Jets-Dolphin game, Nov 2009 - 002
On November 1st, I attended my third professional football game, with a photographer's press pass that let me get down on the field to photograph players, referees, cheerleaders, other photographers, fans in the stand, and anyone else who looked interesting. (My first such game was a pre-season contest between the New York Jets and Philadelphia Eagles, which you can see by clicking here, and the second game was between the New York Jets and the Buffalo Bills, which you can see by clicking here.)
I learned some lessons from photographing the first two games, and I showed up this time with even more equipment. I brought my Nikon D300 and D700 cameras, with an assortment of telephoto lenses; and I rented a hulking big 150-500mm zoom lens, which I mounted on my half-frame D300 camera to get the equivalent of a 300-750mm telephoto on a "standard" 35mm camera. Most of the time, I used the (full-frame) D700 with a 300mm zoom to get shots of fans in the stadium, and I used the long-lens 150-500mm zoom lens to get shots of the football players, as well as some closeups of the cheerleaders, as they waved their long hair in the air during the various "performances" with which they entertained the crowd.
Technical details aside, this game was very much like the last two: I was down on the field, surrounded by 77,000 roaring fans who made conversation virtually impossible. All I could do was try my best to follow the action, and shoot anything that looked interesting. It usually (though not always) started with a snap to the quarterback -- but it was sometimes on the other side of the field, or down at the other end of the field. Like the other photographers, I scurried back and forth from one end of the field to the other to be as close to the action as possible ... but in many cases, all I ended up with was a picture of a tangle of bodies, and no clear idea of what had just happened.
After watching the Flickr statistics associated with my previous Jets games, I was amused to see that the most popular photos -- by a huge margin were those of the cheerleaders ... so I included about two dozen closeup photos of the cheerleaders in this set. I also found the fans interesting and occasionally picturesque, so you'll find several fan-related pictures in this set.
Since I was on the field, once again, through the generosity and permission of the New York Jets, I naturally rooted for them to win. And though they played to a 3-3 tie at halftime, their special teams fell apart in the second half. Their rookie quarterback (Mark Sanchez, whose #6 jersey appears prominently in some of the photos) scored and passed well, but the Jets were down by 5 points with a minute left in the game, and while they were only about 20 yards from the goal line at that point, it was a fourth-down ... for which the traditional strategy is to attempt a field-goal. But what's the point of getting 3 points for a field goal, when you're down 5 points, and the clock has almost run out?
Well, perhaps this is all blindingly obvious to most football fans -- but football really isn't my sport at all, so I thought I was actually rather clever to anticipate what the Jets decided to do on that final play: pass for a 6-point touchdown, rather than waste their time with a field-goal kick. As it turned out, I was near the goal line myself, and when the play started, and it became obvious that Jets QB Sanchez was going to pass, I switched my attention to the end zone, and did my best to focus on wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery as he attempted to catch the "hail Mary" pass. As it turned out, the pass was a little too high, so they didn't score and the game was effectively over. But I did get a shot of that attempted pass reception; it's not perfect, but it's not too bad ... and you'll find it at the very end of this Flickr set (which will take several days to upload).
All in all, I took a little over 1,500 images and whittled it down to 150 "keepers" that I think you'll enjoy looking at -- i.e., 10% of the total, rather than the usual 5% that I uploaded from the last two games. Another 150 had to be deleted immediately because they were out of focus, or because a referee decided to run in front of my camera just as I was pushing the shutter button ... but I've still got roughly 1,200 images of jumbled piles of football players that will probably continue to sit on my computer until I run out of space on my hard disk. C'est la vie...
P.S. One little nuance about professional football, which seems obvious but was still a surprise to me on this third game: unlike high-school football, cheerleaders don't cheer. They don't sing, they don't chant, they don't utter a word while they're prancing around in front of the roaring crowd in the stadium. Of course: how could they? Who would hear a thing they said? Still, it's a little weird to spend an afternoon on the field with these skimpily-dress beauties, with smiles frozen on their faces as they dance for the fans ... and who, for all practical purposes, never make a sound.