Monday, January 22, 2007

Next Stop: SUPER BOWL!

Ahhhh, yes, the "Law of Vegas Betting" was in full effect yesterday, and it is a beautiful thing. Basically, that law states that in a championship game, if large majority bettors pick one team compared to the other, the team less picked will win that game. Similarly, if sports reporters unanimously agree that one team will win, the other team will end up winning that game. Don't believe me? Some notable examples:

- Ohio State was supposed to beat Florida in the '07 BCS Game. Florida won.
- Oklahoma was supposed to trash Boise State in the '07 Fiesta Bowl. BSU won.
- The Rams were 14-point favorites against the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVI. The Pats won.
- Or how about the Miracle on Ice???

And most recently.... the Chicago Bears and the New Orleans Saints in the 2007 NFC Championship Game. Almost every so called "expert" picked N'aww Lenns to win this game, but instead, the Monsters of the Midway turned the game into a stunning 39-14 blowout at Soldier Field in Chicago! Next stop: SUPER BOWL!

Now I've been photographing football for a couple of years now, and being in Chicago, it's pretty surprising that I have yet to shoot a football game in the snow. The forcast for Sunday's game was "clear for the first half, but 2-4 inches of snow in the second half." As a sports photographer, I actually welcome bad weather, because it adds an extra element to the photos. There's more muck flying all over the place, jerseys get extra dirty, and not to mention you get all that cool looking rain/snow in the background! So when the snow finally came, it was a beautiful thing.

So I got all those sweet shots of our modern gladiators under the lights and in the snow, but I didn't get take any of myself while on the sidelines during timeouts. Although I will never forget the noise and all the sights of January 21, 2007, I'm kind of kicking myself about not getting a photo of me out there, because it was just so perfect and pretty. The full crowd, the players huddled on the field, and oh, that glorious snow, lit up under the bright stadium lights. The reason why I didn't was because I think I was kind of afraid to. I don't usually photograph myself (at least not during the game), because I think a lot of the jaded "old-timers" in the business would give me funny looks and just see me as some "newbie." Sounds stupid, I know. Oh well.... next snowy NFC Chamionship game, right?

Anyways, early Vegas lines and football analysts say Colts by 7... will the "Law of Vegas Betting" be upheld? I guess we'll find out in two weeks! GO BEARS!!!!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Let's Go Bears!

Think the city of Chicago is jacked up for tomorrow's NFC Championship Game against the New Orleans Saints?

I think so!


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Good As Gould

"A year ago I'm pounding nails. Now I'm hitting game-winning kicks and going to the NFC Championship Game," Chicago Bears kicker Robbie Gould said. "I didn't even watch the end of it. I hit it right where I wanted it to go."

Gould kicked a 49-yard field goal in overtime to lift the Bears to a 27-24 victory over the Seattle Seahawks, setting up a Sunday afternoon date with the New Orleans Saints next week. The stakes? A trip to Miami and the Super Bowl.

This was my very first NFL playoff game, but surprisingly, it wasn't that much different from a regular season game. Obviously, there was more media covering the game, but I don't think things were any more difficult for photographers. I guess the difference with football is that we are pretty free to roam around the sidelines, so you can increase the number of people shooting the sidelines without really much effect. Other sports like baseball can't really support the increased media coverage... which was why at the World Series I kinda got screwed and was relegated to the upper concourses, into a non-assigned position (of course, as you remember, I had sweet stuff anyways!).

Anyways, back to the Bears. This team has become so frustrating. Everybody in Chicago knows from the first few weeks of the season, that this team can be dominating on both offense and defense. Especially defense. However, these days, the team has been so maddeningly inconsistent, you don't know who will show up and play a good game. The offense has been pretty spotty with Rex Grossman at quarterback, but the defense has arguably been equally inconsistent.

This playoff game was no different. The defense showed flashes of brilliance that they had displayed in the early part of the season...

But it also displayed some huge lapses of concentration, resulting in some big plays for Seattle...

However, woah, where did the offense come from? By putting up 27 points, they really bailed out the inconsistent defense. If it weren't for solid running by Cedric Benson and Thomas Jones, as well as clutch performances from the wide receivers and quarterback Rex Grossman, the Bears probably would have been "one-and-done" at home in the playoffs. Again.

Celebrate now, Bears fans... here come the Saints!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Chicago Shamrox

For the second time in two years, Chicago welcomes another professional lacrosse team. In June 2006, Major League Lacrosse introduced the Chicago Machine. Here in January 2007, the National Lacrosse League has introduced the Chicago Shamrox.

Wait, there's a professional lacrosse league? Wait, there are TWO professional lacrosse leagues? Well, the MLL is an outdoor league, and is more "traditional." The NLL is an indoor league, and some people might call it a "bastardized" version of lacrosse. A similar comparison would be what the Arena Football League is to the National Football League. Why's that? Well, just like the AFL is to football, the NLL plays on a smaller field, promises bigger hits, faster action, and of course, lots of razzle dazzle. I mean honestly, doesn't fire, glowsticks, rock music, and scantily clad cheerleaders make you think of indoor lacrosse? It does for me!

OK, all that said, I did enjoy shooting this game. I've always liked shooting lacrosse because it's not what we'd consider a "traditional" sport here in the midwest. Plus, just like hockey, the game is extremely fast paced, which helps keep viewers (and photographers!) engaged. The only thing I didn't like was the fact that even though the Sears Centre is a new arena, it doesn't have any photo holes in the glass like they do at Blackhawks games. So shooting action from field level was really spotty because of the glare, not to mention that shooting through the plexi glass really degrades the image quality. I mean, I really loved looking at my pictures after the game and finding a large percentage of them useless because of seeing random patterns from people/arena lights being reflected into all my images or being out of focus/warped by the glass or both. To counter those problems due to the glass, I shot some of the game upstairs from the upper concourses. For future Shamrox games, I may spend more time up there just so I don't have to deal with the glass.

In the end, the Shamrox did not disappoint the crowd, as they pulled off a 15-12 victory over the New York Titans in their inaugural game. So how did the Shamrox win this game? Easy, making the most of their offensive chances, and doing a great job killing the power play.

Or, we can just credit this victory as more proof of "cheerleader professionalism." (It's a theory that ESPN's Greg Easterbrook coined realting a team's chances of victory to how uhhh, little, said team's cheerleader's wear... he and his readers cite examples of this almost every week in the NFL as part of his column "Tuesday Morning Quarterback" or TMQ for short).

Monday, January 01, 2007

Green Bay's Favre-ite

New Year's Eve 2006 may go down as the night that Green Bay Packers legend Brett Favre played his last NFL game. And I was there.

The game itself was meaningless because the Bears have already clinched home-field advantage for the playoffs, and the Packers were eliminated from the playoffs because of the New York Giants won plus the Packers lost the strength-of-schedule tiebreaker by virtue of not hitting their "superfecta" (they needed fact that the Packers didn't hit their superfecta of Arizona, Detroit, Miami, San Francisco, Minnesota, and a whole lot of other teams winning). What that means is this game was all about #4. So basically, I spent the whole pregame and first quarter shooting Brett Favre in all sorts of different positions and putting them up on the wire ASAP.

Of course, another story line developed in this game as well: the Bears are in trouble! The defense has kind of fallen apart (although to be fair, they were resting some starters), and the terrible quarterback play has reared its ugly head... again. The one thing Bears fans finally learned in this game is that if Rex Grossman sucks, backup Brian Griese probably ain't much better! There sure is a lot of angst in Chicago for their 13-3 football team!

OK, so back to Favre. After the game, he was pretty much swarmed by the media trying to get interviews/photos of him leaving the field. What a big mess. I wish I had a bit more body mass to throw around to jockey for positioning. I did get pretty close to him, but if you're not at the very front, you will get blocked out by other photographers and security personnel in front of you. The way around it is to either be patient and wait for heads to move out of the way or to elevate the camera above your head and shoot down. Now, I hate doing that because you're basically shooting blind. You have very little idea where your focus point is on, and very little idea of what you're camera is actually seeing. Sometimes you get great shots, but othertimes, not so much. I think I managed a few decent frames, but I don't think it's anything to brag about... oh well, it probably won't matter in the end because who are we all kidding? Sure he hasn't announced a final decision yet, but come on. This is Brett Favre. He'll likely be back for another season and we'll just do this all again next December!