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|| SportsShooter.com: News Item: Posted 2007-01-30

Covering the BCS Championship Game - From the Florida Perspective
By Kristin Nichols, University of Florida

Photo by Tim Casey

Photo by Tim Casey

"I indulged in a little bit of post-game celebration of my own once the team and most of the media had cleared off the field. That much confetti was hard to resist, and I just had to have a photo saying "I was there!" - Kristin Nichols
I thought I was the luckiest college shooter ever after the Gators won the NCAA basketball championship almost a year ago. I'd been shooting for less than a year, and I'd covered a national championship. I really never dreamed I'd be doing it again so soon, especially on turf grass instead of pinewood.

I do have to admit something, though. At the start of this season, I'd never shot football before. I'd watched it on TV; I thought I was ready to go. I distinctly remember the first game, against Southern Miss. The line up, the snap... the realization that I had no idea where the ball went behind all those 250-pound padded men without the TV camera following it.

I watched football a lot more proactively after that … a lot of football, for that matter.

I'm being a bit dramatic, I admit. I settled into the job fairly quickly, got my bearings, and had a great time covering the team this season. The Gators did a great job of… well… barely squeaking by half the time. Hey, they got the job done, right? I'll leave the in-depth discussion of their game play to the writers (heaven knows they've done enough of it) but I will say that as a Gator myself, there were a few nail-biters. And a few moments where I'm happy I had my camera to hide a smile behind. Objectivity and all that, you know.

Honestly, at the end of the regular season I was looking forward to the Capital One Bowl. No, really. Arkansas looked good, very good, and I figured we'd watch them hand the Gators a nice trip to Orlando. It was halftime at the SEC championship, with Florida ahead by 10, when I was clustered around a small TV with a dozen other journalists that UCLA handed USC a 13-9 defeat, and on the drive home from Atlanta when my travel companions and I heard that Florida had the #2 ranking in the coaches' poll. It was looking more and more real by the minute, so by the time the official announcement came, I wasn't too surprised. Thrilled, but not too surprised anymore.

Making travel plans is always interesting as a monetarily challenged college student. The sort of publications we tend to work for tend not to have much in the way of budget, so there's always this flurry of "who's got a room?" and "who's sleeping on the floor?" and "Daddy, can I use your frequent flier miles?" (Okay, maybe the guys don't pull the Daddy's-little-girl card. I can't say for sure.)

Luckily there are some very kind and understanding folks around here with 'real' jobs and I was offered an actual bed for the week in Arizona and managed to work out a plane ticket with some help from my folks. The kindness of others is something I hope I never overlook or undervalue, no matter where I am in life.

Arizona was like nothing I'd ever seen before. The saguaro cacti actually had arms! Just like in the pictures! I've traveled extensively and for me to be that wide-eyed over a cactus was a novelty. And for a girl from The Swamp - they don't call it that for no good reason - the lack of humidity was pretty terrible, I admit. It was beautiful though, and there were a few evenings watching the sun set over one set of mountains and the moonrise above the ones behind me that I felt pretty happy to be alive.

Photo by Kristin Nichols

Photo by Kristin Nichols

Despite having his helmet knocked off seconds earlier, University of Florida linebacker Earl Everett tackles Ohio State University quarterback Troy Smith to limit him to a 1-yard gain during the BCS National Championship game.
I must say that the BCS folks took very good care of us out there. Almost to excess, in my opinion. The hotel - no, resort - we were at was top-notch, there was food at every turn, and the hospitality suite and its open bar every night… well. What happens in Glendale, stays in Glendale, right? Just keep the Tostitos away for a while. I haven't quite recovered my appetite for tortilla chips yet.

The week in Arizona was fun, but there was something else we were there for besides gawking at cacti and drinking. We had a police escort to the stadium the day of the game, and I suppose people assume that anyone arriving in four straight busses with police in front and behind must be important, so I got my first Rock Star crowd greeting.

I realized as soon as I got there - four hours early - that I should have gotten there six or seven hours early, as I nabbed one of the last spots in the end zone (having not realized that people actually taped off spots for big football games, oops).

Being stuck in one spot for the entire game was difficult for me with my little 300mm, but you have to make the best out of any situation, and any time the action was just too far away, there was always the small contingent of rabidly happy Florida fans behind me to shoot.

The only real shock was the after-game situation on the field. Standing behind a rope while some dude with a bright red BCS ON FOX shirt stood three feet in front of Urban Meyer and the trophy, blocking our collective view, was frustrating. So was being held back from any shots of the team w/ the trophy, or any of the other "made for TV" specials. Sure, they're posed shots, but they're posed shots my editors sure would have loved to see, and I hated having to say "sorry… don't have 'em."

I saw people back in the workroom that I already knew from back home… people I know from the Sports Shooter Academy I attended last Fall, like The Man Bert Hanashiro, himself… people it'd be hard NOT to recognize from SportsShooter.com, notably Mark Rebilas… basically, a whole lot of people I look up to and respect gathered into one small, uncomfortably warm, undeniably sweat-scented room with a male to female ratio of probably 20 to 1.

Photo by Kristin Nichols

Photo by Kristin Nichols

Florida senior quarterback Chris Leak had his eyes to the sky shortly after getting the trophy into his hands after the Gators won the BCS National Championship game.
The camaraderie is one of the things I value most about this job, though. The number of people who remembered me from previous events and greeted me with a smile blows my mind, and very few people - even ones I don't know - treated me like a kid just because I'm younger than anyone else out there.

Being in the middle of it all just made me proud to do what I do, really. I think it's sometimes easy to get discouraged when you're just starting out, and for me being able to go out to an event like this and work next to some of the top pros is more than enough inspiration to keep at it and try and reach that level myself.

I had to really push myself to keep on top of my game out there, since I was the only shooter from my publication, and had to be aware of when everything was going to happen and be sure to be there. I don't think I stepped on too many toes, and if I did, I think I apologized for all of them! To all of you whom I met out there in Glendale and Scottsdale: thanks for all of the advice, the heads-ups, and the help. I feel like I came back to Gainesville a much stronger shooter and with a lot of valuable experience being on the road.


(Kristin Nichols is a student at the University of Florida and used to contribute to the Independent Florida Alligator. Nichols now shoots for Gator Bait Magazine. She attended Sports Shooter Academy III in Nov. 2006. You can view some of her work at her SportsShooter.com member page: http://www.sportsshooter.com/knichols)

Related Links:
Kristin's member page

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