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|| News Item: Posted 2003-09-29

Leading Off: Me & Mia: The Making of an Urban Myth
By Robert Hanashiro, Sports Shooter

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

Mia Hamm and Robert Hanashiro in Portalnd, OR.
The message on my answering machine said he just "wanted to talk about Mia".

That was about a month ago and I guess anytime an awarding-winning writer like Sports Illustrated's Gary Smith calls you know it's about a big story. Little did I know that an incident four years ago would be used as the crux of his SI "bonus piece" on soccer star Mia Hamm.

I have been involved in literally hundreds of interviews in my career, but when the "shoe is on the other foot" it gives you pause, especially when you discover what you thought would be just a single line has turned into the first four paragraphs of a 100-inch story!

When I read Smith's cover story "The Secret Life of Mia Hamm" it was sort of like an out-of-body-experience …

When I've talked about that assignment four years ago, it sounds simple enough: make a portrait of the U.S. Women's World Cup soccer team … then there's the catch: the shoot is right after their final practice before the championship game against China! Talk about pressure.

Over the years there's been a lot of speculation on why Hamm ducked and is not visible in most of my shoot … the popular "urban myth" is that she ducked behind teammates to put more of the spotlight on them. I've heard the other stories, she had a sneezing fit or someone "pants" her …

Four years removed I can now laugh about it but retelling the events to Smith and then reading his story, the tightness in my gut I felt four years ago … returned.

Unlike the current atmosphere surrounding the WWC, four years ago it was 180-degrees different … I like to tell people it was almost like the Beatles coming to America (pardon the hyperbole). But that final practice held on a tiny college field east of LA was hectic, even chaotic: hundreds of fans, a dozen TV crews and me with two digital cameras, three assistants, a generator (to power my strobes) and an 8-foot ladder.

The "TV jackals" as Smith appropriately called them in his story, were my main concern after they spotted our shoot. The "TV jackals" rushed over, knocking down two light stands and trashing the strobe heads making two hours of prep all for shit.

I literally had 2 minutes to make my photograph, one that was already laid out to run across the top half of the newspaper.

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY
As the assistants started tossing inflated globes at the team for them to bounce around I started shooting… little did I know that the most famous woman soccer player in the country went unseen in 24 of the 30 frames.

When an SI researcher called me about a week before the piece ran, I asked her "does he make me look like a dork?"

Andy Warhol is famous for his "15 minutes of fame" theory … I think I'm at 14:59.

* * *

Two-Minute Drill: Some Observations on the World Of Sports.

- OK, OK Soccer is almost unwatchable on TV. On second though, make
that it IS unwatchable.

- And speaking of soccer ... my first thoughts when my SkyPager went off with a sports bulletin that the WUSA had folded was: The WNBA : "You got next!"

- Sitting in Ruby Tuesdays the other day (sounds like a bad Rolling Stones parody) the China - Australia WWC game was on the TV on my left and a BAD Nebraska football game against Southern Miss I came to the conclusion that soccer ONLY looks good through a 600mm lens. And preferable a 600 with a 1.4 teleconverter!

Case in point: at the same moment an Aussie player sends a shot 10 feet over the China goal, Nebraska QB Jammal Lord hits a leaping Isaiah Fluellen with a 44-yard touchdown throw. While the soccer play was shown loose where the players were just tiny dots on the screen ... the TD grab was tight and exciting. What REAL football should be like on TV ...

- Thursday night TV football is a crime against nature! Friday means preps. Saturday is college day. And Sunday is the NFL. Period.

- Rod Mar sent me an email the other day with an AP story about my alma mater's basketball team being thrown (back) on NCAA probation, for among things: players accepting free food at a local Japanese restaurant. It really seems ridiculous that Fresno State (which Robert Beck calls "Probation U") should get probation for players getting a few $3.99 teriyaki rice bowls!

I know for a fact that if ANY Fresno State student walked into the restaurant and said they couldn't afford the $3.99 that my uncle would have given them a teriyaki bowl too!

- And finally … sitting in my motel room in lovely Logan, UT last night, I was reminded that HBO year in and year out still continues to produce and broadcast the best sports shows on television. For a network that has no live sports programming (other than boxing), HBO shows like "Real Sports" and "Inside the NFL" reaffirms that TV does not have to sink totally to the T & A mentality or use Howard Stern shtick to produce good sports programs. (OK, OK, so I like "Taxicab Confessions", "G-String Divas" and "The Sopranos" too!)

The recent special on the Red Sox, "The Curse of the Bambino" is yet another in a long line of great sport documentary programming (but you have to ignore the homer-ism of narrator Ben Affleck a little). It's amazing … JOURNALISM can make informative, interesting and yes, entertaining sports programming! Maybe the over-the-air networks will rediscover this … and give us less sideline and anchor people that have larger bra sizes than sports IQs …

* * *

Sports Shooter v.59 mark s the start of a series of article by Bill Auth, giving us insight into next summer's Athens Olympic Games.

The controversy surrounding a North Carolina photographer's contest entries is the topic of a collection of essays contributed by Trent Nelson, Scott Sommerdorf, Justin Sullivan and Mike Treola.

And Mongo Johnson checks in with an update to his dining guide for those attending November's Sports Shooter Workshop & Luau.

So sit back and relax, adjust the contrast on your computer monitor … turn up the volume on that new Dwight Yoakum CD and enjoy Sports Shooter v.59!

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