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|| SportsShooter.com: News Item: Posted 2007-02-27

A Chance at The Big Game
By Scott Strazzante, The Chicago Tribune

Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo / Chicago Tribune

Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo / Chicago Tribune
In early 1986, as the Chicago Bears were routing the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XX, I was finishing up my senior year at Wisconsin's Ripon College. Back in Chicago six months later, I was hired at my neighborhood paper - The Daily Calumet. I immediately began scheming to get a credential to Super Bowl XXI, the Monsters of the Midway's encore performance.

Well, two things happened. The NFL said no and the Bears lost to the Redskins in the divisional playoff.

As my career moved on, I was fortunate enough to photograph six NBA Finals, two Olympics, a World Series and a Stanley Cup but never a Super Bowl.

The thing about working for a city newspaper is that you can only go to events that the local team qualifies for and in Chicago the Super Bowl was looking like a once in a lifetime proposition.

But in 2006, thanks to the Bears' tough enough defense and a weak NFC, I finally got my chance to go to the big game.

Teamed with shooters Jim Prisching and Nuccio DiNuzzo and editor Todd Panagopoulos, I headed to Miami. The Tribune also sent twenty writers so despite the balmy temps and raucous party atmosphere, I quickly realized I was there to work.

My pre-game assignment was to photograph the stereotypical Bear fans, "The Grabowskis", as they invaded South Beach. In addition, I shot everything from mindless stories on Super Bowl souvenirs to cool things like the house on Palm Island where Al Capone died and Prince, as he rocked the media at a pre-game show press conference. I enjoyed wandering Ocean Drive but in reality I couldn't wait for Sunday to roll around.

It was determined early on that I would shoot the game from an upper position on the Bears' sideline. I'm usually pretty nervous before shooting at a new venue but having a pre-determined position alleviated much of that anxiety.

Plus, from my earlier experiences shooting from a high angle, I knew that I would be able to cover the whole field and have a much higher percentage of usable images.

Photo by Scott Strazzante / Chicago Tribune

Photo by Scott Strazzante / Chicago Tribune

As confetti falls around him, would be Bears' hero Devin Hester watches the Indianapolis Colts' celebrate their 29-17 win over Chicago in Super Bowl XLI.
The game started out with a bang for Chicago as Devin Hester returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown but as the contest moved along the more skilled Colts wore down the Bears.

As the final seconds ticked off the clock, I was one of the few shooters who focused on the losers. There would be no Tony Dungy being carried off the field photos for me, just dejected Bears.

Nothing compelling happened until would be hero Hester paused to watch Indianapolis rejoice. For a moment, all that filled my frame was Hester and the falling confetti but quickly the Tribune's Nuccio DiNuzzo and the USA TODAY's Jack Gruber darted over to shoot Hester with their wide angles.

Within a second, my dejection photo went from page one to page none. No sour grapes, though, because DiNuzzo's shot is better.

I have always compared the Olympics to shooting several Super Bowls a day for 3 weeks but now that I've been, I kind of think that the Super Bowl is like shooting the Olympics in 4 hours.


(Scott Strazzante is a staff photographer with the Chicago Tribune. You can view Scott's work at his SportsShooter.com member page: http://www.sportsshooter.com/strazz.)

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