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|| News Item: Posted 2008-01-29

Leading Off: It was cold!
Robert Hanashiro had the time of his life during his Lambeau Field debut.

By Robert Hanashiro, Sports Shooter

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

Sports Illustrated staffer and member Peter Read Miller (right) was well-prepared for the cold to cover the Packers-Giants NFC Championship Game at Lambeau Field. Dan Powers is pictured on the left.
It was cold.

How cold was it?

Cold enough to pop both of the lenses out of my glasses.

Cold enough to freeze my breath on the camera viewfinder.

Cold enough to wear not one, but two sets of long underwear. (Expedition weight no less!)

Cold enough for Peter Miller to go through a whole box of chemical hand warmers.

Cold enough to freeze your nose hairs.

Cold enough to REALLY believe those immortal words: "The frozen tundra that is Lambeau Field…"

And I had the time of my life!

As a sports photographer and a sports fan there are just a handful of must-visit venues these days. And Lambeau Field in Green Bay was certainly at the top of my list.

Growing up in the heat of Fresno and living in Southern California for the last 20 years, the words "sub-zero" was a reference to a kitchen appliance and not the temperature at kick off of a football game I would be covering.

The one single sports event I look forward to covering every year is the Rose Bowl Game. And the reason is because it usually sunny and 70 … on January 1!

But I always had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to go to Lambeau sometime before my careers as a photographer ended … which these days might be a HELLUVA a lot sooner than I am thinking of.

For years I talked to friends like Peter Miller and John Biever about making the trek to northern Wisconsin, near the shores of Lake Michigan to shoot a football game in the home of probably the most hollowed sports teams in history… the Green Bay Packers.

I grew up a San Francisco 49er fan, in the days of John Brodie, Gene Washington, Ken Willard, Charlie Krueger and Kermit Alexander. But no true football fan could can't help holding some admiration for the Packers with Bart Starr (the ALL-TIME best quarterback name), Ray Nitschke, Paul Hornung, Willie Davis and of course Vince Lombardi.

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

Bundled up against the sub zero temperature, New York Times photographer Barton Silverman fiddles with his Canon camera as the Giants quarterback Eli Manning walks off the field after upsetting the Packers 23-20 in overtime.
John and Peter would always tell me that going to Green Bay was akin to going to Football Mecca, probably the only place left where the fans were really football fans and the game maintained a purity that had not been corrupted by corporate America, Fox TV and bad over-priced beer.

So I packed my North Face parka, my brand new Columbia winter boots (good to -35!), a dozen packets of hand warmers (I thought that I might gaffer tape them strategically to my body!), two sets of long underwear, wind pants and my GPS and off I flew to Wisconsin for the NFC Championship Game.

After seeing Simon Bruty's Sports Illustrated cover of Brett Favre looking more like the Abominable Snowman rather than an NFL quarterback and reading the predictions of zero degrees at kick off I still had no fear, after all, I did have my dozen chemical hand warmers!

While waiting for my USA TODAY colleague Eileen Blass at a Perkins, just a couple of miles from Lambeau, the restaurant was filled with people wearing Packers gear and talking about the NFC Championship game against the New York Giants. But instead of the usual mindless "the Giants suck" as the reason their beloved Packers would win that evening, they all discussed the game in intelligent football terms. They still referred to "Brett" (Favre) like he was their nephew or next door neighbor, but the tone and level of understanding of the game was somewhat refreshing coming from fans. At a Perkins no less.

Sitting in traffic an hour or so later, I watched jersey-wearing locals walking to the stadium, reminding me of Sundays in Fresno, people walking to church … but instead of heading to the chapel, they were heading to Lambeau. And it was 4 degrees.

I had heard from many photographers, especially Dan Powers from the Appleton paper and Steve Apps from Madison that Lambeau's accommodations for the press was first-rate and it was beyond my expectations. This is the way all sports venues should be set up to handle sports writers and photographers: Plenty of room, polite and helpful personnel and darn good press food.

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

Steam rises from Green Bay defensive back Al Harris during 2nd half action against the Giants at Lambeau Field.
Classy is probably the best way for me to describe it.

I had joked for years that the reason why I wanted to shoot a game at Lambeau was because I wanted to have a beer and a brat in the pressroom before the game. Well, the "media meal" was a little better than that: steaks, green salad, grilled veggies and mashed potatoes. I dare say that it was 5-stars better than the horrible junk that Staples Center had passed off as "Chinese food" when Yao Ming and the Rockets played in LA a couple of weeks before.

About 90 minutes before game-time, I walked outside of the digital workroom we had set up in (one of four set aside for photographers for the game), photographers were starting to gear up. Extra wool socks were being pulled on, Gortex seemed to be everywhere and I think I saw the biggest, ugliest set of kneepads in the world being strapped to the legs of a shooter from New York. There was SI's Bob Rosato sitting on the floor in the middle of dozens hand warmer wrappers and his colleague Peter Miller emerged from the men's room looking like he was ready for a trip to the Arctic rather than a trip to cover a football game.

Back in our workroom, most of the guys from the local papers were joking among themselves, just like it was a regular game in October rather than a game to decide who was going to the Super Bowl. On my left, Mike De Sisti from the Post-Crescent was editing a wonderful video on fans dealing with the cold ( to my right Steve Apps was quietly editing the last of his pre-game features.

I read somewhere a few days after the Giants 23-20 upset on a 47-yard field goal in overtime that it was -2 at kickoff with a wind chill of -23. But for this native Californian and long-time football fan, I didn't feel it at all.

Well, maybe a little.

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

Photographers bundled up for the sub zero weather cover the Packers-Giants NFC Championship Game at Lambeau Field.
There are only a few other "sports meccas" left, Wrigley Field, Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park in baseball are really the only ones that come to mind. In this day and age of corporate naming rights --- I'm waiting for Larry Flynt to pay to slap the name "Hustler" on some venue --- and high-prices of tickets keeping most of the real fans from attending games, making the trip to a place like Green Bay, WI and Lambeau Field is a real treat. I highly recommend it to any sports fan or sports photographer. No matter what the temperature is.

* * *

For our first issue of the New Year, we feature a thoughtful and inspirational article by my good friend Matt Mendelsohn. My colleague Jack Gruber gives us a behind the scenes look at his behind the scenes picture story on college basketball legend Eddie Sutton's quest for his 800th career win.

The PGA is in full swing and Robert Beck writes a quick list of tips if you want to join him on the links. Dan Powers gives us a local's view about the Packers season and the disappointing loss to the Giants. David Honl writes about Kazakhstan to kick off what I hope will be a regular feature on different, interesting locales photographers have worked in.

The Annual Sports Shooter Newsletter Contest deadline is Super Sunday Feb. 3 and we have the details on entering. For the gearheads out there, we have a quick users report on Canon's new EOS 1Ds Mark III and a few notes on new items that might be of interest to photographers. And our regular feature "Ask Sports Shooter" addresses questions from a couple of students on shutter speed and aperture.

Michael Connelly's "Lincoln Lawyer" and "The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey" by Candice Millard are on the nightstand. Rhonda Vincent's "Good Thing Going", U2's "U218 Singles" and "Greetings From Hollywood" by the Royal Crown Revue are on heavy rotation on my iTunes.

As always, thanks to Special Advisors & Contributors: Deanna & Emma Hanashiro, Brad Mangin, Rod Mar, Trent Nelson, Jason Burfield, Grover Sanschagrin, Joe Gosen, Paul Myers and Bob Deutsch.

Thanks this month to: Matt Mendelsohn, Jack Gruber, Dan Powers, David Honl, Robert Beck and Patrick Murphy-Racey.

I welcome any comments, corrections, suggestions and contributions. Please e-mail me at

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