Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Big League Opportunity

When you start work at a new newspaper or any job for that matter, you always have that period of adjustment. In my case as a photojournalist, the learning curve can seem a bit accerated at times. This is mostly due to the fact that you start your first day "hitting the ground running" going out into the community covering stories in a place you don't really know anything about. You are forced to learn to navigate the unfamiliar roadways very quickly. In addition, each day tends to offer up something new and different assignment wise. And its almost always something completely random from the previous day's assignments. Needless to say my first week on staff here at the Daily Republic photo department had been keeping me on my toes. It was during this time when unexpected opportunity to fulfill a childhood dream came around the corner.

Paul Farmer from our sports department strolled over to Brad to discuss the upcoming pre season pro football game coverage of the 49ers vs the Green Bay Packers. When I heard the words "pro football" I immediately stopped what I was doing and tuned in to their conversation. It turned out that they needed a photographer to shoot some players on the opposing team that used to play in Solano County. Whispering thanks to the sport gods that I was in the room at the time, I piped in that I would be happy to shoot the game. Brad shrugged at the thought for a moment and then said, "Yeah I think we could make that work. Put Mike's name in for the press pass." Score one point for the new guy.

These opportunities to shoot a pro game don't come often for a paper our size and in my young career it was a first. As a life long sports fan, I felt a wave of excitement pass over me.

As a kid growing up in Chicago, I (and everyone else in the suburbs) were forced over the years to develop a unique concept of unwavering fandom. Success measured in wins or championships have never been kind to any of our professional sport teams. It's no secret. Losing season after losing season, it became clear to the fans in Chicago that the enjoyment of winning wasn't that crucial to being a fan as much as being in the presence of pros. Win or lose, we were out enjoying the day at the friendly confines of Wrigley Field or tailgating at a Chicago Bears game.

Despite it all every kid on my block still looked up to these guys as gods photographed and displayed upon posters in our rooms while each day held daily personal sermons of support and/or damnation during our baseball card trades or during our pick up ball games in the park. Overall, it didn't even matter what team you were on. We knew the names of all the legendary playing fields and knew the big hitters on each team throughout the leagues.

Now I was going to be the photographer guy in position to freeze those iconic sport images. I was going to be on the grass of the legendary Candlestick Park in the presence of pros.

After a long crawl Candlestick Park through traffic and wrong turns, I arrived at the field with about an hour and a half to spare. Circling around the long way (accidently) finally found the media gate and I got my press pass. After two or three pass checks finally made it down on to the field that I have held in high ranks since I was a kid. It is quite the view to look up and see the view from the players perspective and to sit in the converted Giants dugouts that now are assigned to press photographers. It was a cool feeling to be standing where so many previous sport idols had done battle. Once near the photo pit, I was quickly issued the required-to-photograph bright red vest complements of the NFL so that they could keep tabs on all of the visiting photographers. I had some time to kill before kick off so decided to explored my surroundings and scout the Green Bay player who I was assigned to photograph. As the clocked counted down closer to game time and the cheerleaders and drum players continued to pump up the crowds, I still couldn't see the guy. I asked one of the coaches about his wear abouts. It turned out that he was out with a ankle injury and would not be playing in the game. This meant after all the work we had to put into getting access to the game wilted on the reality that I now had no story to come back with. This was a problem. But as the saying goes make due or do without. In the end I got the go ahead from Brad to enjoy myself and shoot the game for fun. With no deadline I was left to shoot whatever I felt like shooting. The paper had no need to run my photos from the game due to Olympic coverage of Michael Phelps numerous gold medals so I figured I would share them with you guys here. Ah...The cool places a camera can take you and how lucky one can be if their in the right place at the right time. It was an awesome experience. I'm looking forward to many more.

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