A Football Upset

SEMO Football c 1967Road Warriorette Shari and I rolled into Cape early Sunday evening. The 1,311-mile ride was pretty unexceptional most of the way: weather was good except for some heavy rain Saturday evening and light rain for a couple of hours Sunday morning. We DID see three unusual things Sunday afternoon.

Just south of Nashville, I saw a vehicle pulling a travel trailer slowing to a stop, so I passed him with plenty of room. Just as I got even with him, I saw flames shooting out of the left rear trailer wheel. It took 100 yards or so for me to stop and back down the shoulder to see if he was going to need an extra fire extinguisher. It turned out that he had a wheel bearing lock up, causing the grease to catch fire. Luckily, he noticed it before the tire started burning. The fire went out without us having to do anything; he called for roadside assistance, and I went on my way.

Brake lights and smoke

Near Paducah, I saw brake lights come on, a cloud of smoke and cars swerving. A minivan had blown a driver’s side tire. He, too, made it to the shoulder safely.

Not 30 minutes later, I was passing an 18-wheeler and saw sparks and smoke coming from under the trailer. I slowed in front of the driver, turned on my four-way flashers and motioned for him to pull over. It turned out that his spare tire had come loose and was dragging the ground. The rim bouncing up and down was causing the sparks, and the friction was causing the tire to smoke.

 What does this have to do with football?

SEMO Football c 1967Actually, not a thing. I scanned this photo just before leaving West Palm Beach so I’d have something to post if I got in tired and late. I’m both.

This shows how the same photo can look entirely different depending on if you run it pretty much full frame, like at the top, or cropped in tight. The picture won prizes in Missouri and Ohio press association contests, but I don’t remember anything about what was happening here. You can click on the photos to make them larger.

Team Mug Shots

The first time I went out to shoot a high school team’s mug shots for The Missourian, I took individual photos of each player. That was a chunk of change at five bucks a head. Unfortunately, jBlue balked at paying that much.

“Shoot the whole team in one photo. We’ll crop the individual mugs from it,” he ordered. (Click on any photo to make it larger.)

Chuck Murdoch brokered a compromise

That might have made good sense from The Missourian’s standpoint, but it meant that I had to spend an hour or more driving to the school, setting up the pictures, collecting IDs, plus another hour in the darkroom for the five bucks. The other problem was that each head was significantly smaller than a dime, which was considered the minimum size any face could be to show up clearly in the paper.

Break ’em up into fours and fives

Sports editor Chuck Murdoch, worked out a compromise: I’d break the team into groups of four or five and get paid $3 a shot for mugs. That would give Chuck faces big enough to reproduce and would make me enough money to be worthwhile. (I didn’t know in those days I could tell somebody to take a hike if I didn’t like the price.)

I got better at it

I got better and faster with experience. First off, I learned how to control the situation: I wouldn’t let a coach dictate how I was going to shoot and I wouldn’t take any guff from the players. I’D pick the location to give me the best light to work with. Then, I’d enlist the coach or someone else to help the guys write their names on a sheet of paper and line up. I’d pitch a coin on the ground or floor and say, “Kneel on the coin. I’m going to take two shots. In the first shot, hold the sheet of paper under your chin like a jailhouse booking photo. Then, drop the sheet and give me an expression that’ll make your momma proud.”

It wasn’t art

Once I realized that nobody was looking for meaningful portraits that captured the soul of the player, I could knock off a team in about 30 minutes. All the sports department wanted was a reasonably sharp photo that showed two eyes, a nose, a mouth and two ears (if the player had all those parts) that they could run 1 column by 3 inches to break up the type. (These aren’t examples of when I had my act together, by the way. I was still learning.)