The December night air was brisk and teeming with anticipation. The scent of different meats cooking on open flames engrossed the stadium parking lots. A sea of red, blue, teal and orange jerseys converged on Hard Rock Stadium; here to witness the impending battle of two NFL teams that harkens back to the old, Roman gladiator days. Monday night football has it’s own unique aura about it. It’s own mystique where legends and heroes are created. And then there is me, a sports photographer photographing the Patriots, my hometown team, against the Miami Dolphins for Monday night supremacy.
Walking through the under belly of the stadium, the sense that I was going to be photographing the Patriots, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, was slowly creeping in. How often does one get to be on the same field as their favorite team documenting their every move with my camera and lens?
Players and media passed me by as I descended out through the tunnel and onto the field at Hard Rock Stadium. Bright lights, elaborate stages and cameras adorned the sidelines. The sheer magnitude of the impending game was becoming apparent. This wasn’t just a regular season game, it was a Monday Night game. It meant more. Celebrities, retired players and recognizable media members move along the edges as fans clamor and shout their names out hoping for a brief second of acknowledgement. A story to tell their friends and family of how someone famous, perhaps a onetime hero of theirs, took the time to make their day albeit even if it was a momentary gesture. A gesture that fan would cherish for days to come.
As I maneuver through the tangled cables of lights and cameras I made my way down to the Patriots sideline ready for the chance to catch players running out through the tunnel to warm up on the field. Behind me eager fans chant out the players names, offering their well wishes for a great game. And then a thunderous roar echoes from the far side of the stadium. Tom Brady. The greatest of all time, hero to some, villain to others jogs down the sideline to the awaiting crowd and acknowledges them.
One by one, players from both team make their way out onto the field. Some greeted each one other, others were so focused that nothing around them mattered except the impending battle. The slamming of helmets and pads. The jubilant cheers and the deep sighs. Monday night football.
One could get lost in all the sights and sounds of the game, but I’m use to it. I’m more focused on fighting for the little real estate that available for the numerous photographers along the sidelines. I’m there to capture the action, the highs and the lows. I’m running from end-zone to end-zone dodging players, team officials, ESPN camera crews and security along the way. The game I engage in on the sidelines trying to anticipate the next play or where the ball will be thrown to feels at times more tedious than the game being played between the hash marks.
As a fan, one could feel a sense of bitter disappointment that my team lost. My head could swing low with shame enduring the taunts and gestures from the fans of the victorious team, but it was held high. I was there photographing Monday Night Football. I was there photographing the Patriots. I was there photographing the Dolphins. I was there and my photos are the undeniable truth I was there. For one night I was on the same field as my heroes. For one night I captured a lifetime of wishes, hopes and dreams of fans longing for the opportunity to be in such close proximity as their favorite players. The life of a sports photographer is an envious job to some, but I job that wouldn’t take for granted.
Some people will remember the score. Some will remember a catch or a touchdown, but I will remember it all for I have it captured in my photos.