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|| News Item: Posted 2001-03-30

Confessions of a Court Runner: shooting post-game jube
By Robert Hanashiro, Sports Shooter

We've all had it happen to us. Hell, we've all done it ourselves from time-to-time.

Photo by Jack Gruber/USA Today

Photo by Jack Gruber/USA Today
Early in the college basketball season as the clock expired on Stanford's 84-83 win over then #1 Duke, courtside photographers trained their lenses on the Cardinal bench. As the horn sounded all they saw as players leaped in the air in celebration were the backsides of two shooters as they sprinted across the court to get closer to the players and shoot with wide angle lenses.

"It is an old saying...If everyone would stay off the field everyone could make pictures...but it never happens because there is always one person TV or still the goes out on the field..." commented AFP's Jeff Haynes on the topic.

But do we really need to run out on the court to shoot celebrations with a wide angle lens?

"Not that I'm lazy, but I think shooting with a long zoom or a 300 (mm lens) is a better photograph than stuff shot with a wide (angle lens)," wrote one photographer who was at the Stanford-Duke game and got blocked.

"The other thing is you miss the best photos while you're running out there. How can you shoot and run at the same time? If you don't get the first reactions of the players, the best jube is over quick."

While there are no NCAA guidelines restricting photographers onto the court at the conclusion of regular season games, there are rules that do just that during the NCAA Tournament. (See sidebar.)

"If photographers can't control themselves or each other (after a game)," said a Division I sports information director in Southern California, "then what do you expect us to do?"

"We can't make up rules that handle every situation," he continued, "We want the games to be enjoyable for our fans and the safety of the players is also an issue. We could ban ALL photographers from courtside and that would be that. But what does that accomplish? Can't you guys just get along?"

"What makes this (photographer's) decision (to run onto the court) any different than the Super Bowl post-game rush?" said Jon Soohoo, the Los Angeles Dodgers' team photographer, "I know I am guilty of running to the middle of the football field to get the two coaches shaking hands.

"How about Jerry Rice getting carried off the field? Anybody run out there? How about after a walk off home run? Or an NBA Finals game winner with only NBAE personnel allowed to get those images up close?"

So what can photographers do when the clock is running down on that big game and they're waiting for that explosion of emotion?

Robert Seale, from the Sporting News offers this advice: "Generally, I have always talked with other shooters in my quadrant before the end of the game and generally we come up with a consensus on whether to rush the court collectively or not. I personally would prefer that everyone stay put and shoot it long."

Or maybe it's something as simple as respect, one way or another?

"It would be nice to believe that there is enough professional respect out there to not have to do this but most photographers are trying, sometimes too hard, to get the photo at any cost," said Soohoo. "I think it has to be the prevailing attitude to keep ones job. Editors expect this hunger as ridiculous as it seems. With these expectations count on this happening again."

Paul Morse, formerly of the Los Angeles Times and currently working at the White House said, "I respect any photographer that is willing to hustle to get a shot with a wide angle after the game instead of trying with a long lens.

"But then there should be a group of photographers out there or none. It may be a sacrifice to not get the wide shot but at least you will have a few frames sans other shooters."

"I would make a point to remember what happened at Stanford." Haynes said, "Not much you can say or do other than let him (the offending court runners) know that you are angry and ask him why he did it.

"I'm willing to guess he doesn't care and will do it again It is just going to happen...and if not him it will be a fan, waterboy, batboy, or someone. (There are) just too many people allowed on the field and in front of us."

Sports Shooter attempted to contact two notorious "court runners" but they both decline to comment on the issue.

While several incidents this past college season have been brought to Sports Shooter's attention, almost all agree that the major problem is with television crews, even at the high school level.

Photo by John Leyba/Denver Post

Photo by John Leyba/Denver Post
At the recent State High School Basketball Championships in Denver, local TV camera-pointers ran onto the court as time was expiring in one game, blocking shooters' view of the celebration. The TV camera-pointers then jammed in close to the team's huddle doing the obligatory "Hail Mary" shot, getting into all the other shooters' frame.

"The girls 5A game went from making a good photo of the team celebrating to shooting through TV photogs that rushed the floor," said John Leyba from the Denver Post, "What can still photographers do about these TV jerks that have to ruin a perfectly good moment for everyone else?"

What was more frustrating to Leyba is he anticipated the mad dash to the floor.

"I even asked a couple TV photog if they could wait a few moments before going out on the floor so the kids could celebrate and possibly make a nice photo using a long lens, but they both flat out said 'NO! Can't do that.'"

As Seale points out, at the huge events like NCAA basketball, getting network TV crews to tone down their act is a tough call because they "pay the freight" in big-dollar rights fee.

"I don't really mind maybe one CBS crew running out on the floor to get their wide angle shot, after all, they paid $2 billion for it, but what really gets me steaming is the immediate mikes in the face asking the kids/coach how they feel

" How the heck do you think they feel, a-hole? They are happy, they are elated let them have their freakin' moment for Christ's sake!"

Haynes summed up what most photographers contacted by Sports Shooter thought about the Stanford incident:, "Had I been in this situation, I would have photographed the initial jubo and then entered the field of play...."

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