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|| News Item: Posted 1999-10-22

Sideline Fashions
By Billy Suratt, Apex Media

(Editor's note: the Tennessee Titans became what we believe the first NFL team to require sideline photographers to wear a bib or vest. We posed a few questions to south-central Kentucky based shooter Billy Suratt about what may turn out to be a league-wide policy.)

- When/where do you pick up the vests?

Some of the other season photographers picked them up before the season started, but I got mine at the media will call window when I went down for the season opener.

- Do you return them and where? Any penalty for not returning them (like World Cup)?

The photographers with season credentials are responsible for keeping up with the vest for the entire season. I don't know where visiting photographers get them at (probably will call), but I do know they have to turn them back in before they leave the stadium. I assume there's a penalty for not returning the vests, but I don't know what it might be.

-Any complaints about them from local shooters?

I haven't heard any.

- Do the vest have advertising or corporate logo on them? And the color doesn't seem obnoxious (like yellow orange, which I'm sure the networks wouldn't want).

The front has a pocket on either side and an I.D. number (mine's 68). My understanding is that two-digit numbers mean you have a season credential and three-digit numbers mean you have a single game credential. I finally figured this out after security people stopped me a few times on the way off the field because they couldn't see my number.

The vests are made by Puma so there's a small (about one inch wide) Puma logo on the back of the neck that's pretty much covered up by just a camera strap.

- Has it improved "sideline management"?

I was skeptical at first, but I think the vests might actually be a good idea. One cool thing is that after you get the vest then you don't have to deal with anybody the rest of the season --- you just show up and walk right in the gate like you own the place.

Also, despite what the media guide said, no other type of photo credential has been issued this year. It's kinda nice not having those things twisting around in the wind, IMHO. But I don't think anybody in the front office has figured out yet that their aren't any restrictions printed on the inside of the vests. :-)

Sideline management is better this season from a real estate perspective alone. If you know anybody who had to shoot at Vandy last season, I'm sure you've heard horror stories about how everybody had to go off the field and run through the tunnel just to get to the other end of the field. Ugh!

Photo by Billy Suratt, Apex Media

Photo by Billy Suratt, Apex Media
Which brings a question to mind; what's the policy in other places about shooting from behind the bench? Is their a steadfast rule one way or another? I didn't see anything about it in the Titans media guide, but I've seen police make photographers move if they stop behind the bench to take some shots. You can cheat a little when they're not looking
sometimes, though.

I think their are more cheerleaders than players, but they've been great so far. They always yield to photographers and they keep their heads in the game so they know when to move. And, my personal favorite, they don't do any kung-fu acrobatics. Shooting high school sports can be a contact sport itself sometimes, y'know? ;-)

Local parabolic folks get in the way occasionally, but some of the officials have been downright annoying. Aren't they supposed to be kneeling unless they're wearing a black-and-white-striped shirt?

During the first game, Al Del Greco came out to kick a potential game-winning field goal with eight seconds left. A bunch of us lined up on one side to shoot it when some bozo starts walking right in front of us. The sudden shouts of "MOVE!" from AP's Mark Humphrey and several other photographers scared the poor guy half to death, but he did get out of the way before the snap.

There's a first aid crew of two or three people that seem to always stand outside the bench area but in front of the yellow line on the home sideline and I don't know why.

The area where the kickers warm up is outside the marked off bench area. This is cool because you can shoot a mugshot of the kicker with a fisheye if you feel the need to, but it can also be dangerous. During the last home game, Cleveland's placeholder was practicing taking snaps and I saw the ball pass about six inches in front of a passing photographer's face. I didn't hear an apology, either.

The Nashville fans are a little screwed up, too. They actually booed their own QB (Steve McNair) during the first game!

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