Shooting the end.
I’m currently sitting at a recharge kiosk by gate A12 at the Atlanta International Airport currently the busiest airport in the country. I have another 3 hours until my flight leaves headed west towards Las Vegas. I’ve decided to take this time to share my thoughts on how I captured Findlay’s second championship for The Season.
I learned my lesson from last year. NO TAPING ALLOWED IN THE ARENA! ESPN had that on lock which kinda hurt my plans during the first championship run. This year I knew going in that I wouldn’t be able to grab any game footage. It’s a shame really because ESPN rarely showed any of those highlights on Sportscenter choosing to go with additional Final Four coverage. I think there’s enough room to showcase all levels of basketball coverage. Especially a national tournament of this size. Especially a game shot by ESPN.
I watched the first three quarters from the stands like a fan. I actually had the TV cameras to my back so I probably didn’t get on TV. Besides, this side of the arena was practically empty. The opposite side consisted of people sitting behind their respective teams benches to cheer, get a free shirt and well, get on TV. It was refreshing to sit and just watch the guys for once. Shooting the Pilots and watching them are two different things. When I have the camera in my hand and I’m on the floor shooting for The Season, it’s not like I’m just enjoying the game. I’m working. You miss a lot of what’s going on when you’re doing that. So watching most of the championship game was fun. I was a fan.
At the start of the 4th quarter, I ran to the media room where my gear was stashed and loaded up my camera with a fresh DV tape. It’s moments like these that I really miss my Panasonic HVX200 which shot on P2 cards. It saves you a ton of time when you’re shooting on a flash drive format compared to tape. Imagine having to change rolls of film in a camera versus just shooting with a digital one. There’s this freedom you feel when you don’t have to worry about “running out”. Each DV tape is 60 minutes. And honestly that’s a long time until you look at the display inside the camera and it says “2 MIN”. I can’t think of anything worse than having 20 minutes of stuff to shoot with “2 MIN” left. It always seems like the best moments are happening during the 30 seconds you’re changing tapes. I try not to let stuff like that worry me because this is the equipment I have, and I’m blessed to have it.
I had been scouting out a spot right under the basket and near the bench during the 3rd quarter. It was a great position for me to watch the rest of the game and then be in a ideal spot to capture the moments of the winner or loser. From my new seat I had the kids that cleaned up the sweat spills with Gatorade towels on my right, and Cliff Findlay on my left.
Would you believe that in the two years of covering this team, I can count the times I’ve spoken with Cliff Findlay on one hand? Ha ha. The first time was at the end of the year banquet the Pilots had last year. Seeing him sitting there reminded me a lot of Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks. And I’m not talking about the Mark Cuban that gives NBA officials headaches by yelling at missed calls from the bench. Cliff Findlay and Mark Cuban are similar in that they’re “owners” that support. Just him sitting at the end of the bench watching kids run around with his name on their chests was good to see. Like Cuban, I don’t see him as a guy that just wants to sign the checks and have his secretary inform him on whether his team won. Cliff was at the game! Court side! He’s not a towel waver or someone that has rhythmic chants like Tristan Thompson’s Mom, but he’s present. That alone in my eyes is a lot more than many owners and athletic directors do.
The 4th quarter lasted forever. Personally I was hoping to see Henry and Nigel get some minutes at the end, but I know their time will come. Montverde didn’t want that clock to move. Foul after foul. Down by at least 12 with 20 seconds left, they were still fouling, making a game that was already over last an additional 5 minutes.
I was finally able to hit the record button as I saw a group of blue jerseys rush and jump to the middle of the court. Players screamed in each others arms and yelled to the sky as I surfed the wave of Pilots all over floor. Surprisingly to me, Coach Peck was just standing by the bench, expressionless. I was told by players at the hotel afterwards that he was “emotional”, but I didn’t see it. How does one react when they’re just too happy? What else is there to feel when you’ve reached the top? What do you say when there are no more words?
I battled a few photographers that I had made friends with in the media room for pictures along with the ESPN TV cameras. I’m sure I got in their way a few times trying to get a shot, but I didn’t care. Personally I was making up for NOT shooting last year. At Georgetown College, I kept my camera off for most of the celebration and regretted it later when I was editing. This year I told myself I would shoot first and ask questions later.
While I was interviewing Issiah Grayson from the 2008/09 team, the current champions disappeared from the court. Thinking I had some time, I ran over to the media room where the Montverde press conference was already in progress. This is one of those times where being by yourself during a championship game is tough. Decision decisions. Do I follow the Champions in the locker room? Or do I get audio and video of the losing team at the podium? I chose the latter thinking that the moments in the locker room would basically be a repeat of what happened on the court. Plus, I had already posted the press conference from both the winning and losing teams in the Semi Finals, I wanted to stay consistent with my coverage.
When Kevin Sutton and his team left the room, we were informed that the Findlay team would be in as soon as they finished talking with NBA guard Sam Cassell. Immediately an alarm in my system goes off like, “What?! Where!” I grabbed my camera and pushed my way out of the crowded room kinda looking aimlessly. I gave Coach Peck a look like, “Where’s the team?” With his jacket off, he looked completely worn out, as if a ton of 300lb lumberjacks had given him hearty pats on the backs. I turned to Coach Simon and he gestured out towards the double doors, “They’re in the Gatorade truck in the parking lot.” That’s part of the hard part about shooting The Season. I have one camera that can only point at one thing at a time. I’m constantly making content decisions on what I need to cover. There’s nobody around to tap me on the shoulder to say, “Donnie, you might want to get footage of this.”
Running. I was running. Where the energy had come from, I don’t know because the energy I gathered from the McDonald’s pancakes that morning surely was gone. I had to be running off the Lay’s Potato chips I had during the 1st quarter. If someone were to see me running outside of the concourse like this they’d probably assume something was wrong. Like I was chasing after my car that was being stolen. What was being stolen were my moments. As corny it may sound, moments are what turn an average episode in to something great to watch. I opened the door of the Gatorade truck and found an elaborate room. Along with a few other photographers, I began shooting Sam Cassell sort of preaching to the guys about team work and what it takes to be a champion. It was dark and hot (or maybe I was just hot from all the running).
I stayed with the guys until they appeared in the media room for their press conference. It seemed a bit more crowded than before, but I could have been wrong. If I had a still camera with me, I would have taken a few shots of the room from the players perspective.
Outside of the media room were tons of people from family to even more reporters and bloggers. Pictures from point and shoot digital cameras were going off. I caught up with Tristan’s Mom and interviewed her (which should go nice with the b-roll footage I (snuck) shot of her cheering during the game. I talked to Cory’s brother for a minute which might work nice in Episode #13. Now that I’m typing this, I should have got a broad shot of the area just to give people an idea of congregation of people.
Finally there was a calmness. The players were getting dressed and most of the people outside started to leave. I took this time to try to get some pictures up on the blog. I knew the Las Vegas Review Journal and Las Vegas Sun wouldn’t have the content I had, so getting anything uploaded would have been good. It was at this point that I realized that this entire process was a lot of fun. Outside of the game footage ban by ESPN, I captured a lot of great footage. No, let me take that back. I captured a lot of great moments that will produce some great upcoming episodes.