John F. Russell: Photographer at home on the sidelines
Steamboat Springs — I can’t think of a better place to spend a Friday night.
It might not seem so inviting when the weather turns cold along the sidelines of a football game in late October, but as a photographer, there is no place I would rather be — just a few feet from where the action unfolds.
The other night, as I stood along the sidelines of the Sailors game, our new sports reporter asked me what sport I enjoyed photographing the most. Truth is that the game doesn’t matter as long as I can get close to the action.
Sure, some nights are better than others. Over time, relationships, family responsibilities and life sometimes makes getting to the sidelines difficult. Each sport also comes with its own challenges. Basketball and volleyball typically are played in the low light of a high school gym, football games usually are played long after the sun has set in the Yampa Valley, and there have been times when it seemed nearly impossible to keep my camera — and for that matter, my clothes — dry while shooting a ski race on the slopes of Mount Werner.
But even with the challenges of shooting different sports, I can’t think of any other place I would rather be on most nights.
In college, I spent most weekend nights at the Coors Events Center photographing the University of Colorado men’s and women’s basketball teams. In the four years I was at CU the men’s team went 35 and 79, and if I remember, the girls were not much better. I didn’t really care. I was just happy to create some images.
I even got the chance to photograph the Final Four. That year, the tournament was played at McNichols Sports Arena in Denver, and I was lucky enough to be seated on the baseline as University of Nevada, Las Vegas topped Duke, 103-73. It wasn’t the greatest basketball game ever, but I’ll never forget what it felt like to be seated that close to the action.
I’ve been lucky enough to get close to the action several other times, too. Four years ago, I watched Lindsey Vonn race to gold in the downhill, I watched Johnny Spillane mine silver and Bill Demong strike gold at the Olympic games. I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else.
The sidelines are not for everyone. There are times when it’s a lot easier to watch the action unfold on television while you sit back in a recliner. It might be easier to grab a blanket and watch the game from the safety of the stands or the preferred seat of most reporters in the press box.
But for me, there is no better place to experience the true meaning of the game than on the sidelines. I love the sounds, I love the emotion, and I love the images that can only be found on the sideline.
There is no place I would rather be as the game unfolds.
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