I said I was not, in fact, following Eli Manning wherever he goes around the country. This was because my plans for the Giants game, for the very first time this season, involved sitting on my couch with a beer, wearing quite possibly just my underwear, and relaxing in front of my HDTV.
Then on Saturday night, something unexpected happened. My friend and fellow Israel travel buddy Brian Garfinkel, who accompanied me and some friends to see the Knicks and 76ers last year back when they actually played basketball, offered a particularly exciting proposition. See, Brian has a pretty exciting Sunday occupation in that he's a sideline photographer for the Philadelphia Eagles. Every week he gets to be one of those guys on the sidelines with a tan vest on taking one picture after another through an absolutely enormous telephoto lens, and sometimes when he travels he can scrounge up an extra press pass for an assistant. Approximately 22 hours before kickoff, knowing that I am bigger Giants fan than is healthy, he sent me a text message and asked if I wanted to be his assistant for the night. I found a way to make it work despite having to be in the office Sunday, and when I arrived at (ugh) "MetLife Stadium" there was Brian waiting for my with my press pass.
I have one previous experience working at an NFL game, a Bears-Seahawks game in Chicago five years ago where I was exclusively in charge of setting the play clock after each down (side note: don't ever trust that play clock when watching on TV), and spent the entire game in a truck where the production was happening. Never before had I spent a night working on the sidelines. I figured it would be a pretty wild to see the players that up close and indeed we were close. As you can see from this shot I took on the first offensive play of the game, we were only a few yards from the action at any given time.
The interesting thing is that watching from such a low angle makes football, well, very difficult to watch. As people who generally watch from the stands or on television, most of us are used to seeing the players spread out rather than bunched together. As a result, what we can see from the naked eye at that angle can look sort of like a total visual cacophony. Brian's a little better than I am, however, what with him being good enough to get paid for it and all. As a result, while my pictures, at their best, looked like this, his pictures look like this. He's really good, you see. And if I learned anything Sunday night it's that the job is not easy. Not even a little.
Most of my help involved carrying around cameras for Brian, and periodically running memory cards to the photo room for him, though, amazingly, most cameras were equipped with the ability to transmit those photos directly to another photographer in the photo room for uploading and editing, so if the stadium you're in happens to have a properly function wi-fi network or G4 or something else technological that I really didn't understand, transmitting photos is a snap. Amazingly, when I asked Brian after the game ended if it would take him a while to get the photos up on the site, his answer was, "They're already up there."
In addition, these guys are in pretty good shape. My entire lower half has been sore for the three days I've had to walk around since being on the sidelines. In addition, my knees were absolutely killing me 30 minutes after we started kneeling on the sideline. Brian always does his job while wearing a set of knee pads he bought at Home Depot for, he says, $10 or so. It looks kind of goofy, but it doesn't take long for you to realize why the extra padding is necessary.
In the end, I resigned myself to not being able to shoot photos like the professionals, but I still managed to get at least a few cool shots for my own personal collection.
Oh, and I also got to watch the whole game from the sidelines. That's pretty sweet.
Or at least it would have been were it not for the fact that the Giants lost a potentially crucial division game to their most hated rival, which they probably should have won and could well prove a season-costing victory if they don't get their heads put on straight for New Orleans next Monday. But I prattle on.
as they did pregame warmups and, you know, played a football game. I always find warmups to be some of the most interesting part of any sporting event because it provides you with an up close and personal opportunity to watch the players incidentally show some personality when they don't know that anyone is watching. Touchdown celebrations are an orchestrated performance that everyone sees. Wisecracks on the bench or incidental banter with fans in the front row, of which I saw plenty, are a different animal entirely.
The view point also afforded me the chance to get some pretty cool shots that help reflect the almost intimidating grandeur of what it's like to perform on a field in front of a sold-out crowd of more than 80,000 people. And if you think that's a load of bullshit, which it probably is, well then at least I got some close up shots of Northwestern legend Mike Kafka, who is currently No. 3 on the depth chart for the Eagles. Oh, and in case you hadn't heard, Kafka's Wildcats became bowl eligible this week.
In the end of the night I came to the realization that while I love watching and writing about sports, I am almost not certainly ever going to photograph it professionally. But if Brian or any other photographers ever need an assistant again, I'll gladly volunteer my services.
On a side note, some of you probably noticed that it's Thanksgiving tomorrow, which happens to be my favorite holiday, and not just for the turducken. Or the Turbaconducken. It also means football, and for the first time this season I'm actually getting my picks in in time for the Thursday game. Here it goes.
Last week: 6-7-1
DETROIT (+7) over Green Bay
Miami (+7) over DALLAS
BALTIMORE (-3) over San Francisco
ATLANTA (-10) over Minnesota
CINCINNATI (-8) over Cleveland
Tampa Bay (+4) over TENNESSEE
INDIANAPOLIS (+4) over Carolina
ST. LOUIS (even) over Arizona
NY JETS (-8) over Buffalo
JACKSONVILLE (+4) over Houston
OAKLAND (-5) over Chicago
SEATTLE (-4) over Washington
New England (-3) over PHILADELPHIA
SAN DIEGO (-7) over Denver
Pittsburgh (-11) over KANSAS CITY
NY Giants (+7) over New Orleans
And there you have it. Enjoy Turkey Day, everyone.