alvarez: Absolutely, Barry. Spitting image.

Random Guy with a Green Rake: Like, can I just get into anything if I walk around with a rake and look like I know what I’m doing?

Jim Delany: Problem solving is part of the job. And I’m glad that sometimes I can help with that process a little.

Erik Harlow: I was done and all of a sudden this dude with a green rake comes and starts raking. Just throwing little rubber pellets in my face like buckshot.

Random Guy with a Green Rake: I didn’t know what I was doing but I was doing it real hard. No matter the job I always go gorilla.

Head referee Stan Johnson: He was talking to himself about “raking the shit out of this shit”. I don’t really know why he was there, but I assumed someone did.

Joel Klatt: That’s kind of where this peaks, to be honest. Green Rake Guy is the crescendo the moment needed. The spark this team needed to turn it around, to put it in football terms.

Erik Harlow: I don’t know who he was, he didn’t do anything, and I’d rather be caught dead than working with a substandard rake.

Gus Johnson: AAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH [attacks camera like a frilled lizard]

Random Guy with a Green Rake: [beats chest like a gorilla] Like that. All day.

Erik Harlow: And that...that was a substandard rake.

Urban Meyer: 01011001 01101111 01110101 00100000 01100100 01101001 01100100 01101110 00100111 01110100 00100000 01100001 01100011 01110100 01110101 01100001 01101100 01101100 01111001 00100000 01110100 01110010 01100001 01101110 01110011 01101100 01100001 01110100 01100101 00100000 01110100 01101000 01101001 01110011 00100000 01100100 01101001 01100100 00100000 01111001 01101111 01110101 00111111

Paul Chryst: We resumed action, scored, and lost. But I was proud of the fight in my boys. On the plane back we gave them each a carton of cigarettes and let them smoke on the plane. Unlike some states, we in Dairyland still know what it means to be free.

FAA spokesperson: You may smoke on a private plane. That is permitted, depending on the plane’s owner.

Gus Johnson: [camera wiggles, flops, flips over as screaming increases]

FAA spokesperson: Unfortunately this was a commercial flight. Substantial fines will follow.

Joel Klatt: Erik Harlow is a hero. For thirteen minutes, he healed a piece of field turf and brought it together. There needs to be more of that in America, if you ask me.

Erik Harlow: I was just doing my job. It’s all I can do. When you see the man with the bucket running for the exit, just give him a little applause. He’ll appreciate it, even if he doesn’t crack a smile.

Jim Delany: It’s just what the Big Ten does. It brings things together, even in a bad situation. We’re here for champions.

Jacob Ellis, the man who screamed “TURF MAN, RETIRE BITCH” at Erik Harlow: lol then why was he at Lucas Oil Stadium watching two teams that didn’t make the playoff bitch

Gus Johnson: [with camera upside down and the lens spattered with blood, flees through Gus Johnson-shaped hole in studio wall] —-aaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhh