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|| News Item: Posted 2000-01-24

Getting Down With The Gators
By Gary Bogdon, The Orlando Sentinel

Covering college football this season at Florida State certainly had its ups and downs, and finished with a bang in New Orleans at the Sugar Bowl, playing for the National Championship against Virginia Tech.

New Orleans, what a crazy place, its wild on a Tuesday night in June, much less on New Year's Eve, at the end of this century! Our coverage of Florida State's quest for a national championship began for me on December 31st, 1999. The game would not be played until Jan. 4th, but I was there to cover the entire week of activities.

Photo by Robert Hanashiro

Photo by Robert Hanashiro
It should have been a tipoff of a wild week when I got on the SouthWest flight from Orlando late in the afternoon on New Year's Eve. Many of the passengers, including the flight attendants, were wearing New Year's party hats, blowing horns, and having a good 'ol time, and the sun hasn't even set. Here are a few observations from my trip to The Nokia Sugar Bowl, FSU's undefeated season and their national championship title.

First and foremost: When are college athletic programs going to come out of the dark ages, and build some decent looking, (actually "smelling",if you've ever worked out of the University of Florida's photo facility, you know what I'm talking about) work area's built for photographers to work out of. These, including FSU's, are multi-million dollar programs, and they can't afford to build a decent workspace for photographers to work out of. Instead we crawl under some filthy, stinking, bug-infested shanty that they give us under the stadium.

What do you think the sports writers from all of the newspapers, wire services, etc., would say if they had to work where we do, and with no bathrooms? Maybe we should all shoot a picture of each facility and publish it in the newspaper, to embarrass them into building something decent. Enough of that! Actually it was quite an exciting year covering FSU, as well as the UF, and UCF football programs this year.

I can't tell you how tired I was by the end of the season of seeing and shooting fans holding up their Dillard's shopping bags, trying to taunt FSU's Peter Warrick. I think what he did was wrong, and he more than paid for the mistake by losing out on the Heisman Award, and by all of the ridicule by the public (especially Florida Gators fans) and in the media. He sure made a statement and put that behind him with his performance at The Sugar Bowl, wow! I was also very impressed by Virginia Tech's Michael Vick, he is sure fun to watch, and shoot.

It was nice to see FSU head coach, and everyone's grandpa, Bobby Bowden, get his 300th victory, go undefeated, and win the national championship. He deserved it. If it sounds like I'm a Florida State fan, (well actually I'm an Indiana fan, but we don't have football up there!) I may be guilty. I appreciate the game, and what Bowden has done. Hell, he's even funny to listen to at a press conference, about as opposite from his in-state rival Steve Spurrier, as you could get.

Photo by Gary Bogdon/Orlando Sentinel

Photo by Gary Bogdon/Orlando Sentinel
Hey Steve, lighten up a little. It's not brain surgery. On New Year's Eve, while roaming around the French Quarter in a sea of people, looking for Seminole fans to photograph for our Jan. 1st special edition, I heard the Seminole chant coming from the balcony of the Bourbon Street Blues Club.

I found the bouncer and asked him if this was the "Seminole alumni party on the corner of Bourbon and St. Clair", (of course it was because I read it on the street sign, and they are all obvious FSU fans), when he said it was, I stretched the truth a little and told him I was the "official photographer here to shoot the party, and they would be mad if I don't get in."

I did not have my invitation, but he should let me in. He agrees, and I'm in business. Of course, once the alumni figured out that they may be in the newspaper the next day, they were very cool about allowing me at the party.

The best part was, the manager of the place let me use his backroom phone to hook up my laptop and transmit the pictures back. Sometimes, you get lucky.

After making deadline, I decided to venture down to Jackson Square for the celebration. What a mistake that was. Once I got into that crowd, I could not get out, for hours. At one point, I started moving in one direction, and both of my feet were not actually touching the pavement. Pretty scary, especially since I had by digital camera around my neck, and my laptop bag over my shoulder.

For the actual game, another staff photographer, John Raoux, came out to New Orleans to help me cover the game, which was a blessing. Considering the game started at a few minutes past 8:00pm (Eastern time) and did not end until almost midnight, I think our coverage was pretty good, and we even made all of our color deadlines.

Let's hope the Super Bowl is easier.

(Gary Bogdon is the senior staff photographer of the The Orlando Sentinel and terrorizes State Troopers and drive-thru window attendants throughout Florida.)

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