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|| SportsShooter.com: News Item: Posted 1999-02-19

Super Bowl Scrum (cont.)
By Robert Hanashiro

My rant on the chaos at the end of Super Bowl XXXIII touched a nerve with photographers. While all agreed that the scrum around game MVP John Elway was the worst ever, most feel that trying to keep photographers off the field isn't workable. I still like the idea of controlling the situation to give ALL the opportunity to make decent post-game jube and for the safety of the athletes and us.

Solutions?
*Quickly rope off the area between the 30s?
*Ban ALL shooters, still and TV alike, from the field?
*Erect a barrier completely around the field, ala soccer, which prevents all from getting access to the field?
*Strategically position snipers in the upper areas of the stadium and pick off stray photographers who go where they're not allowed?
*At the two-minute warning, ring the field with mounted police officers, with orders to club all photographers who even LOOK like they may run onto the field at the end of the game?
*Have NO field level photographers and make all of us shoot from the stands or overhead?
*Keep a Sherman tank behind each bench that the game MVP must ride to the trophy presentation?

I will be preparing a letter to the NFL's director of information Pete Abitante with our concerns. If you would like to also express your views about this issue with Abitante, his office phone number is: 212. 758-1500 and his FAX numbers is: 212.826-3454.

Here is a sampling of comments I received about the post-Super Bowl scrum:

Glenn Asakawa, Rocky Mountain News

Rodolpho Gonzalez, one of our shooters, said he lost an F5 with an 80-200 during the scrum at the end. He believes it may have been stolen. Dennis Schroeder, another one of our shooters, said he had his credentials ripped off and had to grovel to get into the media trailer compound after noticing they had been heisted. Anyone else experience stolen gear or violent behavior at the end of the Super Bowl? I was lucky to have come out of there relatively unscathed, but I didn't even try to get into that Elway mess. I did sneak in when his wife, Janet, was being squeezed in with him. Ran out of film right when he kissed her though. (I HATE when that happens!) Schroeder also mentioned how two TV guys came to blows when one was knocked on his ass by the other. You're right, though. There's got to be a better, more civilized way to get the end of game jube from football. Maybe a rope along the sidelines by those security guys strung out from the two-minute warning to keep all the shooters back at the end?
****

Dave Bergman, Miami Herald

Yes, I was one of the unfortunate ones who had to get in the middle of the "scrum." It was the worst I'd ever been in. For about two minutes, I probably could have picked my feet up off of the ground and still kept moving with the pile. At one point, a group of photogs fell right in front of Elway, causing a domino effect and knocking down about 10 shooters. By this point, I was kind of behind Elway. Of course, instead of trying to get up, they all just kept shooting because Elway was looking down at them and pointing for them to move. Unfortunately, the first thought in my mind was "Hey, that's probably a good picture! Anyway, eventually they were able to get up and continue the madness. After that, I broke out of there to shoot other people. How do we "stop the madness?" I'm not sure. You already mentioned the problem of enforcing the "no one of the field rule." Also, we know that TV and NFL Films would be allowed to be out there, blocking most of us anyway. If there was NO ONE on the field, they images would be so much better too! Other players would probably be able to lift the hero or coach of the game, etc. Dave's website: www.s2f.com/bergman/
*****

John Biever, Sports Illustrated

Photo by Bob Deutsch/USA Today

Photo by Bob Deutsch/USA Today
You are absolutely right-the post-game scrum has reached the point of disaster. A photog fell in front of me (I think he was a still) and he grabbed my neckstrap on his way down, which had me pinned to him about two feet off the ground until I was able to jar it loose. We were so lucky Elway had the good sense to hold up for a few seconds rather than running us over-I was actually amazed he had enough poise at that point in his euphoria to do it! The most danger is caused by TV cables, although I'm not sure there were any out there this Super Bowl. You have to be real careful while backing up in the scrum not to fall over a cable that's at about ankle level. I went down this way at a Sugar Bowl a few years back, and let me tell you it was probably the most scared I have ever been. And Steve Spurrier of Florida kept walking-I guess he showed less poise than Elway, and won't be in the NFL Hall of Fame, unlike Elway! Possible solutions? I hate to think about the 'Vest' thing, because it would be unenforceable. And the NFL would probably add 25 more security goons to the field crew to try to enforce it and that would be a bad thing. I'm really at a loss on a possible solution.
*****

Mike Blake, Reuters

Well that was a very sad scrum for us as a profession and I was rather worried for Elway's family when they suddenly showed up in the middle of it. I would be more than happy to stay off the field for a few minutes at the end of the game.... any game, any sport. Now that the trophy is presented on the field and not in the dressing room there is no need for this any more. Oh yeah, were all getting too old for this.
*****

Ron Vesely, Freelance for NFL Properties

My experience with regard to the post game mess this year relates directly to my experience LAST year, when I found out first hand what it might be like to be a fan at a soccer match gone bad... Last year, after positioning myself in what I thought was a "prime" spot in the first row against the "retaining fence" that was hastily erected near the trophy presentation stage, I was literally bullied over by security and trampled... I lost my balance and was on the ground crushed against the retaining fence... My pleas for assistance went ignored.. Nobody cared for anybody else except themselves, and that's when I realized I was in trouble. I was trying to keep people from trampling my 400 (I don't know why, but I always try to protect my equipment first), but that was futile as well. I'll admit fear started to set in, and I finally grabbed onto the nearest belt and pulled myself up at the expense of whomever.. It was now survival. After regaining my balance, I finished shooting the ceremony, then counted my blessings afterward that I was not seriously injured. Achy (why I carry "Aleve" in my bag), with a bent camera/lens mount, but still intact. With last year still vividly in my mind, I decided without much debate to stay AWAY from the hoard and instead shoot with a 600 from a distance, which ended up working out very well.


The mad house after the Super Bowl has gotten out of hand, and after realizing first hand that my health and safety is at risk, I will continue to stay back and make my pictures from a distance. I don't think that instituting a 15 second "rule" like baseball works out with the network (this year, in my opinion, was the BEST post game jube opportunity I have witnessed. I think everyone shooting was able to make pictures...) is impossible in football. Hell, we can't even get other photographers to stay behind the yellow line, or parabolic dudes to learn that the dish doesn't have to be in front of a lens to pick up the sound of some players head getting ripped off... It'll never work. Especially now with the networks getting preferential treatment with "their" line... It was abused at the Super Bowl (kudos, however, should go to NFL films.... Those guys know how to work WITH others). I heard the stories afterwards that guys got banged up pretty bad.... Live and learn. I did. It's not worth it. Equipment left on the field scares me as well. If you don't have designated assistants available to watch over it, I would recommend that you do not leave it unattended. And that's too bad. I would have hoped that as professionals a level of trust could be counted on. But that's only in a perfect world. Ron's website: www.vesphoto.com
****

Al Tielemans, Sports Illustrated

I got in close to Elway pretty quick from across the field. The crowd was just loose enough to work your way in. But as he started to move forward, more people started to crush in behind us. The whole thing stalled. About four or five photographers went down right in front of me. It was all I could do to prevent from being pushed onto the pile, and I've got the leg and arm bruises to prove it. Elway screamed for everyone to move back, but there was no way I was able to move back. One major problem was the TV
cameramen inside the pack. Those cameras are big and the cables dangerous and even with a half dozen people on the ground they just keep on pushing. They just don't seem to care. The REAL problem was when they brought Elway's wife and kids on the field. Now you're pushing four more people into the fray, AND they want us to move back. They should keep the family off the field (get them on that platform) because it can be a dangerous thing.


I'm not into the staying off the field thing. What they'll do is start setting up a rope with four minutes left, and then there will be another security guard between me and the two NFL Films and Fox cameramen already blocking my view. Not good if the game goes down to the wire. Solution: The FOX/NFL Films guys didn't bother me during the season, but during the Super Bowl they were obviously told to pay us no mind. They
should have a set spot in the end zone, for example. That they can go to, so when we're three plays ahead of them we know where they are going to be and we can position ourselves accordingly.
****

Amy Sancetta, Associated Press

I'm not sure that keeping the shooters off the field would really work at a football game. It works in basketball because the court is so small. Can you imagine trying to long lens your way to a key player with both teams and coaching staffs mobbing the middle of the field. It would be a case of amazing luck to make anything. Maybe the thing to do would be to credential certain shooters to run onto the field-one from each of the wires, one from the locals for each team, one for USA TODAY and SI...but how in the world would you enforce it? I suppose the NFL could say that if you're caught on the field without proper credentials, your organization would not have a field credential next year. The Masters folks hold that kind of reigns on their chosen photographers...one big mess up and an organization can lose its credentials to Augusta forever. As for the Elway scrum, I was following Chandler off the field...just me and the quarterback...it was quite civil.
****

Peter Read Miller, Sports Illustrated

The worst I've ever seen!

My assistant, a woman five feet tall, was roughed up by a Miami cop. I had a fight with security in the 2nd quarter. Queuing up at Noon for a 6:30 PM game???

Far, far too many "messengers," even of those who were really working. Many were constantly walking in front of photographers in the endzones and otherwise in the way.
****

H. Darr Beiser, USA TODAY

Back in about 1986 I got caught up in the fray trying to get a shot of the New England Patriots carrying their coach off the field after winning the AFC Championship game. I went down, someone fell on top of me, and then the entire Patriots team walked on me. I felt like the Coyote after the Roadrunner drives a Mac truck over him, like my body was flat and pressed into the ground. I suffered bruised ribs. That year I went up into the seats to cover the Super Bowl jubilation.

I think the whole practice of crowding around the quarterback or MVP or coach sucks, and it is time to do something about it.

I am delighted by the NCAA's practice of holding photogs off the court until after the initial celebration. The post Final Four scene had gotten really ugly. And with baseball it is easy to stay in assigned spots for the first few minutes. It makes more sense, too, because it makes better pictures.

I would like to see similar restrictions put into effect by the NFL. The rule should be, stay off the field until the team is in on the trophy presentation stage. I know it is going to be hard to enforce, but we need to start somewhere.

Related Links:
www.vesphoto.com

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