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|| SportsShooter.com: News Item: Posted 2002-03-01

Sleepy at the Superdome:
Super Bowl XXXIV

By Anne Ryan, ZRImages

Photo by Anne Ryan

Photo by Anne Ryan
I was sleepy getting on the plane Saturday morning to fly to New Orleans for the Super Bowl the next day. My husband John Zich, also a USA Today contract photographer, and I had had little sleep for the week leading up to it, tending to a three-year-old with a cough and a high fever, but after a cat nap on the plane we arrived in a warm New Orleans for Super Bowl weekend during Mardi Gras.

We were not the only ones who didn't get much sleep the week before the game. According to Andy Lyons, "The Allsport crew held up their high standards of partying their asses off led by Jed and Ezra."

This was confirmed by Jed Jacobsohn who admitted, "We went to Bourbon Street every night since Monday." Lyons was not feeling the effects of the week, though, when he had some serious deja vu the morning before the game. He was outside the Superdome photographing two fans with painted faces when they said, "Aren't you the guy from Allsport?" It turned out that he had photographed the same two fans outside the dome in Atlanta two years earlier.

The bizarre seems normal, though, in New Orleans. It never ceases to amaze me what some people will do for those Mardi Gras beads. What would a sporting event in New Orleans be without a few trips down Bourbon Street to gawk at people in strange costumes or with very little clothing? We also must not forget memorable meals at some of the finest restaurants in the country.

Our USA Today crew lead by assistant managing editor Frank Folwell, picture editors Al Anderson and Kate Patterson ended up dining at the Palace Cafe on Saturday night. I still hadn't forgotten the white chocolate bread pudding I had at the Palace Cafe the last time the Super Bowl was in New Orleans. It was just as wonderful as I remembered.

I arrived at the dome extra early, 8:30 am, to cover a pre-game rehearsal by Paul McCartney. Security was tight.

At the entrance to the security perimeter there were metal detectors, pat downs, bag searches and verifications of credentials. I was expecting it to be a situation where we would be allowed to shoot McCartney for 20 seconds and then be escorted out as has been my experience the few times I have photographed rock stars and concerts.

Instead Paul seemed to really like having us there (maybe since he was married to a photographer!). He was smiling at us and strumming his guitar. We were allowed to stay for the whole rehearsal and we were even allowed to move closer to the stage set up at mid-field. Afterward he did several one-on-one interviews with video crews.

After 18 years as a professional photojournalist it's easy to take these things for granted, but at one point Paul was standing only about two feet away from me and he smiled right at me. It was one of those situations that makes you feel like you have the coolest job in the world.

Photo by Anne Ryan

Photo by Anne Ryan
The extra security was time consuming, but didn't seem to bother most of the photographers covering the game. SI's John McDonough showed up at the game wearing a boot cast. He tore his Achilles tendon while playing touch football with his sons on Thanksgiving.

He says he hasn't missed any work even though he had to use crutches for the first 6 - 7 weeks after the injury. At the Super Bowl he had to walk about 3/4 miles in the boot cast just to get into the arena and to his position, a seat in the opposite end zone.

Luckily he had an assistant who was a New York City Port Authority policeman who helped carry all of the gear. He said, "Having to limp around was no big deal." It was not his worst experience at a Super Bowl in New Orleans.

In 1986, while working for Sport Magazine, a misunderstanding about an armband led to him being escorted out of the dome and thrown face first into the sidewalk with a camera around his neck by a New Orleans police officer.

By comparison going through extra security with a boot cast was easy. Ironically, shortly after he arrived at his photo position SI columnist Rick Reilly showed up with an individual he was writing about who had sneaked into the game.

The additional security and cost cutting due to the September 11th attacks combined with an overlap with the winter Olympics also made for less crowded sideline than usual. "The sidelines were the easiest I've ever seen at a Super Bowl, " said Brian Bahr of Allsport/ Getty Images. Also, once you were inside the secure fence perimeter you were able to move freely in and out of the dome.

Photo by Anne Ryan

Photo by Anne Ryan
The AP had a smaller crew than usual, twelve shooters and eight editors. New Orleans staff photographer Bill Haber handled the logistics for the crew. Most of the their photographers were either tethered (hard-wired) or wireless tethered with a Sony Vaio computer in a backpack to automatically transmit their images back to an editor in their trailer outside the dome.

They assigned a single editor to three photographers. The editors could communicate directly with the field photographers via the type of headsets that helicopter pilots use.

According to Haber they have tried several other types and these were the most reliable with the noise level in the Superdome. Haber and St. Louis photographer James Finley didn't forget to take care of their crew by bringing in frozen gumbo little by little over the course of the week and thawing it in a crock pot the day of the game.

Reuters bypassed the trailer (and the gumbo) by sending images directly to photo editor Gary Hershorn who was already in Salt Lake City preparing for the Olympics.

According to Hershorn, "Reuters had eight photographers at the Super Bowl who shipped their disks to a 'digital bullpen' where we had four laptops set up to copy the files from the disks and send the to Salt Lake City for editing. The files were pulled off the disks using proprietary Reuters software and sent via FTP through a T-1 line to the Internet and received by an FTP server in our office at the Main Press Center in Salt Lake."

Photo by Anne Ryan

Photo by Anne Ryan
The Reuters crew sent 2100 pictures this way:

"The system worked flawlessly," said Hershorn, "Reuters saw many pictures in print. The system worked so well we definitely will remote edit other events in the US. I am a big believer in the system and look forward to the next event that we will remotely edit in Washington."

On the sidelines I was armed with two of Canon's new rockin' 1D digital cameras and plenty of IBM Microdrives. By the time the game started picture editor Al Anderson and I had been at the Superdome for nine hours.

We divided up the field amongst the six photographers, myself, John, Atlanta USAT contract photographer Michael Schwarz and three photographers from local Gannett newspapers: Brad Kemp, Jim Hudelson and David Planchet.

After all the time and effort the game did not disappoint. There was good action, a great half-time show by U2 and an exciting last-second finish.

What more could a photographer ask for?

(Anne Ryan is a former staff photographer with USA TODAY and a frequent contributor to Sports Shooter. She and husband John Zich's work can be viewed on their web site at: http://www.zrimages.com/)



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