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|| SportsShooter.com: News Item: Posted 2005-12-22
Raider Games and the Dreaded Yellow Line
By Greg Trott, WireImage
There is something about the McAfee Coliseum that brings the worst out of people.
Photo by Greg Trott / WireImage
This is Lineman or Vestman. Either way he is not a nice security guard at the Raider games.
1. The Oakland Raiders just lost to the Cleveland Browns 9 to 7.
2. Quarterback Kerry Collins keeps throwing wide left, wide right, sky high and into the turf.
3. Wide receiver Randy Moss had one (1) catch.
4. Fans aren't showing up.
5. And, when they do, nobody really wants them there.
6. Photographers have a difficult time in making a credible photo (See above for the reason why).
But the biggest loser at every Oakland Raiders home game is, without a doubt, the security at McAfee Coliseum.
For years photographers have bemoaned the fact that the Oakland/McAfee Coliseum is one of the most difficult locations to work. Maybe it's the fact that the Raiders tend to magnify everything by three: losses, ballboys, timeout dudes and novice photographers.
Then there's the Raiderettes. Beautiful as they are, they aren't too pretty when they snarl and swing at photogs for cutting in between them. Honestly, though, I can't blame them. And, of course, we can't forget the fans, who have been know to swear, spit and vomit on us.
But the largest sports hernia for shooters is McAfee's jacketed security force.
How bad is it?
You know things are heading in the wrong direction when shooters, who can't agree upon anything except when to drink, are talking of a mass protest.
"We should all step across the yellow line during the last home game," said US Presswire's Aaron Kehoe.
Yes, the dreaded yellow line.
As photogs have learned in Oakland, the yellow line represents all that is evil.
It extends around the football field like yellow tape around a crime scene (Raider football), keeping scum like us away from the action. That's fine. We don't want to get hurt. But, it seems, in Oakland, the yellow line is also magical. It extends into air space.
This is especially true in one corner of the stadium, on the Raider sideline near the dreaded Black Hole.
It is here a security guard known by many names, none of them printable, has made it his mission to guard the yellow line as if it were the Holy Grail.
I was introduced to "Lineman" during the Raiders first home game this year.
Of course, I was in the wrong. I made a mistake of placing my knee across the yellow line an hour before the game. The next thing I knew, a screaming maniac was in my face. Stunned, I glanced at Getty's Jed Jacobsohn, who was next to me.
Predictably, Jacobsohn expressed his concern by bursting out in laughter. Mistake. This swung Lineman's attention to Jed. I slinked away.
This was just the beginning. There are too many Lineman stories to tell, but a few are worth mentioning.
Like many places, photogs wear vests during Raider games. Security has decided that a shooter who isn't wearing a vest, much like an inmate performing roadwork, is a sworn enemy.
A month ago, Upper Deck's Thearon Henderson made a bonehead move. Well before the game, and with the temperature dropping, decided to take his vest off in the dugout so that he could put on a jacket. Within seconds, Lineman became Vestman, and tore after Henderson, demanding he put his vest on - now.
"This guy here is just the extreme," said Henderson of Lineman. "He's just overly aggressive."
Photo by Greg Trott / WireImage
Randy Moss in action against the Browns on December 18, 2005.
But Henderson wasn't so calm after the dugout incident. He sought out the head of security and expressed his concern in only a way Thearon Henderson can.
But no action was taken against the Lineman. In fact, it seems he was encouraged.
Topps' Mickey Palmer also spoke to McAfee's security chief, and came away perplexed.
"He told me the guy has a hard job to do, and that he wants him to be aggressive,'' said Palmer. "A hard job?"
Don't trust Palmer, though. He is an instigator. During the Raider-Dolphins game in late November, he talked me, Greg Trott, a truly nice guy who has never been in trouble with the law, into leaning my 400 mm lens over the yellow line during a timeout, breaking yellow-line airspace.
"I bet you he (Lineman) will come down here and say you can't do that,'' said Palmer.
Sure enough, Lineman marched towards us. We watched with anticipation. Lineman stopped in front of me.
"You can't put your lens over the line," he told me.
"Why not?" I asked, becoming a troublemaker (Thanks, Mickey).
"You can only do it during the game," Lineman replied.
I laughed. "Now you're making rules up."
This caustic comment drew Lineman's ire.
"This is the Coliseum's rule. The NFL's rule," he said, voice rising.
"No," I responded, "It's not a NFL rule. This is your rule, and it only applies to this 30 yards right here."
These are the type of things photogs deal with every game in Oakland.
It's not the Raiders fault. The security force is hired by the people who run the Coliseum complex, and brought on to keep things under control. But is appears to shooters that sideline security is being coached to be openly antagonistic towards us.
Veteran sports shooter Bill Nichols seemed to have proof.
Nichols relayed that during a recent game he was all set to shoot players leaving the tunnel when he was told to leave the area.
"I'm not moving," Nichols told the guard.
Why should he? Nichols was in an area we are allowed to hang - behind the yellow line. The guard was apologetic.
Photo by Brad Mangin
WireImage freelancer Greg Trott peers out from a crowded sideline during second half action of the Seattle Seahawks vs San Francisco 49ers game at Monster Park in San Francisco on Sunday, November 20, 2005.
"Hey pal," he said to Nichols, "I'm sorry, we're just being told to get in your face."
This seemed to jibe with what another guard told me earlier when he chastised me for being over the line. I wasn't. I asked why he thought I was over the line when he was standing 10 feet behind me.
"There's a guy watching you with binoculars overhead," he replied.
I wondered, am I such a threat that I need to be spied upon?
"I've probably done seven to 10 stadiums this year, and I don't understand why these guys are so rude," Nichols said. "It doesn't make any sense. They seem so totally unprofessional. They don't seem to get it ... It's their whole demeanor. The guards in Seattle were actually helpful, and in Washington, D.C., they actually moved people out of the way so we could shoot. Here, these guys are confrontational."
Henderson, a known miscreant, smiled mischievously while acknowledging he enjoyed antagonizing guards by PURPOSEFULLY touching the yellow line with the toe of his shoe.
"I haven't been told to get behind the line this much since the 49ers Super Bowl days," Henderson said. And when he sees Lineman standing in front of a photographer and demanding his 1/4 inch of flesh get behind the line, Henderson said he can't help but laugh.
"It's really funny."
Scottsdale's Scott Watcher doesn't think it's so funny.
"I hate working here,'' said Watcher of coming to Oakland. "There's so much tension. They're always watching you. I've been to San Francisco, Denver, San Diego and Arizona this year. No problems. Here, they're more worried about the photogs than the fans. Do other photogs hate coming here? Absolutely. I'll ask my client if I can work somewhere else instead of coming here."
It wasn't long after this comment that Watcher had a run-in with Lineman.
But Los Angeles-based freelancer John Cordes said he hasn't had a problem in Oakland.
"I've never really been hassled by anyone here," said Cordes, but he did acknowledge that he's never been asked to get behind the line as much as he does in Oakland. "Nobody's ever given me a bad time here, but I'd much rather be at a Chargers game, than here."
The consensus among photographers talked to for this story all said they wished security at the Coliseum would at least treat them like they were not prisoners on work release, but professionals doing a job. Security would probably tell working photogs the same thing.
We have tried.
After Thanksgiving this year, Nichols approached Lineman and asked if he had a nice holiday.
Lineman said, "This is business. Just business."
We admit, every once in a while, in our excitement, we create the ultimate of sins by placing a part of our body on the line. We're sorry. We didn't mean to. Our bad. But don't treat us like trash. A tap on the shoulder will do.
We have come to work. The last thing shooters want is to get into a confrontation.
I remember a scene from the great "Andy Griffith Show," where Andy left Barney in charge of Mayberry for a few days. Because Barney enforced the letter of the law, chaos ensued. When Andy returned, he told Barney following the letter of the law is not always the best thing. Common sense is often the best law to follow.
So the next time when Lineman crouches down to stare down the yellow line in search of troublemakers, he should think of what Andy told Barney.
I'm betting he won't.
(Greg Trott is a Bay Area freelance photographer who has been covering the NFL for 21 years, first for the National Football League and now for WireImage.com.)
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