I thought it might be a good idea to introduce this blog post by asking a question I already know the answer to, for the most part. What is it about shooting sports that appeals so much to me? It's a valid question and one that I’ve mulled over for about a year now, maybe less, maybe longer, I can’t tell. I have had a very long and strangely personal relationship to the sporting world, having played the majority of them to varying capacities, and enjoying the spectacle and stature, the theatre of the game. Photographing it all feels different, though. I think I know why.
On Saturday we arrived in Oxford, Mississippi. Texas was playing Ole Miss for the first time ever in their home stadium, and the air felt electric. The fans were clearly in the mood, a chorus of support ringing from every corner of the stadium, even before all the seats were filled. We watched from the press box as the crowd ebbed and flowed, waves of sound and light: and there we were high above them, in a mutual silence of understanding. There we were. It’s a pity the game was a snooze. Nevertheless, hours before, Elisabeth, Andrew, and I pulled into the final media parking spot on the Ole Miss campus and got to work slinging cameras and lenses over our bodies, consolidating bags, checking card functions; it might have looke like we were preparing for war. It didn’t bother me that the entire photo editing staff had left the office to its own devices for the day. It would be just fine without us. We packed up and moved onward. Always moving onward.
When the game ended some hours later, I felt the usual dissatisfaction that has accompanied the end of every sporting event I’ve covered. No matter how well you do you’ll never be remotely satisfied. It’s almost a rule. This occasion was no different. A stream of thoughts over the shots you missed, the shots you actually didn’t even bother taking, how you were positioned, whether you had the right gear, what to change for next time. All of these things, like clockwork, coming back around in their familiar design. And yet, in all that familiarity something changed, something felt new. It maintained a distance, but it was new.
The stadium had cleared out by the time we exited the photo workroom to head back up to the pressbox in search of refreshments. The trash remained, though. The endless rows of half-empty popcorn boxes, pizza crusts, hamburger halves, bottles of whiskey (really). And on our way back we stopped to lie down in the middle of the field as ground crews plodded on nearby so that we might stare up at the night sky that had “so much light pollution you couldn’t see a damn thing” but in the same way it was still beautiful and pure. It was one of those moments that is done in jest but I knew I would never forget it. I rarely do.
Working at The Texan gives you a place, an open arena, to create whatever you want, so long as it’s honest. What more could you ask for during your time at University? It gives you credibility, access, support, teams of like-minded individuals, passionate people who know just as well as you do that they are there because they need it to simply be, it can be so ingrained in us. In November of 2010 I walked around West Campus with my brand new 5D MKII camera and was stung by the incredible notion that I had no idea what to do with it. 2 years later and I unequivocally cannot even fathom what I would have done or where I wouldbe without the people I have met here, and without all of the avenues The Daily Texan has offered, the doors that spring wide open so long as you’re willing to work hard. If not, it’s just another blip in the ether- like anything in that regard, I suppose. But if you put in as much as you can I’ll be damned if you don’t find your avenue. Not your eternal path or something mystical or biblical in that sense, but a piece of what will help define your time, this time, here now. For now.
And there it was. One of the few things I’ve seen that I desperately wanted to call my own. I’ve already said that there is something about sports that pulls me in, wrapping me in a tight vise of nostalgia, the freedom of childhood, the theatre of awe, the way time seems to stop for so many when something pivotal happens. A catch. The Catch. You know what I mean. When the Tennessee Titans lost the 2000 Super Bowl by a yard after Kevin Dyson was tackled near the goal line when time expired I pushed the small television off its stand and stormed out of the room. When the Patriots lost in 2007, need I describe it any more, I punched a hole in the upstairs bathroom wall. I sat in our living room in 2008, arms folded, and stared at the wall for an hour after the Lakers blew a 24 point lead to the Celtics on their way to losing that years finals. I don't want to talk about the 2012 Super Bowl. Chaos.
But then there was the time where I ran down the streets of West London at night screaming, jumping in delight when Liverpool stormed back to beat AC Milan in the 2005 Champions League Final. Or when I tore the door of my friends apartment open and yelled into the cool air in hysteria when the Lakers finally exorcised that abysmal 2008 nightmare and beat the Celtics in Game 7, 2010. Tracy McGrady versus the Spurs? Laughing out loud when Kobe scored 81. Or even “it’s the last play of the rivalry!”, because hell, we were right there on the field. It means something.
So when the game hadn’t even started and the crowd rose to sing God Bless America in unity, a sight to behold no matter what your nationality, and when we finally left the stadium behind at one in the morning to do the unthinkable and drive straightthrough I finally came to terms with what I had subconsciously been thinking for the past 6 months, or year. The same feeling I might have first felt in 2011 when I watched Tristan Thompson and Co. running around against Arizona in the NCAA Tournament on tv and feeling a very real sense loss that I, who had covered them for a week previously at the Big 12 Championships, was not there with them anymore. We had our time, it ended, something new would come, but that part was done. They lost on a fluke and the season was over. Then Myck Kabongo arrived and the whole thing started again. It all started with Kabongo maybe. That’s a cryptic little piece of info I’m going to leave hanging in the air.
“I guess this is the last time Lawrence and I get to shoot football anyways,” Andrew mentioned to Elisabeth in the car. How true, I thought, how true and how sad. Not just within the idea that this is our last opportunity to cover UT sports as undergrad photographers, but that it will no doubt be the last time WE, we, that togetherness, will cover these games. That is what I realized, and came to believe had known for some time. Sports and photography may be there for me, us, whoever, in the future in some capacity, but this won’t be, this specific form of sports media, and that’s both the crux and the most sublime beauty of it. Of everything in life. Of everything we do at this organization, not just sports. Whether it be in video, design, writing, we all know we are part of a bigger whole. And yet it's temporary. It’s what nostalgia is built upon, the irreplaceability of a unique time or past. Temporality realized. It comes and goes so quick, but can last in the mind for so long. Always changing, always evolving, moving forward, I may have mentioned. So much spectacle, so much emotion, for such a fleeting physical moment whose memory feels etched into your vision, burned into your sight. The screaming, the lights, the fluid movement, chaotic madness made still, the players, the history. The stadiums.
Oh, the stadiums.
I took the only photos I liked before the game even started, in the case of Andrew writing in our hotel room, before we even got to the stadium. Of course there is also a photo of backs because I just love taking photos of backs. It’s seeing what they see and what you see, double vision. A spectacle thing, and one that made me realize, the whole purpose of this post, that this truly is temporary, emphasized when you experience these kinds of things with other people right there with you. The Texan as a whole is like that. The game will end. The semester will vanish. The year will, too. And instead of resting on your fragile laurels, borne from entitlement and arrogance or whatever you want to believe prevents you from doing your best work, the time comes when you simply must realize that time isn’t the enemy when you can beat it to the punch and manipulate it for all it’s worth. The Texan will let you do that. It gives you every single fathomable thing you need to expand your horizon, may you waste it at your own will, to no ones fault but your own. What an incredible thought. Autonomy is real, you know. I've seen it. I've wasted it, too.
“Something good will come of all things yet.”
And when it does, I know who - all of the incredible people I work with every day - and what, I’ll have to thank.
I’ll miss it so much. I already do.
Lawrence Peart is a senior in International Relations and American Studies, and current Photo Editor at The Daily Texan.