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|| News Item: Posted 2008-04-29

Winning Moments: Photo Of The Year: 'Eye Gouge'
'And somehow, he wasn't seriously injured and a foul wasn't called.'

By Chris Detrick, The Salt Lake Tribune

Photo by Chris Detrick / The Salt Lake Tribune

Photo by Chris Detrick / The Salt Lake Tribune

Pepperdine's Jason Walberg, #12, gouges the eyes of Brigham Young University's Jonathan Tavernari, #45, during the first half of the game. No foul was called on the play.
(Editors Note: We asked those awarded 1st place in the Sports Shooter Newsletter Annual Contest to write a short piece to give us a behind-the-scenes look at what went into their winning entry. To see all of the winners in this years contest, check this link:

It was just going to be another routine Saturday night basketball game. My assignment was simple enough: to make pictures at the Brigham Young vs. Pepperdine men's basketball game in Provo, Utah. I arrived at the Marriott Center and positioned myself along the baseline on the side BYU was shooting at first. I was using two Canon Mark IIn's; with a 16-35 on one body and a 70-200 on the other.

BYU started out the game shooting really well and quickly built up a 20-8 lead. At this point, my pictures were pretty average, mostly guys going up for lay-ups and rebounds. About halfway through the first half, this all changed when BYU's Jonathan Tavernari stole the ball on the opposite side of the court and ran towards the basket on a fast break.

Pepperdine's Jason Walberg was guarding him and so I began shooting a sequence of pictures. As I was tracking the action, I thought I saw Walberg's hand hit Tavernari's face. Jason squinted his eyes but continued going up for the basket. Although he missed the point, he stayed in the game and the official didn't call a foul. So, I kept shooting the game and didn't realize the picture I had just made.

At the next timeout, I scrolled through the pictures on the back of my camera. When I got to this one, I let out an audible gasp and quickly zoomed in, hoping that it was in focus. It was, so I tagged it and made a mental note to only transmit this picture at halftime.

I finished photographing the first half then went back to the pressroom to send the picture to the paper. When I was looking at the picture on my laptop, I couldn't believe what I saw: Walberg's finger was buried knuckle deep into Tavernari's eye! And somehow, he wasn't seriously injured and a foul wasn't called. I immediately called the weekend photo editor and told him I was sending a good picture from the game.

I photographed the rest of the game sitting in the stands with a 400mm and was even more surprised when Tavernari hit a few key three-pointers late in the game to help BYU win 86-67. His eyes didn't appear to be injured at all. (I later found out that he had a scratch on the side of his nose and his eyes stung a little after the game, but he did not sustain any vision loss.)

I would have liked to see the picture run bigger in the paper (it was buried inside the sports section around 2.5 columns), but it was also published by EPSN the Magazine and Sports Illustrated, so that was nice bonus. I didn't hear of any reaction from the public after it was published, but it was well received when I sent it to the A Photo a Day list-serv.

The next week, The Tribune interviewed both players to get their reaction to the picture.

"They told me someone from Pepperdine called after they saw the picture, said Tavernari. "They wanted to make sure I was OK. But it was just an unfortunate play. It was just an accident. I know he had no intention of hurting me."

"I think a lot of people thought it was intentional, when they looked at the picture," said Walberg. "But it was not intentional at all. It just happened in the course of the game. Things like that are just part of the game. Anybody who watches the film can tell it's not intentional. It just happened so fast. . . . It looks like I put my fingers in his eyes and pulled. But no way."

Walberg later added, "I don't know how he did it. He's going to win some kind of award for that. It really is an amazing picture."

Related Links:
Detrick's member page

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