Note: this photo was published in an Oct 4, 2009 blog titled "The Excessive Celebration Rule in College Football is Insulting to the Brain."
Moving into 2010, it was published in a Feb 2, 2010 blog titled "Poll: College Football Or The NFL." It was also published in a Jun 22, 2010 blog titled "Living with the what-ifs ." It was also published on an undated (Oct 2010) home page of the Ohio Attorney General's website. And it was also published in a Dec 3, 2010 blog titled "The best way for good teams to win close games." It was also published in a Dec 6, 2010 blog titled "Scoreboard: The Weekend in Seattle Sports."
Moving into 2011, the photo was published in a Jan 11, 2011 blog titled "National Championship." It was also published in a Jan 28, 2011 blog titled "Violation Alert: Cheering Against the Local Team." And it was published in a Feb 2, 2011 blog titled "I’m Going To Become A Freelance Writer … What Should I Do First?" It was also published in an Oct 15, 2011 blog titled "Football for Mommies." And in early Nov 2011, I noticed that it was used in the "banner" section of the "About" page of a blog titled Extra Benefits.
Moving into 2012, the photo was published in an undated (late Jan 2012) blog titled "Wheelchair Basketball Rules vs. Regular Basketball Rules." It was also published as one of several illustrations in an undated (late Apr 2012) Mashpedia article/blog titled "Football." And it was published in a Jul 23,2012 Fast Company blog titled "Want A Branding Challenge? Try Marketing An NFL Team," at www-dot-fastcompany-dot-com-slash-1843230/want-a-branding-challenge-tr y-marketing-an-nfl-team. It was also published in an Aug 7, 2012 blog titled "Shannon Eastin set to debut as first female NFL referee in Thursday game." And it was published in an Aug 15, 2012 Forbes blog titled "Using Replacement Refs Would Be A Disaster For The NFL," as well as a subsequent Sep 21, 2012 blog titled "NFL, not replacement referees, to blame for poor officiating." It was also published in a Sep 28, 2012 blog titled "Deals Of The Week Looks For A Replacement." And it was published in an Oct 19, 2012 blog titled "Shreveport Bossier Area High School Football Schedule – October 19," as well as an Oct 19, 2012 blog titled "Watch NFL on your iPhone?"
Moving into 2013, the photo was published in a Feb 1, 2013 blog titled " The Super Bowl, Undercover Vegans, Horse Meat, and Celebrity Chefs. Done Vegan Style!" It was also published in a Feb 4, 2013 blog titled "Milwaukee beats San Francisco for Super Bowl audience." And it was published in a Mar 5, 2013 blog titled "Interflora Google Penalty, Advertorials & SEO Content Marketing." It was also published in a Jul 31, 2013 blog titled "Dodgeball tournament hosted at Huntington Center." And it was published in a Sep 6, 2013 blog titled "The Most Pathetic Reasons You'll Claim Your Football Team Lost."
Moving into 2014, the photo was published in a Jan 24,2014 blog titled "Having the faith to make ‘The Call’." It was also published in a Mar 24, 2014 blog titled "NFL Looking To Enhance Referee Communication Through Wireless System." And it was published in an Aug 20, 2014 blog titled "Veteran NFL Referee Refused to Work Washington Games Because of Team’s Name."
I'm somewhat embarrassed to admit that, until last night, I had never been to a professional football game in my life. Baseball, basketball, and tennis: yes, of course. High-school and college football games: sure, though that was a long time ago. Indeed, the last college football game I watched (in person) was in the mid-60s, when I was invited to the annual Harvard-Yale game by a Radcliffe student I had begun dating -- a development to which my MIT college roommate reacted, in shock, by howling, "Radcliffe? You're dating a Cliffie? She must be a pig!" After which he pulled out his flute, every time he thought she might be present when he returned to our off-campus apartment, and played "Old McDonald Had a Farm" until he collapsed in gales of laughter on the stairwell. Highly inaccurate, I hasten to note, and totally unfair. But I digress...
Anyway, a freelance writer, Mitch Ligon (whose photo you can see here in one of my Flickr sets), invited me to accompany him last night to the New York Jets - Philadelphia Eagles game out in the New Jersey Meadowlands -- another first-time experience. I was given a photographer's press pass, which gave me access to the locker rooms, press box, various other "inner sanctum" locations ... and, most important, the football field itself. I was given a red jersey to wear, told to stay outside the yellow dashed lines that ring the field, and turned loose for the evening. I felt somewhat inadequate, because I knew that the "real" professional photographers would be equipped with high-cameras and monstrous telephoto lenses beyond anything I had ever touched, or could possibly afford; and even though my Nikon D300 and 70-300mm zoom lens is fairly respectable in amateur circles, I had no idea if I would be able to take any decent photos at all...
The other problem is that I know little or nothing about the nuances of football, beyond the obvious fact that the quarterback either passes the ball, or hands off to someone who attempts to run the ball downfield. Punts and field-goal kicks are also a familiar concept, but if you don't have a good anticipatory sense of who is about to do what to whom, it's easy to miss the "moment" when the perfect shot might be available. Also, I didn't really know anything about the players, aside from the respective star quarterbacks: Philadelphia's controversial Michael Vick, and New York's newly-named starting quarterback, Mark Sanchez. I had looked at the team rosters on the Internet before the game, so at least I knew their jersey numbers (#6 for Sanchez, and #7 for Vick, as you'll see in the photos) -- but the "action" was often so far away (at the other end of the field) that I couldn't tell whether the starting quarterback, or one of the substitutes, was making the plays.
Nevertheless, by the beginning of the second quarter I was feeling a little more comfortable -- if only because I found it easy to follow along behind the other professional photographers as they marched (or ran) from one end of the field to the other, in order to get their equipment set up for what they expected would be the next great shot. By the end of the game, I had taken 1,100+ photos, including several of Michael Vick in a post-game locker-room interview; and from the sound of the clickety-click-clack of my fellow photographers, I could tell that many of them had taken several thousand. I'll spare you the technical details of my feeble attempts to get some decent shots; I had picked up some good tips from the sports-photography chapter of Scott Kelby's Digital Photography, and I did my best within the limitations of my equipment and my lack of familiarity with the situation.
What impressed me most about the whole experience was the scale of modern professional football -- the scale of everything. It's one thing to read that there are 80,000 people in a football stadium; it's another thing to actually be there and hear the simultaneous roar of those 80,000 people as a quarterback is sacked or a long pass is completed. It's one thing to read that a professional football player is 6 feet, 5 inches tall and weighs 350 pounds; it's another thing to stand next to several dozen such giants. Heck, I thought there were only 20 or 30 such giants on each team; I had no idea that there were 64 of them (a number which will be pared down as the pre-season comes to an end), or that there might be 20-30 different coaches. And then there are the hundreds of "staff members" scurrying around all over the place, carrying out their various duties and assignments; and there are the security guards and State Police, who spent most of the time scanning the stadium crowd rather than watching the players, presumably watching for scuffles or fights or ... well, who knows what. There are cheerleaders too, in this case bearing the official name of New York Jets Flight Crew; I had expected half a dozen, but there were two dozen perky, long-haired beauties, with permanently frozen smiles, who who danced and pranced before the crowd at every conceivable opportunity.
All of this has resulted in the photos you'll see in this album. I had to delete roughly a hundred of my original images, because they were out of focus, or because a referee decided to walk in front of my camera at the wrong moment; and another 900 were "okay," but not terribly exciting. I'm sure that none of them are as crisp, sharp, and well-composed as those taken by the Sports Illustrated photographer and the other professionals on the field; but I did end up with 72 "keepers" that I hope you'll enjoy...
... and, yes, I probably will attend another football game or two in the years ahead. Whether I'm lucky enough to get down on the field again is anyone's guess....