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|| News Item: Posted 2007-01-29

Leading Off: Scrum Lords
By Robert Hanashiro, Sports Shooter

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

Sporting News chief photographer Albert Dickson gets caught in the post game scrum during the aftermath of the Gators' 42-14 win over Ohio State in the BCS national championship game at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, AZ.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

I doubt Charles Dickens was a football fan. But that oft-quoted passage from "A Tale of Two Cities" comes to mind this time of year --- the football post-season where the stakes are higher, tempers shorter and the elbows sharper.

The post-game antics of field photographers after a Super Bowl never fails to produce some kind of controversy and discussion. Whether it's photographers storming the bench before the game is over or getting arrested after jumping over the ropes that security personnel have strung up to keep us off the field, there is always something.

As the game clock winds down, many photographers make their way to the team benches, while others sling their long lenses over their shoulders and put on the widest lens they have.

Now don't get me wrong. I love what I do and I especially enjoy covering sports, no matter the size or scope of the game. And the Super Bowl believe me is THE Big Game in this country no matter what the NBA, MLB, the Olympics or Little League World Series may say. Any Sports Shooter worth their Chili's gift cards joneses for those big events and the Super Bowl is the biggest by far.

But each year at the Super Bowl (and a number of other Big Games) we embarrass ourselves and endanger players, coaches and our fellow photographers with the floating mosh pit we create on the field chasing after that elusive wide angle, in-your-face photograph.

Maybe it's because I was never a "wide-angle-lens-in-the-face" kind of photographer that I never understood that mentality and never really thought the photographs from the end of game scrum were very good. But for some reason, editors have it in their heads that a photograph of a player or coach surrounded by dozens of pushing, shoving, screaming photographers has a "newsy" look to it.

Obviously players and coaches are not crazy about the idea of photographers (and TV camera pointers) invading the field --- "their house" --- and a lot has been made of a recent incident where New England head coach Bill Belichick shoved a photographer at the end of the Patriots playoff win over the Jets (

If you watch the video clip (seemingly looped over and over and over on sports highlight shows) you have to ask yourself: What rational human being would want to jump into that? Yes everyone wanted to get a frame of Belichick with Jet's head coach Eric Mangini, a former Pats assistant. But in the CHAOS of that situation how could a good, compelling, story-telling moment be made?

And for that matter, just the presence of all of the photographers crowding around, back-peddling on the field turned what would have been a nice, emotional moment between mentor and student, into an ugly mess … both photographically and logistically.

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

USC's Nick Young celebrates with students that rushed the court after the Trojans upset the 11th ranked WIldcats 80 - 73. Young led all scorers with 30 points in the game.
(To Belichick's credit he contacted the photographer to apologize, later telling a local radio station "I do feel bad about that. I really didn't mean to hit him up high there. I was trying to just push him out of the way and get to Eric. It wasn't … it certainly wasn't called for, so I … I wish that hadn't happened." And to the photographer's credit, he was very classy and did not fuel the fires by making a big deal of the incident.)

With all of that said, I had an experience that reminded me that a scrum photo can be everything that I have said it isn't… compelling and tells the story. As the buzzer sounded in USC's recent upset over #10 ranked Arizona in the new Galen Center, the students stormed the court, lifting players into their arms in joyous celebration.

The Trojans had been knocking on the door of the Top 25 basketball ranking off and on all season and 30 points by flashy guard Nick Young assured USC of getting ranked for the first time in years. Within seconds after the final buzzer I saw a scrum forming around Young with students lifting him onto their shoulders carrying him off the court.

I hate Hail Mary shots, but there was no choice. But one of my frames captured the excitement and emotion of the moment (purely by accident I suspect) … but the difference between this and an end of game football scrum was the people in the photos were players and FANS … not players surrounded by photographers.

The Sports Shooter Newsletter and have weighed in on this topic numerous times. A particularly wild scrum at the end the recent AFC Championship Game is just the latest, prompting this discussion on the message board: (

I have been ranting on the practice of storming the field after games for years, the first written way back in 1999, the lead of that column was "We nearly killed John Elway."

What set me off on this admittedly over-worked topic, were a couple of incidents that I saw during the end of the BCS Championship Game in Arizona a couple of weeks ago.

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

Florida head coach Urban Meyer and wide receiver Dallas Baker get drenched with a sports drink during the closing minutes of the Gators' 42-14 win over Ohio State in the BCS national championship game at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, AZ.
With Florida blowing out Ohio State, the photographers in my end zone quadrant were all thinking "Gatorade Dunk" pretty early in the 4th quarter. Florida head coach Urban Meyer had been marching up and down the sidelines throughout the game and we all had a great, clean angle on him using 400mm and 600mm lenses.

A question I asked photographers near me early in the 4th quarter: What is the protocol for the sports drink dumping in a blowout like this? Is it 5 minutes on the game clock? Is it 2 minutes? There's no chance Ohio State's coming back, so is it rude to do this celebratory ritual too early?

Sure enough, with about 6 minutes on the game clock I started to see photographers wandering around the Florida bench. Wow! Six minutes to go on the clock and photographers are already standing around the bench!

Our next reaction was "Hey…we're going to get screwed!" All we could think of was all of those photographers will blocked us when they get in front of Meyer with wide angle lenses as he gets dunked.

As the clocked ticked down to about 40 seconds we could see a large Gatorade jug making its way from the bench and being lifted in the air … and those of us shooting long lens in the end zone lucked out because Meyer and a player he was hugging at the time turned and started to walk our way as the they got doused. It was a nice clean shot, tight with a long lens.

But what really got me thinking about the mess we create at the end of football games was when I got swallowed up by the scrum as Meyer was heading back to the Florida side of the field after making his obligatory handshake with Ohio State coach Jim Tressel. I was at midfield, turned around and literally found myself 3 feet in front of Meyer! I got off about 8 frames … with the wide angle of course … but the photos were certainly not "newsy" looking nor storytelling and far from compelling.

As Meyer passed me I heard two photographers SCREAMING and threatening each other behind me a few feet:

"Hey asshole! You pushed me."

"No, you pushed me first!"

"I'm going to kick your ass!"

"Screw you!"

When I turned to look to see what has happening, I saw that the photographers arguing were two good friends of mine. Though they don't know one another, it was sad to see two great guys put into a situation that prompted this heat-of-battle altercation.

So as I get ready to head off to South Florida and Super Bowl XLI I am feeling the excitement that I always get before going to a Big Game but I am also getting that creeping feeling of dread: "The best of times … and the WORST of times."

* * *

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

Florida head coach Urban Meyer during the aftermath of the Gators' 42-14 win over Ohio State in the BCS national championship game at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, AZ.
Sports Shooter v. 98 features two articles on the how two college photographers, Kristin Nichols of the University of Florida and Matthew Hashiguchi of Ohio State University covered their respective schools' march to the National Championship Game.

Sports Illustrated's Robert Beck wants to get all of you who have bugged him about using Pocket Wizards to trigger multiple cameras on a single set of strobes. Paul Myers checks in with his regular Preaching To The Choir column. Chris Large writes about a recent assignment in Fiji, shooting on the set of a movie being filmed there. Zach Honig contributes his regular tech column, Batteries Not Included.

The Sports Shooter Academy IV will take place in April. For more details, check the workshop page on And keep in mind that the deadline for the Sports Shooter Newsletter Annual Contest is Super Sunday, Feb. 4. There are lots of great prizes contributed by Roberts Distributors, Samy's Camera and Versa-Flex. You can't win unless you enter!

So sit back, crank up the sound on Maceo Parker's "Life on Planet Grove" CD, adjust the contrast on your monitor … and enjoy Sports Shooter v. 98!

As always, thanks to Special Advisors & Contributors: Deanna & Emma Hanashiro, Brad Mangin, Rod Mar, Trent Nelson, Jason Burfield, Grover Sanschagrin, Joe Gosen, The Photodude, Reed Hoffmann, Paul Myers, Darren Carroll, Zach Honig and Bob Deutsch.

Thanks this month to: Kristin Nichols, Matthew Hashiguchi, Robert Beck and Chris Large.

I welcome any comments, corrections, suggestions and contributions. Please e-mail me at

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