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|| News Item: Posted 2005-04-02

McDonough's Okay
By Trent Nelson, Salt Lake Tribune

Photo by Trent Nelson / Salt Lake Tribune

Photo by Trent Nelson / Salt Lake Tribune

Whats-his-name from Texas Tech has his shorts lowered in action vs. Gonzaga, NCAA mens basketball tournament, at the University of Arizona, Tucson.
Sitting along the baseline waiting for a basketball game to start, have you noticed that any ball bouncing your way with the intent of smashing into you and your gear makes a certain sound when it takes that initial bounce toward you?

Most of the sounds made by bouncing balls are like: BUUH! PUH? or BWUH! The ball that wants to crush your pentaprism makes a split second BUP sound. After so many years I've learned to hear that sound and automatically reach out to protect my gear; like how an outfielder knows where the ball is going from the crack of the bat.

It's too bad that players flying horizontal off the court, diving into the photographers make no sound at all. All I remember is someone saying, "Heads up!" and what's-his-name from Texas Tech flies into the two shooters to my right, a half dozen cameras flying scattered in all directions; a tidal wave of chaos.

I look over and Sports Illustrated's John McDonough and Scott Winterton from Salt Lake's Deseret News are on their backs about three feet behind where they used to be. Mr. Winterton is getting right back up, but Mr. McDonough (one of the top basketball photographers in the world) isn't moving. Not at all. He's on his back, eyes closed as if unconscious or dead. On his chest a Canon and a 70-200 twisted up by the strap around his neck.

After a few agonizing moments Mr. McDonough returned to Earth and his eyes blinked open a few times. I noticed the photo marshal sitting directly behind me and beginning to offer assistance so I turned back to photograph the final seven seconds of Bobby Knight's team from Texas Tech coming back to beat Gonzaga and earn a slot in the Sweet Sixteen.

A minute or so earlier this same what's-his-name from Texas Tech had been standing on the line under the basket while Gonzaga was shooting a free throw. When the shot missed and what's-his-name went for the rebound, he was inadvertently (I assume) pants-ed by a Gonzaga player. So he's standing there holding the basketball with his pants down around his ankles. Mr. McDonough had a better photo of the moment than I did, composed, sharp and strobed. My best shot was from my floor remote, which was soon to be kicked by what's-his-name and end up pointing blurry at the ball boy sitting on the basketball standard to my left.

Photo by Trent Nelson / Salt Lake Tribune

Photo by Trent Nelson / Salt Lake Tribune

Utah's Bryant Markson on the floor, Kentucky's Chuck Hayes at right. Utah vs. Kentucky college basketball at the University of Texas's Erwin Center, NCAA Sweet Sixteen. Kentucky wins. 3.25.2005
I rarely sit in close enough to the basket to make much use of a wide angle floor remote, primarily because I'm scared of being a landing pad for big sweaty fast-falling men. But since it's the NCAA Tournament and I had a rare extra camera for the series (thanks again, Scott), I gave it a go.

As I was bumming tape from Shawn Cullen, who was working as one of Mr. McDonough's assistants, I asked him about remotes. He said that from his experience the remote cameras come through with a stellar shot about one ovary three games. Yeah that's right: ovary. Just making sure you're paying attention.

This turned out exactly right from my experience. I was getting okay stuff from the wide angle the first couple games. But during the third game, when Utah faced Kentucky in the Sweet Sixteen, I got a lightning stroke of luck when Utah's Bryant Markson slid across the floor nearly into my camera and Kentucky's Chuck Hayes did a little pump of his fist in the background. It wasn't Ali-Frazier, but it was a wonderfully lucky composition summing up Utah losing to Kentucky, the team that has knocked them out of the tournament so many times it's just not funny anymore.

As far as I know, John McDonough's okay, and that's the moral of this story: McDonough's okay.

(Trent Nelson is the chief photographer at the Salt Lake Tribune and a regular contributor to the Sports Shooter Newsletter.)

Related Links:
Nelson's member page

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