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|| News Item: Posted 2009-09-03

The Curse
Deny a photographer access to the locker room and you just might lose tonight's game.

By Trent Nelson, Salt Lake Tribune

Photo by Trent Nelson / Salt Lake Tribune

Photo by Trent Nelson / Salt Lake Tribune

Cottonwood's Cody Williams prays before taking the field vs. Highland, October 2005. After letting the photographer into the locker room, Cottonwood won 49-20.
I didn't expect for something so big and dreadful to come out of the first high school game of the year. But something always happens when you shoot at Timpview High. The first time I shot a game there, years ago I brought along a girlfriend (who I later married). While I was busy shooting the game, a student- a high school student-tried to seduce her away from me. Timpview's always a memorable game, and tonight they were defending a state record 36-game winning streak and three straight state championships.

You've heard of all those curses in sports, right? There are nearly three dozen documented, scientifically proven curses known to exist in the civilized history of competitive sport.

You've got the Curse of the Bambino, which caused the Red Sox to not win a World Series for nearly a century after trading Babe Ruth to the Yankees. Serious stuff, right?

You've got curses like the Madden and the Sports Illustrated cover curses. And don't forget the Socceroos Witch Doctor Curse. Before a 1970 World Cup qualifier, bones were buried in the pitch to help Australia defeat Rhodesia 3-1. Then the Socceroos didn't pay off the witch doctor and were cursed themselves for nearly thirty-five years. Of course, being called the Socceroos is a bit of a curse in itself.

There's even the Curse of the Colonel, which was put on the Hanshin Tigers by Kentucky Fried Chicken's Colonel Sanders himself after it was alleged that a statue of him was chucked into a canal by hyperactive Tigers fans. Don't ever mess with the Colonel (still alive!).

None of this was on my mind as I arrived at Timpview for their match up against the Vikings of Pleasant Grove. I was busy thinking about how I would fight that charming student if I saw him, 'cause when he tried to steal my wife twenty years ago he was kind of scrawny. But I had other, more important things on my mind.

The desk was counting on a shot from me for the front page and they wanted it fast. Something that captured the mood of the start of football season, Friday Night Lights and all that. And they wanted it before the game started. I wandered around the field in the scorching heat looking for some kind of shot. As the minutes ticked off and the deadline pressure increased, I was coming up empty. The fans were arriving late and both teams were on the field running all of those typical football drills that seem to have been designed to defend against good photography. You know those drills, the Spinny-Walk, the Crouchy-Run, etc.

Needing something good I decided to go for the locker room shot. From my experience high school coaches are often cool with letting me in for the pre-game pep talk that happens just before the game starts. I've gotten some nice frames of kids praying before the big game or getting hyped up by the coach. So I approached the Timpview coach and asked if it would be okay. He paused for a long moment, considering the request, and then he politely declined, saying, "I think we want to keep that for ourselves."

Uh oh. For a second there was shift in the wind and I felt something happen. It was as if an old gypsy woman appeared and put the evil eye on Timpview. At that moment that I knew that Timpview's 36-game win streak was in serious jeopardy. The coach had just brought a curse down on his team. It's a curse I wasn't aware of until now: Deny a photographer access and you just might lose tonight's game.

Now I need to state for the record that I did not put a curse on Timpview. I had nothing to do with Timpview losing to Pleasant Grove 16-10 in their season opener. This curse came out of nowhere. I have nothing against Timpview. And even though my family's heritage is from the wintry lands of the Norse gods, I am no supporter of the Pleasant Grove Vikings.

But there you have it. A new sports curse began in Utah this year.

And what was staring me in the face the next morning? Colleague Chris Detrick's photo from another football game that night. Three players, praying before the game, in the locker room at Stansbury High School. And guess what? Stansbury easily won their game against Maple Mountain, 35-7.

(Trent Nelson is the chief photographer at the Salt Lake Tribune. You can see his work on his member page: and at his personal website:

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