Tuesday, January 31, 2006
I think it's important to state here that this project isn't really a "sports photo" project, something that could easily be overlooked by those looking for more conventional photo-journalistic coverage. Rather, I think of them as images of our culture through the lens of small town football and that's why I've included images and essays of referees, the towns, the coaches, the gridiron settings and even the happy and sour fans who attend. Some of it's flattering, some of it not. I know everyone won't be happy with my approach, but that happens when one takes on a complex and emotional subject like high school football.
Friday, January 13, 2006
It wasn’t much. Even if I had known it was coming I’m not sure how I would have captured the moment with a camera. Nevertheless, it was something I’ll never forget.
The starters for the Montana Class C Eight-Man Championship game were being introduced. Both teams undefeated; the Drummond Trojans vs. the visiting Panthers from Park City. Each team lined up near the middle of the field about 20 yards apart. As each starter was introduced, he would pop out of the lineup, run down to one end and then run the entire length of the lineup, tapping the hand of everyone on his team—kind of like a “low five.” The starter would reach the coaches at the other end and after giving them five, they would run to the center of the field and shake hands with a starting member of the other team. Pretty simple and once you’ve seen this, they all seem the same.
But today there was a subtle difference. Chase Reynolds the starting tailback and middle linebacker for the Drummond Trojans was finally being introduced. Reynolds had been starting in both positions since his sophomore year and earned all state honors all three years. Today would be the last time he was introduced at Drummond’s field in the blue and white of a Trojan uniform.
He ran through the lineup like everyone else. I was positioned near the end of the line by the coaches photographing each starter’s approach. Once my camera’s memory was filled with images, I pulled it away from my eye as he neared the coaches. Now in front of head coach Jim Oberweiser, he clutched the coaches hand for a brief handshake and through his buckled helmet and gridded face-mask gave the coach a pronounced wink of confidence. It was one of those moments where time stood still. I doubt many people saw it. Yet, like a complex artwork that is often interpreted differently by everyone who looks at it—that one wink spoke volumes.
As I saw it, perhaps coach Oberweiser was a typical coach—worried about how the game would turn out no matter how much talent his kids possessed. And there was Reynolds—grown up for the most part now. Well beyond the pure talent of his sophomore year that earned him a starting position. Now there was a sense of seasoning—call it maturity. As a senior he had evolved into the hardened, battle-tested general who had just come from the field and was now heading back into another battle one last time. He had seen it all and his mission was nearly over. With that wink, came a message to his commanding officer, “Don’t worry sir, we’ll get the job done today. It’s business as usual.”
And so it was—business as usual that day. Reynolds and his fellow Trojans marched into the record books—easily disposing of previously undefeated Park City to the tune of 54-0. Two years ago Drummond had won their first state title in football. Not one game was lost between that first title season and the title they claimed against Park City. In fact, they were never seriously challenged during those three seasons—not one game’s outcome was ever in doubt when the Trojans lined-up for their introductions.