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Football: Jets-v-Eagles, Sep 2009 – 60

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Image by Ed Yourdon
Note: this photo was published in a Sep 21, 2009 blog titled "Sports: Jets Topple Patriots." It was also published in a Sep 5, 2010 blog titled "The Who, What, Where, When and Why of Watching Professional Football." And it was published in a Dec 10, 2010 Digital Photography Tips blog titled "Reduce Your Photography Cost With Rental Camera Lenses," as well as an undated (mid-Dec 2010) blog titled "SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY AND LEARNING YOUR INDUSTRY."

Moving into 2011, the photo was published in a rather amusing blog, titled "Mark Sanchez picks nose, wipes booger on Mark Brunell: New York Jets tale." And it was published in an almost incoherent, badly-translated Feb 9, 2011 blog titled "News: Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez caught in tryst with 17-year-old." For some reason, it was also published in an Aug 30, 2011 blog titled "Kirstie Alley Nicknamed Grandma on Dancing with the Stars 2011." It was also published in an Apr 26, 2011 Sports Photography Tips blog, with the same caption and detailed notes that I had written on this Flickr page.

Moving into 2012, the photo was published in a Mar 26, 2012 blog titled "Tim Tebow or Mark Sanchez: Who’s the Hotter Jets Quarterback?" It was also published as one of several illustrations in an undated (late Apr 2012) Mashpedia article/blog titled "Football."

Moving into 2013, the photo was published in a Feb 15, 2013 Sports News Football blog, with the same caption and detailed notes that I had written on this Flickr page.

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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….dancing with the stars 2013

Dancing With the Stars 2013 Rehearsal photos
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