“Shaking off the rust…” *(or ‘How I almost lost my groove in covering Army’s home opener on a warm, overcast Saturday in September…’) Back to Michie Stadium at West Point yesterday for the home opener of ARMY hosting Duke. Hard to believe it’s another Fall football season already. Wasn’t I just on this same turf field in May running a low-angle remote for the graduation hat toss…? My detailed thoughts on preparing for a game like this, packing gear, etc. begin after the game photo below. -cg.

Army quarterback Trent Steelman (#8) is tackled hard by Duke defenders Abraham Kromah (#8, left) and Catron Gainey (#23, right) during the second half of their game in Michie Stadium at the United States Military Academy in West Point, NY on Saturday, September 12, 2009. Duke defeated Army 35 – 19. Times Herald-Record/CHET GORDON

I knew it was going to be a long, and possibly difficult afternoon at Michie Stadium. First of all, the weather didn’t look like it was going to cooperate, so right up until the last minutes before leaving home, I was packing & repacking my gear; trying to figure out how much rain gear to bring; including duck boots, a favorite waterproof fedora, lightweight rain poncho, full rain suit, heavier Timberland rain jacket, dry socks, etc. I surely couldn’t afford to be “under-geared” for a game played in a steady rain or downpour. (Friday night’s HS games were played in the rain and I’m sure it was annoying for my colleagues working those games.) I was still undecided on even bringing a fourth remote camera set-up until I actually starting bringing all the gear downstairs and began loading up the car at around 8:15AM. Shoot, I was already running later than I wanted to be for the noontime kickoff. Finally decided on leaving the remote camera set-up behind as I was already leaving the house later than I needed to be if I was planning on setting up a stadium remote for my traditional view of the venue from the top of the stadium on a fish-eye lens. Besides, the weather forecasts called for showers at some point, and I wasn’t in the mood to be worrying about a remote camera of mine clamped up somewhere above the stadium getting drenched again all afternoon.
Threatening skies at 8:30 made that an easy call. Knowing that Duke men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski was in town and had been inducted into the Army Hall of Fame the night before, meant I’d be spending a fair amount of time during pre-game fan fest and also at halftime on the field making feature pictures of him. So that meant any thoughts of a halftime bite to eat were already out of the question. Arrival was a little after 9AM in the media lot, and I was up in the stadium press box before 10AM – with the clock ticking before kickoff. Checked with our beat reporter to get an idea of his possible game stories, players to watch, etc.
We also planned on meeting down in the pre-game fan fest area behind the stadium before 11AM to start getting those feature images of Duke “Coach K” (left) signing autographs and such, as well as another former Army football player and hall of fame inductee he’d be writing about. That wouldn’t leave me much time on the field to shoot the players and new head coach, Rich Ellerson. This is always an ideal time to make those types of “game face” images on the field during pre-game player warm-ups. Something I learned at the beginning of my career covering the pro sports teams in NYC. These are always good “file” images to shoot and have in the bag as it were, as the players won’t have their helmets on while stretching, throwing etc., and usually they’ll be smiling and joking about as well.
My take on this is make the effort to spend a good 10 – 15 minutes shooting these images as they’re images that can be used all week / season long when the sports guys are writing about player “so & so” or the new head coach. I mean it’s almost a no-brainer to continually make images of the new head coach in town, as well as their freshman starting quarterback Trent Steelman (left & top image getting nailed by two Duke defenders in the red zone.)
There was one thing missing in all this pre-game preparation for me though and that was the early meal for the media. There wasn’t anything to be found upstairs by 10:20AM or so when I was leaving to go down to the field – which in a crowded stadium can be an adventure in itself. Not a muffin. Coffee. Nothing. I could already sense this might be problem for me later. By the time I finished the pre-game warm up photos and found my way outside the gates behind the visitor’s side of the stadium – the area called “Black Knights Alley”, it was nearly 11AM. One hour to kickoff. Stomach beginning to rumble. Made the Mike Krzyzewski autograph photos, moved through the crowd a bit to also photograph some general overall images of the crowd and festivities (above and here). Good file images I remember thinking, regardless of the overcast skies. By the time I was ready to head to the field, my only recourse was to buy an overpriced plain hamburger & Gatorade from the stadium vendors. Leaned on the tailgate of an ambulance near the players entrance to eat my pre-game meal. I think it was $8. Proceeded to the field to prepare for the show that is Division I college football. No parachute jumpers for this day due to the weather so that was a relief not to have to shoot them landing at midfield. I guess the whole National Anthem, Corps of Cadets “March – On” and teams running onto the field takes a good 20 minutes or so. Did I mention it was warm and humid on the field? I chose to wear my rubber duck boots, which kept my feet a little too warm, as I initially thought the field would be wet from the previous night’s rainstorms.Notes to self: “Michie Stadium has good field drainage & remember to bring a sandwich & snacks just in case the pre-game meal isn’t offered upstairs an hour+ before kickoff. Packing a few Advil or Tylenol capsules wouldn’t be a bad idea either. Drink fluids on the field during the game…” (Those post games headaches from dehydration are a bear.) Remembering that I’d have to stay on the field at halftime, which meant no halftime meal back upstairs either. This surely had the makings of a long, and tiring day. All in all, it was a good day of shooting, considering I spent nearly 10 hours at the stadium. It was fun too yucking it up with fellow photographers on the field, including Albany staffer Mike Groll of the AP, Jon Malinowski, Chuck Stewart and Scott Strine – who made the image of me patrolling the sidelines (above). I was thrilled to have the image of QB Trent Steelman getting planted near the goal line, as I didn’t realize how massive of hit he took. That image about said it all as far as the game was concerned for me too. It’s sort of a game-telling image on how bad Duke handled Army after the Black Knights took an early lead in the first quarter. In winding down my day off here of final editing, I also made it a point of sending the paper 20 of those file-type images, anticipating any future calls for new photos of the name players and new coach.

Here’s a slideshow from my game day coverage. -cg.
*(Click the arrow at the bottom left of the player to start the slideshow, or click the image / or the arrows at lower right to scroll through the show manually. Enable full screen viewing by clicking the 4-way arrow icon above the credits button at lower right of the player. You can stop the small continuous slideshow in the right column by clicking the pause II button.)


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