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|| News Item: Posted 2000-12-20

From the Booth to the Sidelines
By Mark Oristano, KVIL-FM

Photo by
So, here I sit, a football field away from the football field, under the roof of Texas Stadium, 64,000 cheering (or booing) wildly for their Dallas Cowboys. And I feel as far away from the action as if I weren't there.

I'd give anything to be down on the sidelines. Shooting. I pick up my binoculars and look down at Ron St. Angelo or Louis DeLuca, snapping away, dodging Emmitt Smith as he's forced out of bounds. And I'm stuck on another planet.

Well, not really. Don't get me wrong. Being one of the announcers on the Dallas Cowboys Radio Network (KVIL-FM) is a lot of fun. Even in this dreadful season of few wins. I have one of the great jobs in sportscasting, and I know it. But my heart has always been on the sidelines.

Photo by
I broke into the business in 1973, when I was chosen for an internship at WFAA-TV in Dallas, one of the great news outfits in the country. I went to work for Verne Lundquist in sports.

Verne, now at the top of the heap with CBS, was even then one of the best around. But I noticed he had a problem on Cowboy game day. The guy who shot his sideline film (yes, I broke into the business back when FILM was still used on TV!) would run out and have to reload, often missing key plays. I told Verne if we had TWO guys down there alternating, we'd never miss a play.

And of course, I had somebody in mind for second guy. It was shooting film on the sideline where I began to learn to think visually, to frame things properly, and to anticipate what might happen on any given play. I began to carry what we used to call a "transistor radio" in my pocket, with the ear plug in my ear, to listen to Verne as he called play-by-play.

That way, I often had a bit of a tip-off as to where the play was going. It wasn't long before numerous other sideliners took up my idea.

Eventually, my career took me out of TV, into radio, but I never lost my taste for the sideline, or photography. Although, truth be told, my photography habit was put on hold for several years. Not for any particular reason. It just was.

I got back into it about three years ago, when I began to travel to Europe quite a bit. I upgraded my equipment to a Canon EOS-3 and then to the new D30. (I hope I won't be disappointed.) I have probably better than the garden-variety amateur's array of glass, and I'm even studying via remote control to try to get better at what I'm doing.

My work in sports broadcasting obviously gives me access to any local game I want to see, although I don't always have the guts to ask for a photo pass. But now that I know Brad Mangin, I figure I can tell anybody that I'm shooting for SPORTS SHOOTER. (Can I have some credentials, Brad?)

Photo by Mark Oristano

Photo by Mark Oristano
One of my favorite places to shoot is The Ballpark in Arlington, home of the Texas Rangers. Day games only. I need all the lighting help I can get. The picture of Rusty Greer about to tag a curveball, which he hit for a double, was shot from the front row behind home plate. I find I can usually access those seats on the rare Ranger day game, especially if I have my regular pass hanging from neck. I had a feeling this picture was going to be good when I snapped it, but I must say I was delighted with the result.

My football work is limited either to Cowboy training camp, or to the odd high school game. In 1999 I went to a high school playoff game in Arlington, Texas and shot everything except football action. I came up with about 20 good shots, all in black-and-white, which now adorn one hallway of my house. I prefer black-and-white to color because I think black-and-white forces the viewer to use his imagination and "finish" the picture in his mind.

At Cowboy camp, I get to do a little sideline work. But as Brad and other NFL photogs will tell you, camp is kindergarten compared to gameday on the sidelines. At camp this past summer I was shooting the Cowboys new WR, Joey Galloway, as he ran a fade into the corner of the endzone.

Photo by Mark Oristano

Photo by Mark Oristano
I was wearing a t-shirt from my alma mater, Texas Christian University. After he caught the ball Galloway, whom I had not yet met, looked at me and said, "Where is TCU?"

"It's in Fort Worth," I replied.

"Who went there that I'd know?"

"Your teammate, Jason Tucker. Bob Lilly. Sammy Baugh. And me." He stuck out his hand. "I'm Joey Galloway," he said. And that's how we were introduced.

Of course, shooting in camp doesn't present nearly the challenge of a game. In camp, the same play is run over and over and over, ad nauseum, and there's never any real surprise about where the ball is going. So it's pretty easy to get good shots.

One of the (few) good things about camp is that if you can get on the sideline, you can get right next to the players. At Cowboy camp in 1999, in unbearably hot Wichita Falls, Texas,defensive back Izell Reese knelt down next to me to take a breather. I opened up wide to keep just his face in focus. I didn't notice the small trickle of sweat on the end of his nose until I go the shots back from the lab.
I'm still working on hockey. I have Stars season tickets, but my seats are kind of high up. Makes me feel like I'm at a football game.

And just how did I come to be writing this article about my incredible photographic frustrations? Well, I stumbled on Brad's web site by accident, was impressed by the photos and read his bio.

He said he grew up wanting to be a sportscaster and his prime desire was to call San Francisco Giants games. I e-mailed him and told him about our reverse situations.

Brad says his voice is too high to be in broadcasting. Another reversal: my seat is too high to take good pictures.

(From the opening of the pre-game show to the post-game signoff, Mark Oristano leads Cowboy Radio Network listeners through the ins and outs of the NFL.)

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