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|| News Item: Posted 1999-08-30

I have Seen The Future ... and it's Fox!
By Peter Read Miller, Sports Illustrated

While in Germany for a story in June, I had the opportunity to shoot the NFL European League Championship game, "The World Bowl". For those of you who don't know, this is a league the NFL started about four years ago in part as developmental league for marginal players (or those recovering from injuries) and in part to try and interest the European market in "American style" football.

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After two years of losing money the NFL suspended play, only to restart this spring with a new partner: Fox Television.

Although the NFL tried to impart the same importance to the game as a Super Bowl, it was basically pretty laid back. Around 30 still shooters (maybe 10 of whom knew what was happening) and 30,000 fans none of who knew what was happening-but nevertheless all having a great time.

What was particularly interesting about this game was the sideline setup. Anyone who has covered soccer is familiar with the advertising placards that ring the field. They are necessary in soccer since there no time-outs, hence no time for commercials, hence no way for TV to make money off sponsors, except by putting their names on the field and therefore on screen.

It didn't surprise me to find a similar situation at the World Bowl (the signs were, however, made out of soft plastic not wood, making it a little easier on the players running out of bounds), hey, when in Europe and all that. What did surprise and disturb me was the fact that while still photogs had to shoot from outside the signs-the usual assortment of sound guys, hand held TV and NFL films people were all inside the signs.

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This was not really a problem at a game with 30 photogs (at least half of whom were usually in the wrong spots), but picture something like this in San Francisco or Dallas. Places where you really can't move once the ball is on your side of the fifty. Instead of someone right in front of you in the NFL's beloved yellow zone (which doesn't even cross the end zone) who you could maybe lean around or maybe get to kneel, you've got someone 2 yards in front of you blocking a lot more of your angle and who surely feels they can be wherever they want in their special zone.

Yes this is only in Europe, for now. To me though, it seems like a no brainer for Fox, the other networks and the NFL. On the plus side you've got money from the ad boards, a more uniform background and a clear place for their sideline people to work (also room for a lot more of their sideline people). On the minus side you've a lot of unhappy photographers.

I hope I'm wrong about this one...

(Peter Read Miller is a staff photographer at Sports Illustrated, based in Southern California.)

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Getting paid to eat pizza, smoke cigars and drink beer? One lucky photog ::..