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|| News Item: Posted 2011-03-14

Rooting For The Underdog

By Robert Hanashiro, Sports Shooter Newsletter

Photo by Robert Hanashiro, USA TODAY

Photo by Robert Hanashiro, USA TODAY

Randy Newman poses at his Los Angeles home for a story about his nomination for an Academy Award for "We Belong Together" from "Toy Story 3".
Everyone loves the underdog --- that lovable loser that doesn’t win the awards but has your respect because he works hard and you love what he does. You privately root for the guy.

When I was a kid, I grew up a Giants fan and at the beginning of each spring training my dad and I would pick a player we’d follow for the season. In the 60’s the Giants had plenty of great players to root for: Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal, Willie Mays, Orlando Cepeda, Gaylord Perry. But picking one of the Giants All Stars was too easy. We would go over the spring training roster printed in the Chronicle and choose some bench jockey or a rookie.

And in 1967 my dad decided that we would follow a backup catcher, Dick Dietz who had batted a whole .043 the season before. My dad would say, “He’s got to be better than that and we should be his fans.”

So what does one of my favorite songwriters Randy Newman have in common with Dick Dietz my favorite Giant back in ‘67? Before this February he was just one for 20 in Academy Award nominations … a .005 batting average, way below the Mendoza Line like Dietz’ .043.

I’ve always been a big Randy Newman fan. His lyrics run the gamut: humorous, sarcastic, pointed and often very sweet. Who else could have on his resume “Political Science,” “Rednecks,” “Short People,” “Mama Told Me (Not to Come,” “I Love LA” and “Marie” PLUS composing the music for films like “The Natural,” Ragtime,” “Parenthood,” “Monsters, Inc.,” and “Toy Story” (1, 2 & 3).

About a week before this year’s Academy Awards I was assigned to shoot a portrait and produce an interview video with Newman at his home. He is as advertised: friendly, affable, funny, open and self-deprecating, especially when it comes to the Academy Awards. Before this year, he had been nominated a whopping 20 times but won only once, for theme for “Monsters, Inc.”

Randy Newman is hitting .050.

During my video shoot, he happily played and sang his nominated song “We Belong Together” several times. At the end of the portrait shoot, done outside of a small studio in his backyard, I told him I thought he’d win on Oscar night. I also told him about shooting producer T-Bone Burnett, who won for Best Original Song, backstage at last year’s Academy Awards show and that I expected to do the same with him in a little over a week.

“Well … we’ll have to see about that…” he replied with a smile.

Photo by Robert Hanashiro, USA TODAY

Photo by Robert Hanashiro, USA TODAY

Randy Newman with his Original Song Oscar at the 83rd annual Academy Awards at the Kodak Theatre.
Journalists are supposed to be neutral, not taking sides on issues or openly root. But we’re all human and we have our favorites --- like a Giants backup catcher --- that we quietly pull for. And backstage at this year’s Academy Awards show, Randy Newman was my Dick Dietz.

Working backstage at the Academy Awards show is the hardest assignment I have every year. It’s hectic, crowded, dark and pressured-fill. The backstage photographers have to document the goings on behind the scenes but we have to keep out of the way and out of sight of the telecast’s cameras.

When the stage crew pushed a grand piano just off-stage and Newman was escorted over, I weaved my way over there. Shooting Newman plunking out a few notes on the piano, I shot several frames as technicians adjusted his mic, illuminated by just a couple of flashlights. But he really did not notice me as he seemed wrapped up in getting ready to perform.

I missed the announcement that he had won, probably too focused on something else back in the hallway just off stage. But a few minutes later Newman, clutching his Oscar, walked out of the doors leading to where I was. I began shooting. After a few frames, I looked over the top of my camera and Newman smiled and pointed at me.

I said, “I told you you’d win.”

Newman remembering the prediction replied, “Well … you never know.”

He’s now batting .095.

(Note: Dick Dietz had an All Star season for the Giants in 1970, hitting .300, with 22 home runs and 109 RBIs.)

* * *
Sports Shooter Academy Lighting Luau
This cool workshop will be held next month in Orange County and features Robert Beck, Tim Mantoani and David Honl on the faculty. Other members of the faculty include Matt Brown, Michael Goulding, Myung J. Chun and moi.

There will be a lot of hands-on experience shooting on location with various subjects (can you spell LA Dolls roller derby players?). Nikon and Dynalight will have loaner gear available for participants to use in the field.

The Lighting Luau is sponsored by Samy’s Camera and Think Tank Photo.

For more information on the Lighting Luau, check these links:

* * *
With the regular baseball season just a couple of weeks away, this issue features a very personal story about baseball (and his beloved Dodgers) by Keith Birmingham.

My life-long friend Brad Shirakawa writes about phasing out of darkrooms at schools and why it’ll be missed (not including the developer and fixer stains on the clothes).

The controversy on public employee unions has been the hot topic in the national news and Max Gersh from the Rockford Register Star writes about covering the focal point of this at the Wisconsin state capital.

This issue’s Sports Shooter Cool Gig is really … cool! Tom Dahlin writes about a project he is involved with shooting with a Long Wave IR (LWIR) thermal imaging camera --- think “Predator” and you’ll get the picture.

George Bridges writes an installment of Sports Shooter Destination on Houston, host of the 2011 NCAA Men’s Final Four.

And we have the return of the Photo Dude!

* * *
On the nightstand this month is “Painted Ladies (A Spencer novel) and “Split Image (A Jesse Stone novel) by Robert B. Parker. This month’s recommended listening is the original music composed for Stanley Kubrick’s film “2001: A Space Odyssey” --- “Alex North’s 2001 Legendary Original Score” (conducted by Jerry Goldsmith and performed by the National Philharmonic Orchestra).

(For a sample of the score put to video clips of the film, check this YouBoob link:

* * *
As always, special thanks to: Deanna & Emma Hanashiro, Brad Mangin, Jason Burfield, Grover Sanschagrin and Joe Gosen.

Thanks this month to contributors: Keith Birmingham, Brad Shirakawa, Tom Dahlin, George Bridges, Max Gersh and The Photodude.

The comments, opinions and other perceived nutty statements that the writers may have expressed, implied, imagined or made up are theirs and theirs alone. Sports Shooter, Inc. and published these articles in good faith with the purpose of education and inspiration.

Permission in writing must be obtained from Sports Shooter, Inc. and the author of the article before being reprinted.

I welcome any comments, corrections, suggestions and contributions. Please e-mail me at

The Sports Shooter Archives as well as tons of cool resources and information can be accessed through the Internet at
For information on the Sports Shooter Academy workshop, go to the newly redesigned site at:

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