Growing up just north of Boston, I was a die-hard Red-Sox, Celtics, Patriots and University of Miami fan. Last one threw you off a bit, but it’s true. I grew up hating and I mean hating the Lakers, Yankees, Notre Dame, the Miami Dolphins and more. Not just the teams, the players too. Things changed when I started photographing sports. The hate no longer was there.
Yes photographing sports humanized the players for me. I no longer saw Kobe Bryant or Lebron James as “the enemy,” or the Miami Dolphins as the arch rival of the Patriots. Now that doesn’t mean I’m going to wear the aqua and teal colors of Miami any time soon. I guess it might be a combination of getting old and photographing sports that my perspective has changed.
What has really changed is that over the years I’ve gotten to know these players and interact with them not only on a professional level, but also a personal one as well. I’ve had the chance to talk and photograph them without a uniform on and just photograph and talk to the person they are. I didn’t see the defensive tackle trying sack Tom Brady, I saw the guy who volunteers his time to helping kids make better life choices or I saw the team constantly help out their community in their time of need.
Yes there are players and teams people love to hate and hate for the mere fact that they don’t play for their favorite team. I can hear the rabidness calls and hoots and hollers from the stands. Throwing their vile hate towards the players and teams. Not only was I a fan, I was also the president of the player hating. Now when I hear the boos and what not I wonder if they would still boo if they got the chance to know these players or the personnel that works for the teams?
I am afforded the luxury of being around these players way before the fans even enter the stadium. I see all their pre-game rituals, I see them interacting with their “opponents,” but mostly I see people getting ready to do their job. No longer are they just a player on the other team, their a person going to work to provide for their family just like me. With the obvious exception I don’t make millions, but that day is coming my friend.
If I never had the chance to be a sports photographer I probably would still be one of those crazy fans. Now that these players see me on a regular basis, its a quick hello or fist bump etc. There are some players who I have conversations with and who reach out via social media or text.
I know not everyone has the opportunity to photograph sports. I get it and maybe that is why they will never get the chance to truly know these players. Listen, not every player is likable or approachable and I respect that, buy I can no longer say I hate so and so because they’re a Yankee or Dolphin. It would be childish of me to do so and photographing sports is the reason why I’ve changed and changed for the better.