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|| News Item: Posted 2002-12-10

Tick, Tick, Tick: Minute By Minute at Candlestick Park
Another day in the NFL

By Rod Mar, Seattle Times

Photo by Brad Mangin

Photo by Brad Mangin

Grover shades his eyes and Rod shoots from the backlit side at Candlestick Park during the first quarter.
(Editor's note: Seattle Times photographer Rod Mar covers the Seattle Seahawks every week, home and away. Sports Shooter asked him to keep a running journal of last week's game between the Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers. And for added entertainment, Executive Producer Grover Sanschagrin was serving as his assistant.)


9:55am: Grover arrives at the Marriott. We both still reek of garlic from dinner at Buca Di Beppo the night before. We ponder if everyone else still stinks too.

10:15: A side trip to the Hyatt Regency (where the Seahawks are staying) to pick up a missing parking pass. As I pass by the team security folks, I tell Grover to wait behind me. Of course, as I'm talking to the P.R. assistant, some hotel security lackey is already on his way to Grover. Apparently, being with 30 feet of a player on one of the worst teams in the NFL is now a crime.

Let me digress: One thing about the NFL for those who don't spend much time around teams is that BOTH teams, home and away, usually stay in a hotel the night before a game. Of course the road team would be hotel-bound, but the home team is also locked away ("for team meetings" and "unity"). We cynics know it's to keep them out of Saturday night trouble, however.

Signs abound around the hotel lobbies warning fans not to ask for autographs. The first thing that the team security people (cops, or ex-cops) do when the team arrives is to tell the hotel security (wanna-be cops) "don't let ANYONE come near the players. YOU are responsible for the security of the NFL today!!!"

So when Grover, who still has even approached a secure area, is accosted by a wanna-be cop in a bad blazer, I'm not surprised.

Photo by Grover Sanschagrin/

Photo by Grover Sanschagrin/

Rod gets his gear out of the trunk of his rental car in Lot L at Candlestick Park.
10:20: In the car headed north on Interstate 101 towards 3Com Park. Even though we both know the route and the trip only takes 10 or so minutes, we amuse ourselves playing with the Hertz Never-Lost GPS (Global Positioning Satellite ) system which tells you exactly where to go, where to turn, what street to look for. Kind of like a spouse, but with a voice that is much more polite. And infinitely more patient. Grover, the techno-god that he is, has never experienced the NeverLost system. Suffice to say he is blown away.

10:30: Arrive at the stadium. Drive in huge circles trying to find the correct parking lot. Amuse ourselves watching the NeverLost trying to recalculate the correct route when we are only 500 feet from the field. Grover is still in awe of NeverLost. I'd later find him programming it to find his lost innocence.

10:40: Parked, listening to Nas on the radio, getting ready. Grover is already taking pictures of other photographers in the lot. "Look! That guy has a SportsShooter baseball cap!"

10:50: In the stadium. Only other people there are Brad Mangin, Mickey Palmer, and the ghosts of Joe Montana, John Brodie, and Michael Zagaris. Legends, all.

10:51: Grover: I'm hungry. When can we eat? 10:53 Grover: I'm hungry.

10:55: Grover: You ready yet? (I'm only slightly exaggerating).

Photo by Grover Sanschagrin/

Photo by Grover Sanschagrin/

Rod enjoys the salmon in the press box before the game. That's right- salmon.
11:30: We've eaten. Salmon, which for a non-meat eater like Grover is an unexpected treat. It might have been the highlight of his entire afternoon. But now, Grover looks bored. I'm about to ask him if he wonders why we all get to the stadium three hours early and then prepare for 15 minutes and stand around the rest of the time. But then I start wondering myself and get so depressed I can't bring the words out of my mouth.

(An HOUR AND A HALF of our lives that WE WILL NEVER GET BACK AGAIN comes and goes during pregame and I for the life of me can't recall a single damned thing that happened or was said)

Why do we show up so early? It can't be for the free food, can it? Can anyone answer this? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

1:15pm Kickoff: I watch the coin toss and the Seahawks win it and choose to receive. As they ran one back last week against Kansas City only to have it rescinded by a penalty, I want to be ready and am in the opposite end zone.

(Side note: Last week at the K.C. game, I was the ONLY shooter on the field when said kickoff return happened as all the other shooters were still in the workroom having the weekly hot dog eating contest. I learned long ago to set my watch for ten minutes -- halftime is 12 minutes long -- so I won't miss a play. So, of course, I get like 20 frames of a kickoff return for a touchdown coming right at me with no one else there, and it's then nullified. I then got the pleasure of having every A.P. shooter and guys from my competition - the Seattle P-I come running out yelling "Whoa! We almost missed that! You probably got it, didn't you! Too bad it didn't count!!! Me wishes I could wipe those smirks right off their mustard and ketchup covered faces.)

Speaking of my luck, the 49ers kickoff and the Seahawks returner drifts toward the corner, catches the ball and promptly STEPS OUT OF BOUNDS AT HIS OWN THREE-YARD LINE. Now, I'm exactly 107 yards from the line of scrimmage and have to haul ass down to the other end. I'm so pissed I forget to tell Grover we're going to run. And yet, he's right behind me like my shadow. He can code HTML, he can run, he can lump a 300/2.8, he's SuperGrover!

14:59 remaining, 1st quarter: We're shooting from the backlit side. Which is usually gorgeous except that some lingering fog is making it well, ugly.

Photo by Rod Mar/Seattle Times

Photo by Rod Mar/Seattle Times

Grover: Doesn't the light really suck from here? Rod: I can clean that up. Or not.
Grover: You really gonna try to shoot through this stuff? Me: Hell yeah. Two words, Grover -- Photo. Shop. This'll clean up fine. Me (thinking to myself): Sh**t. This light is BRUTAL. I wonder if it'll look okay in the computer…

13:22, 1st: We take advantage of a TV timeout to motor back to the front lit side, behind the 49ers and facing the Seahawks defense. We're now stacked in with all the card shooters and mag guys like Brad who "shoot the light" and make pretty pictures. I think "shoot the light" also means, "get to leave in the third quarter when the the shadow takes over the field so I can beat the traffic".

10:06 1st: We're still behind the line of scrimmage when 'Niners QB Jeff Garcia goes deep and it's intercepted at the one-yard line by Seattle's Reggie Tongue. Once again, I'm screwed. Once again, I'm over 100 yards from the play. However, I have the 1.4 converter on the 400 with a Canon 1d, so I'm okay lengthwise (not great, but if I make a picture it's usable). But, I'm blocked by another player so it's another lost picture.

I'm recording my thoughts on the voice tag feature of the camera. Translated, it sounds like "F**K! F**K! CAN I CATCH A F**KING BREAK HERE!"

However, it's early in the game, and I'm not really worried yet. Just kinda worried.

7:33 1st: 49ers have the ball on their own 17, us behind them facing the Seahawks, me picking off file photos of Seattle defenders before the play starts since the light is so nice … and then GARCIA GOES F**CKING DEEP AGAIN AND AGAIN HE'S F**CKING PICKED OFF. This time, the play happens at the far seven-yard line, so I'm getting closer. Slightly.

Let's recap:

Opening kick -- out-of-bounds at the three-yard line (107 yards from me). 1st interception -- picked off at the one-yard line (109 yards from me) 2nd interception -- picked off at the seven-yard line (103 yards from me).

I know what you're thinking -- "why the hell do you keep standing there, then?" I don't have an answer really. Just reveling in my own stupidity, I guess...

I look over at Grover. If there was one of those cartoon thought-balloons over his head right then it would have read something like, "Geez. What a dumbass. I thought this guy was supposed to be GOOD at his job..."

5:45 2nd quarter: San Francisco has the ball inside of Seattle's red zone. As Terrell Owens pulling the Sharpie out of his sock was the big play of the first game between these two teams, I'm kinda keeping my eye on the match-up between he and Seattle cornerback Shawn Springs. But Garrison Hearst puts his head down and scores, reaching the ball across the goal line for the score. I'm blocked.

2:48 2nd: I suck. I can't think of a single good image up to this point. We're shooting back lit Seahawks offense facing us with the line of scrimmage about midfield. Fourth down, Seattle to punt.

Photo by Grover Sanschagrin/

Photo by Grover Sanschagrin/

Rod Mar in action.
Me: Hey, Grover. Watch this punt. Seattle's been so bad this year that they're punter is the best player on the team. (Which is true. Jeff Feagles has been awesome. From midfield he almost always puts the ball inside the ten-yard line.)

The punt rises into the horribly back lit slightly foggy sky, and falls to earth at the 11-yardline, where San Francisco's Jimmy Williams, catches it and promptly races untouched up the left sideline for an 89-yard touchdown return.

All I can see are backsides, but I stay with the play hoping when he gets to end zone he turns to the side a little and I can get some sort of loose picture with jubilant fans and the player's profile...but no. I just get asses and then I get blocked except for one mediocre frame. At this point, I'm thinking about quitting my staff job at the Seattle Times to publish a book, titled, "Great Asses of the NFL: A Photographic Journey".

Thankfully, halftime arrives. I download a disk, bring up an image in Photoshop just to see how bad that backlit side looks. Grover is right, it's ugly. I'm kinda right too. I can kinda make it look better in Photoshop. Kinda.

Photo by Grover Sanschagrin/

Photo by Grover Sanschagrin/

Anyone need another hot dog? It's FREE!
Meanwhile, Grover is watching in amazement as shooters and assorted sideline personnel devour halftime hot dogs like 1), they haven't eaten in months, or 2), they really aren't hot dogs, but tenderloin steaks from Morton's wrapped in foil, or 3) they're sportswriters. We spot one dog lying on the ground still in it's wrapper and I warn Grover to back away lest he be injured by a swarm of rabid photographers who might spot the doomed bounty. Brave photojournalist that he is, he kneels to take a wide-angle shot with his ever-present Canon G2.

11:51 3rd quarter: The Seattle offense has looked dismal. Lots of blitzes by the 49er defense, with Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck nearly being sacked three times in a row. Moving slightly behind the line of scrimmage (not directly, mind you -- I've made that mistake endlessly already today), I want to be on Hasselbeck's right side so I can see his face if he goes down.

Of course, he then throws a little out-route to the sideline, which is tipped and intercepted by San Francisco's Tony Parrish. Now this is an absolute nightmare. Seattle already trails 17-10, and now a former Washington Husky (in Seattle) has intercepted a pass -- ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE FIELD AGAIN!!! Luckily, he fakes and jukes his way for a 19-yard return to the Seattle four, and I actually get some shots of this.

11:34 3rd: Third down and one from the Seattle one. Hearst buries his head and scores. He's got two touchdowns, and I don't have a single usable picture of them. At this point, I'm hoping Paul Sakuma from the A.P. is having a really good shoot …

I don't know what it is, but then my luck starts to change. Was it my constant swearing, pissing and moaning? The halftime hot dog I offered to the football gods? Grover's divine intervention?

8:52 3rd: Hasselbeck connects with Seahawks receiver Darrell Jackson for a 36-yard touchdown pass. I get nice shots the whole way, from catch to taunting penalty in the end zone. He even turned my way while running. Yay! By the way, why do players taunt after scoring when they still trail by two touchdowns?

3:38 3rd: Seattle has the ball again, and again Hasselbeck finds Jackson on a slant and he's running towards me from midfield and I've got it all locked and loaded and...HE...COULD...GO...ALL...THE...(SH*T! GET THE SHORT LENS IDIOT)...WAY...but now I've switched to the 70 - 200 and he's inside the ten and ... HE FUMBLES! And, more importantly, I'VE GOT IT! LOTS OF IT!

I'm happier. Grover is looking at me like I'm a sock monkey. Or the owner of a sock monkey. Which is to say, a psycho.

13:25 4th quarter: 31-10, San Francisco. Game over. Stick a fork in 'em, they're done. I start to work the sides a little while still shooting action. Lots would have to happen for anything on the field to matter now.

10:20 4th: Something terrible nearly happens. Seahawks have the ball on the 49er 20, and Hasselbeck throws for the endzone. It's overthrown and coming right at me. I mean, RIGHT AT ME. I actually consider catching it it's so badly overthrown I figure the receiver and defender will stop.

But they don't. I bail out, with Grover right beside me, and while one of the players catches my long lens and monopod, the other just bowls over A.P. shooter Julie Jacobson. We rush over there (she's not very big at all) to see if she's okay. She's says she's all right but no one really believes her because it looked like she really took a shot. But she's tough. Her Nikon 400/2.8 has a damaged hood, and while we're checking on her, Grover is taking pictures of her lens hood.

Little do I know, but my cell phone is ringing from friends who either 1) saw the play on TV and thought it was me who got hit, or 2) were listening on Seattle radio and heard the broadcasters use my name and speculate if I got hit. More about that later...

As for me, the only thing damaged is that my monopod is twisted loose from the mounting plate on the bottom of my 400mm. Sh**t. Now I've got to use it without the monopod, which is easy to shoot with, but hell to carry. But wait! "Hey Grover ... can you carry something for me?"

Photo by Grover Sanschagrin/

Photo by Grover Sanschagrin/

Julie Jacobson from AP checks out her lens hood.
7:43 4th: Where do all these people come from? They're packed in tight, and they're fired up about being there. No, not the fans, in the stands, I'm talking about all these people with "Official" passes on the sidelines. Now, usually I'm not one to really get riled up about the VIP's (I try to make my philosophy that I can make pictures under ANY circumstances) but here at 3Com, these people dressed for church are standing RIGHT ON THE YELLOW LINE. Not back a couple of feet, respectful of our working space, but right up there like they're sightseeing on the edge of the Grand Canyon. And to make matters worse, this is an actual conversation:

WELL-DRESSED WOMAN: Isn't this great, honey? We're right on top of the action!

WELL-DRESSED MAN: Look son, the ball's going to be right here on the 16-yard line! Right in front of us!

SON: (garble-garble-garble)

And, as Grover so adroitly points out, this group of like two dozen has their own photographer setting them up and taking pictures. It's like a White House tour or something.

I'm sure they're ownership friends and family or something, but c'mon, just a couple of feet to work would be nice.

Suddenly, it's fourth down and the 49ers have to punt from their own 16. Knowing Seattle is far behind and desperate, I know they might try to block the punt. So I hustle towards the end zone (hey, I had to, right?) to get behind the punter.

According to Grover, I MAY have taken out some of the fancy people in my haste. Let me emphasize -- MAY have. But I also had no way of getting to end zone without crossing the yellow line onto the field. And we all know what crossing the yellow line means...(DEATH BY SECURITY!)

Bottom line -- I don't take pictures from on top of your desk in the executive board room where you work, so please don't come down here where the common folk are and mess with my french fry machine. End of rant.

7:21 4th: Talking to our writers, who are now on the sidelines. We talk about story ideas, what I've seen and heard, and make a game plan
Photo by Grover Sanschagrin/

Photo by Grover Sanschagrin/

Rod is always at the post-game press conference- just in case!
for our coverage. The Seahawks suck, yadda yadda yadda. We've seen this same type of game so many times in the past five years it's like the movie "Groundhog Day".

3:50 4th: The impossible starts to happen. Seattle scores to make it 31-17. I haven't been shooting the action now, but focusing on Holmgren and the sidelines. Looking for dejection, since the Seahawks were starting to think they were good after beating Kansas City at home the week previous.

1:57 4th: Um, Seattle scores again to creep within a touchdown. Panic starts to set in for the 49er faithful. Seattle recovers the onside kick (I got a picture!) and if they score a touchdown they can tie. I'm paying attention again.

1:23 4th: Hasselbeck rolls to his left, skips the open receiver on the sideline and throws across the middle and it's picked off to end the game. But I have a picture of him throwing it, with the intended receiver in the foreground. Not great, but important nonetheless and I need it...and I get lots of Hasselbeck standing alone in disbelief, hand on hips, head down, totally dejected.

I turn to Grover, grin, and say, "well, it took all -f*cking day, but I think finally got my lead picture..."

Postgame on the field: The Seattle p.r. director sidles up to me and says, "Just so you know, Matt broke the team record for passing yards in a game today." I felt bad, so I didn't retort, "Thanks, Dave, but the picture of the game is Matt after he threw that last interception". Who says photographers don't have heart?

Postgame in the interview room: I shoot some pictures of Mike Holmgren's press conference. I always go if I have time for two reasons -- you never know, there might be a picture to be made, and also, it helps me to understand everything that went on. And Lord knows I need all the help I can get.

Photo by Grover Sanschagrin/

Photo by Grover Sanschagrin/

Rod transmits after another Seahawks loss.
Postgame in the pressbox: I'm editing. Grover's sleeping. Seriously. Worse, p.r. interns for the 49ers are dropping stats and quote sheets on his bald head. Is that drool on the play-by-play report?

Postscript: In the car on the way to dinner my phone rings. I think it's my photo editor, but it's my wife.

Mia (wife): Are you okay?
Me: Fine. Why?
Her: Well, people heard on the radio that you got smashed by players and they called to see if you were okay.
Me: No, I didn't get hit but I had a terrible shoot today.
Her: Whatever, honey. As long as you're okay...
Me: (whining) But I just sucked today...
Her: Whatever, you...bye! Me: But...

So that's it. The weather was nice, the company was excellent, the light was great and terrible, and my pictures ranged from fairly mediocre to downright awful.

By the way, if you happen to rent the exact same car I had in San Francisco, directions to Brad Mangin's new condo are still programmed into the NeverLost...

(Rod Mar is a staff photographer with the Seattle Times and is a frequent contributor to Sports Shooter and has been a speaker at the Workshop & Luau. A link to his personal gallery appears below.)

Related Links:
Mar's member gallery
Grover's member gallery

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