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|| News Item: Posted 2004-09-08

Olympic Memories: Jack Gruber
'You give me pin, now, I give pictures to you.'

By Jack Gruber, USA TODAY

Photo by Jack Gruber / USA TODAY

Photo by Jack Gruber / USA TODAY

Women's Gold Medal Soccer Game USA vs BRAZIL: USA's Mia Hamm and Brazilian defender go up to head the ball in the second half of the Olympic gold medal woman's soccer game at Karaiskaki Stadium.
Usually at USA TODAY we have our ducks all in a row. However, due to a clerical error on our part, our IT guys did not get a DSL line installed in the championship soccer stadium. Turns out it is installed in a bingo hall in Crete.

Sending the large Canon Mark II files over the Greek OTE phone system really was not an option. The OTE guys were great about keeping an eye on these green monster devices in each venue. Making sure each was dusted down and clean seemed to be how most OTE technicians spent the days in the venues as well as patrolling the photo work rooms swatting at photographers resting their feet on tables or chairs. But surprisingly, when it came to actually configuring or problem solving these telephone devices and making them work, the OTE guys were usually out to lunch or sharing a smoke with the Olympic External Loop bus drivers.

In a pinch, we figured our photo editor could transmit via the Began satellite device from a seat during and after the game. Plenty of seating in the not so sold out stadium right off the field of play and above one of our two photo positions on the field. With relatively fast transmit speeds, in the long run at just over $10 per megabyte of transfer, the cost would be considerably less than the DSL Olympic rate card fee of $2000 US in the venue to install the DSL line for that one game.

Sounds good in theory but life isn't always that simple.

With the logistics worked out-not perfectly but enough to seemingly get the job done-Bert Hanashiro and I get down to shooting the gold medal game.

Fast forward to a 1-1 tie between USA and Brazil and the game is now into soccer's equivalent of overtime. Two fifteen minute halves following the 90 minutes of regulation play. If the score is still tied after the extra time, there will be a shoot out.

Throughout the game, it had been surprisingly easy for me to get disks to our editor transmitting from the seat in the stands behind me. After the universal Olympic make things happen with a gift of a USA Today Olympic pin, one of the Olympic Photo Team volunteers with their blue bibs was kind enough to pass my disk and film envelopes from my spot 30 feet behind me to the rail where the editor was waiting.

The Photo Team volunteer initially had some concerns about this hand off since all envelopes with disks needed to be taken to the photo work room well away from the field of play. Where common sense fails, a gift of a cheap twenty-five cent USA Today Olympic pin will remedy many issues and the disks were now taken the thirty feet to the editor at the rail instead of deep inside the stadium work areas.

The only problem it seemed was the coordination of getting disks from the other end of the soccer field where Bert was shooting from down to my spot and to the editor in the stands behind me. The Photo Team volunteers must have already scored a USA Today pin because we were not getting disks from one end of the field to the other in a very timely fashion. It seems the most direct route from one end of the playing field to the other end was through Crete and the bingo hall where our DSL line was installed.

The entire game, I had been sitting just to the right of an Italian soccer photographer. Nice guy. Very pleasant and accommodating in the tight spots. This guy was so pleasant and nice even though I speak no Italian and he spoke very little English, I offered him one of our Olympic pins.

Photo by Jack Gruber / USA TODAY

Photo by Jack Gruber / USA TODAY

USA's Abby Wambach and Mia Hamm celebrate the Olympic gold medal win over Brazil in Karaiskaki Stadium. Wambach scored the game winning goal in overtime play defeating Brazil 2-1.
Maybe he was just genuinely appreciative of this small gesture or mistakenly assumed that these very shiny pins were actually made of real gold and his financial concerns were now a thing of the past.

Whatever the case, we were now best of friends. It didn't even seem to bother him when I would use a really cheesy Italian accent when I spoke to him in English.

It is overtime and it basically comes down to which team scores the next goal wins the gold medal.

Then it happens. Something very strange and completely catching me off guard causes me to look away from the field of play.

During play with the USA team attacking the goal nearest me, a very persistent slap on my back repeatedly happens and am forced to turn around and see a Photo Team volunteer waving in my face a tan USA TODAY envelope which I can clearly read is from Bert and shot in the 2nd half asking me, "You USA TODAY? Are you USA TODAY?"

In just the few seconds it takes as I am turned around and before I can respond to the Photo Team volunteer, I see our editor at the rail trying to get the attention of the photo runner and at the same moment her eyes getting very large and then sound of the stadium erupting into a very loud roar.

I knew instantly what had just happened ...

I had just crapped a very large brick and the USA women had just scored what was to be the game-winning goal while I was sitting with my back to the action staring at an Olympic photo runner.

I was able to knee jerk around and make a few ok celebration photos of anything in red, white and blue jumping around as if they had just won an Olympic gold medal since there was plenty of jumping up and down because it turns out they had just won the Olympic gold medal.

If I would have been doing my job and watching the action, the photos would have been much better. I know this because my newest best friend from Italy sitting to my left was now livid and tearing into this poor Photo Team volunteer yelling in broken English and Italian on my behalf.

"How could you interrupt this photographer during such an important moment..."

But in true Olympic fashion of goodwill to all, my Italian buddy showed me the images I had just missed but he had recorded on his camera of the USA winning goal.

"Nice ... no? But not so important for me, " he said in his heavy Italian accented voice , "You give me pin, now, I give pictures to you."

Related Links:
Jack Gruber's member page

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