Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Photo of the Day - Tebowed:


I will be the first to admit that I am a very big fan of the University of Florida and all University of Florida athletics. Having worked for the men's basketball team while in school at UF and actually lettering, it has been in my system for a long time. Actually it started well before that when I was 4 or 5 and dad was bringing me to UF football games. He certainly didn't make me go to UF, but there were some subtle influences there the whole time :-)

With the opportunity to photograph this past football season however I have had to (at least slightly) reign in my fandom in order to focus on shooting the game and not be completely biased during the process. It has been difficult but I celebrate and root the guys on in my own (quieter) way while shooting. Fortunately at home games I have 90,000+ fans carrying the load for me. I am also a HUGE Tim Tebow fan and I cannot tell you how much of an honor it has been on so many levels to have had the opportunity to photograph his senior season.

Along with being a huge UF and Tebow fan, I love collecting memorabilia and autographs relating to UF athletics. How big a fan you ask? Well, I have a 95"x35" frame that holds autographed jerseys of the starting 5 from the UF basketball team that won back to back national championships a few years ago in our bar room. I'd say it verges on fanatical but I digress.

One of the few autographs over the past four years that I have not managed to get is that of the man, the myth, the legend, Tim Tebow. For the first three years of his career I have watched and enjoyed his play from afar but this season I had the amazing opportunity to photograph Tim as he played his senior season at the University of Florida. So for the first time ever I was close enough to touch him, yet so far away. Unfortunately, with access to the sidelines, locker rooms, and athletes there are some major restrictions. It is (very understandably) a major no no to ask a player or coach for his autograph or a picture while on the field using your media access. It makes total sense - these guys are inundated constantly with requests and it would not be fair to allow this type of activity to go on while they are on the field pre, during, or post game. I have actually heard of people losing access because of such requests and to be honest they deserved it. Respect the athletes and do the job you were there to do or be a fan and sit in the stands. Even though I feel that way, it is so crazy to be so close and able to talk to them, shake their hand, get run over by them etc. but not be able to make an autograph request. For an autograph guy like me that's an unbelievable challenge but I managed to contain myself. I did have a few moments throughout the season where we bumped into each other or spoke but other than that it was completely professional - he was the Heisman winning athlete that was the apple of the eye of his coach, teammates, and the Gator Nation and I was one of many photographers running around trying to stay out of the way while capturing his historical season on digital media (film for you old coots). As it turns out, fate had something else in mind for the final game of Tim's season and the final game of my first season taking pictures.

All of this leads us to the above photo - my Tim Tebow "autograph." Before the game started when the Cincinnati band was on the field playing the Superman theme song and the announcer said they were there to "pay tribute to the real superman, the undefeated Cincinnati Bearcat football team" I couldn't help but smile. As if this kid needs any more motivation than he already had, the opposing team's band is taking one last jab. Gotta love it. That is all I will say on that but needless to say, whether he heard it or not, he came out more than motivated and had one of the better games of his career. I was more than pleased. Towards the end of the game I started to get ready for the Gatorade bath that coach Meyer was about to receive and the victory lap and trophy/post game activities. Part of this process involves changing from one of my longer lenses to a wider lens, adding a flash, checking my levels, and finding a place to put the longer lens and 2nd camera body while I jog all over the field taking pictures. It is NEVER advisable to leave that kind of equipment laying around anywhere, but really you have to deal with the lesser of two evils and either carry it and try to take shots, or leave the big stuff in a safe(ish) location while you take pictures. Some photographers would argue differently but I chose to leave it in a "safe(ish)" location while I did my post game work.

A combination of fate, bad luck (or good luck as it may be) had me place my camera against a wall in the end zone. What I didn't know is that it was right below an aisle in the Super Dome where Tim's parents and family were going to come down after the game to hug him and talk for a while. Unfortunately my camera was at the epicenter of this meeting, specifically at the bottom of it. Sometime during the crush of photographers (including myself) following Tim to the spot and shooting his meeting he stepped on the plastic LCD protector on my back up camera body as he tried to climb up to visit with his family. Sure I'm upset that I have a cracked LCD protector but if you look closely you can see an orange line where his cleat impacted it and scratched the plastic before breaking it. If you squint hard enough and have a few drinks it almost looks like a "T." I may not have ever gotten Tim's true autograph during his senior season but I definitely got something much more unique: being so close to and shooting such a historical football season, and having him "autograph" whether he knew it or not, my LCD cover after the last game of his college career. My season and his, couldn't have ended any better than it did.

Thank you for all you have done this season Tim as a student athlete, as a person, and as a Nikon BM-7 Part #25343 destroyer/autographer. I won't hold it against you, but when you are drafted I'd sure like a replacement, or at least a complete autograph as a fan and not as a member of the media. ;-)

Thanks for stopping by today for my photo of the day and for putting up with my Tebow fandom one last time, but it was a funny story and one of the few souvenirs I brought back from New Orleans this past weekend. Be sure to stop by tomorrow for another edition of the shot of the day!

1 comment:

Sandy said...

Hey, I watched Tebow crush your LCD cover while watching the Tebow-cam on ESPN. One of the last things they showed was him running over to the wall to greet his family. I'm sure that if he knew he broke it he'd be quick to make things right. He's just that kind of guy. Years ago we had friends who were close friends of the Tebows so we heard a lot about the family and Tim growing up. I went to homeschooling classes his mom taught and even sat behind him and his mom at a conference one year (Tim was a probably only 13 or so). First class family full of integrity, service and love. A family member told me when Tim first came to UF that he didn't think Tim had what it took to lead the Gators to success. I told him how wrong he was & that before it was over, he'd probably be one of their best players ever. :) We've thoroughly enjoyed watching him at UF.

What a privilege and experience to be able to shoot the Gator's season. Congrats to you!