John Biever. Walter Iooss. Mickey Palmer. Tony Tomsic.
Unless you are a hardcore sports fan -- or a fan of SI's swimsuit issue, in Iooss’ case -- the names above are unlikely to be very familiar to you. But this quartet of men share an amazing sports streak: They are the only photographers to shoot all 48 Super Bowl games.
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This small and most exclusive club will be featured in an ESPN Films and NFL Films documentary entitled “Keepers Of The Streak,” airing Friday at 7 p.m. ET. Director and producer Neil Leifer (who knows a thing or two about sports photography) has composed a delicious-looking love-letter for the four lensmen, and it’s a must-watch for sports media junkies and fans of Sports Illustrated photography alike.
The doc opens with a beautiful shot of all four men meeting at the 50-yard line of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, site of the first Super Bowl on Jan. 15, 1967, and we quickly learn how each entered the business. (Biever’s father, Vernon, the longtime team photographer of the Packers, got his son a sideline pass to shoot the first Super Bowl when John was just 15 years old.) Throughout the film, Leifer shows the quartet working at last year’s Super Bowl in New Jersey, and it provides an honest look at sports photographers that we don’t often see. We learn of the near-misses to the streak over the years, including Palmer checking himself out of the hospital following a heart attack prior to Super Bowl X to make the game.
But the doc is most interesting looking at the past. For the NFL-AFL Championship in 1967, the NFL handed out 338 media credentials, with about 75 percent of those credentials going to print journalists. Palmer was working for Look Magazine at the time; Iooss was shooting for Sports Illustrated. "The game had no sense of pregame drama," said Iooss. "It was setup in a stadium too big."
GALLERY: Four who photographed every Super Bowl
Four Who Photographed Every Super Bowl
Super Bowl XLVIII, Feb. 2, 2014: Seattle 43, Denver 8, at East Rutherford
Michael Bennett forces a fumble by Peyton Manning in Seattle's lopsided victory over the Denver Broncos.
Super Bowl XLVII, Feb. 3, 2013: Baltimore 34, San Francisco 31, at New Orleans
Anquan Boldin made six catches for 106 yards and a touchdown as the Ravens won the second Super Bowl title in franchise history.
Super Bowl XLVI, Feb. 5, 2012: N.Y. Giants 21, New England 17, at Indianapolis
Giants defenders Kenny Phillips (21), Jacquian Williams (57) and Deon Grant (34) break up a Hail Mary pass intended for Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez.
Super Bowl XLV, Feb. 6, 2011: Green Bay 31, Pittsburgh 25, at Arlington
Diyral Briggs of the Green Bay Packers delivers the news via the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel after his team's win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Super Bowl XLIV, Feb. 7, 2010: New Orleans 31, Indianapolis 17, at Miami
Peyton Manning fell to 1-1 in Super Bowl appearances after he and the Colts were done in by a gutsy onsides kick by New Orleans to start the second half of Super Bowl XLIV.
Super Bowl XLIII, Feb. 1, 2009: Pittsburgh 27, Arizona 23, at Tampa
An exhausted James Harrison didn't have the energy to do anything else after returning an interception 100 yards for a score to end the first half of Pittsburgh's victory over Arizona.
Super Bowl XLII, Feb. 3, 2008: N.Y. Giants 17, New England 14, at Glendale
David Tyree's one-handed, helmet-aided catch on 3rd and long revived the Giants' game-winning drive in Super Bowl XLII.
Super Bowl XLI, Feb. 4, 2007: Indianapolis 29, Chicago 17, at Miami
Peyton Manning completed 25 of 38 passes for 247 yards, one touchdown and one interception to take home MVP honors against the Bears.
Super Bowl XL, Feb. 5, 2006: Pittsburgh 21, Seattle 10, at Detroit
Willie Parker set a Super Bowl record with his 75-yard scoring run, which gave Pittsburgh a 14-3 lead.
Super Bowl XXXIX, Feb. 6, 2005: New England 24, Philadelphia 21, at Jacksonville
The Patriots came up with three interceptions against Donovan McNabb and the Eagles en route to their third Super Bowl victory in four years.
Super Bowl XXXVIII, Feb. 1, 2004: New England 32, Carolina 29, at Houston
Tom Brady lead the Patriots in celebration at the conclusion of their victory over Carolina. The game was decided on a 41-yard field goal by Adam Vinatieri with four seconds remaining.
Super Bowl XXXVII, Jan. 26, 2003: Tampa Bay 48, Oakland 21, at San Diego
Joe Jurevicius stiff arms Tory James at Qualcomm Stadium.
Super Bowl XXXVI, Feb. 3, 2002: New England 20, St. Louis 17, at New Orleans
Adam Vinatieri kicks the game-winning field goal from 48 yards out to lift the Patriots over the Rams in the first Super Bowl played in a February.
Super Bowl XXXV, Jan. 28, 2001: Baltimore 34, N.Y. Giants 7, at Tampa
Jermaine Lewis sprints down the right sideline for an 84-yard kickoff return touchdown in the third quarter.
Super Bowl XXXIV, Jan. 30, 2000: St. Louis 23, Tennessee 16, at Atlanta
Kevin Dyson of the Tennessee Titans comes up short in his bid to score the winning touchdown as Mike Jones makes the tackle for the St. Louis Rams.
Super Bowl XXXIII, Jan. 31, 1999: Denver 34, Atlanta 19, at Miami
In the final game of his NFL career, John Elway, 38, became the oldest played to be named MVP of the game, completing 18 passes for 336 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He ran in for another score.
Super Bowl XXXII, Jan. 25, 1998: Denver 31, Green Bay 24, at San Diego
In his fourth try, John Elway finally won a Super Bowl, knocking off the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers in the process.
Super Bowl XXXI, Jan. 26, 1997: Green Bay 35, New England 21, at New Orleans
Desmond Howard became the first special teams player to take home the MVP trophy, this after a Super Bowl-record 90-yard punt return and a 99-yard kickoff return touchdown.
Super Bowl XXX, Jan. 28, 1996: Dallas 27, Pittsburgh 17, at Tempe
Rod Woodson (26) and Michael Irvin vie for the ball in the third Super Bowl meeting between Pittsburgh and Dallas. The loss was the Steelers first in a Super Bowl.
Super Bowl XXIX, Jan. 29, 1995: San Francisco 49, San Diego 26, at Miami
Steve Young threw a Super Bowl-record six touchdown passes against the Chargers.
Super Bowl XXVIII, Jan. 30, 1994: Dallas 30, Buffalo 13, at Atlanta
Emmitt Smith helped Dallas dominate the Buffalo Bills in a Super Bowl rematch, rushing for 132 yards and two touchdowns. Smith was named Super Bowl MVP as he and the Dallas Cowboys sent the Bills to their fourth straight Super Bowl defeat, 30-13.
Super Bowl XXVII, Jan. 31, 1993: Dallas 52, Buffalo 17, at Pasadena
Michael Irvin struts after catching a touchdown pass against Buffalo.
Super Bowl XXVI, Jan. 26, 1992: Washington 37, Buffalo 24, at Minneapolis
Ricky Sanders makes a catch against Mark Kelso of Buffalo.
Super Bowl XXV, Jan. 27, 1991: N.Y. Giants 20, Buffalo 19, at Tampa
Buffalo Bills kicker Scott Norwood sends his game-winning field goal attempt wide right, securing the New York Giants' 20-19 victory.
Super Bowl XXIV, Jan. 28, 1990: San Francisco 55, Denver 10, at New Orleans
San Francisco quarterback Joe Montana and Guy McIntyre celebrate during their 45 point win over Denver -- the most lopsided in Super Bowl history.
Super Bowl XXIII, Jan. 22, 1989: San Francisco 20, Cincinnati 16, at Miami
John Taylor catches a 10-yard pass with :34 left for the winning points against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Super Bowl XXII, Jan. 31, 1988: Washington 42, Denver 10, at San Diego
Doug Williams overcame this gruesome hit to finish with four touchdown passes and MVP honors as the Redskins overcame a 10-0 deficit.
Super Bowl XXI, Jan. 25, 1987: N.Y. Giants 39 Denver 20, at Pasadena
Carl Banks and the New York Giants' Blue Wrecking Crew defense held Gerald Wilhite and the Broncos to 10 second-half points on their way to a 39-20 victory -- the Giants' first ever in a Super Bowl.
Super Bowl XX, Jan. 26, 1986: Chicago 46, New England 10, at New Orleans
Chicago Bears defensive back Reggie Phillips raises his arms after returning an interception 28 yards for a touchdown against the New England Patriots. The Bears' innovative 46 defense dominated the game, registering seven sacks and allowing just seven rushing yards in the 46-10 win, while directly putting nine points on the board.
Super Bowl XIX, Jan. 20, 1985: San Francisco 38, Miami 16, at Stanford
Dan Marino absorbs a big hit from San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle Gary Johnson. Marino completed 29 of 50 passes for 318 yards and a touchdown but his Miami Dolphins fell 38-16.
Super Bowl XVIII, Jan. 22, 1984: L.A. Raiders 38, Washington 9, at Tampa
Derrick Jensen of Oakland blocks a punt by Washington's Jeff Hayes during the Raiders' blowout victory.
Super Bowl XVII, Jan. 30, 1983: Washington 27, Miami 17, at Pasadena
The Smurfs of the Washington Redskins celebrate after a touchdown. Washington scored 17 consecutive points in the second half to defeat the Miami Dolphins 27-17.
Super Bowl XVI, Jan. 24, 1982: San Francisco 26, Cincinnati 21, at Pontiac
San Francisco 49ers tight end Charles Young hangs on to a pass while being sandwiched between linebacker Jim LeClair and another Cincinnati Bengals defender. Young's grab went for a gain of 14 yards and helped set up the 49ers' first score in their 26-21 victory.
Super Bowl XV, Jan. 25, 1981: Oakland 27, Philadelphia 10, at New Orleans
Super Bowl MVP Jim Plunkett looks to pass against the Philadelphia Eagles. Plunkett threw for 261 yards on 13-of-21 passing with three touchdowns to guide the Oakland Raiders to a 27-10 victory.
Super Bowl XIV, Jan. 20, 1980: Pittsburgh 31, L.A. Rams 19, at Pasadena
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver John Stallworth hauls in a pass from Terry Bradshaw just beyond the outstretched fingers of Los Angeles Rams cornerback Rod Perry. Stallworth took the pass 73 yards to the end zone to give the Steelers the lead for good in their 31-19 win.
Super Bowl XIII, Jan. 21, 1979: Pittsburgh 35, Dallas 31, at Miami
Tony Hill scores a touchdown aganst the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Super Bowl XII, Jan. 15, 1978: Dallas 27, Denver 10, at New Orleans
Randy White (54) and Charlie Waters (41) ease up after having pressured Denver quarterback Craig Morton. White shared MVP honors with teammate Harvey Martin, which marked the first time a defensive lineman was named Super Bowl MVP.
Super Bowl XI, Jan. 9, 1977: Oakland 32, Minnesota 14, at Pasadena
Oakland's offense had a field day with the Vikings, setting a Super Bowl record with 429 yards of offense in the 32-14 win.
Super Bowl X, Jan. 18, 1976: Pittsburgh 21, Dallas 17, at Miami
Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end L.C. Greenwood takes down Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach. The Steelers' intimidating defense forced Staubach into three interceptions and sacked him seven times during Pittsburgh's 21-17 win.
Super Bowl IX, Jan. 12, 1975: Pittsburgh 16, Minnesota 6, at New Orleans
Jack Ham, Jack Lambert, Ernie Holmes and Dwight White of Pittsburgh's Steel Curtain defense swarm to Minnesota Vikings fullback Dave Osborn. Pittsburgh limited Minnesota to just 119 total offensive yards.
Super Bowl VIII, , Jan. 13, 1974: Miami 24, Minnesota 7, at Houston
Larry Csonka bulldozed his way to a record 145 yards rushing on 33 carries against the Vikings en route to becoming the first running back to be named Super Bowl MVP.
Super Bowl VII, Jan. 14, 1973: Miami 14, Washington 7, at Los Angeles
Miami Dolphins fullback Larry Csonka charges up the middle against the Washington Redskins. Csonka tallied 112 yards rushing on 15 carries to lead all rushers and spark Miami's 14-7 triumph.
Super Bowl VI, Jan. 16, 1972: Dallas 24, Miami 3, at New Orleans
Roger Staubach sets to pass against the Miami Dolphins. Although the Dallas Cowboys quarterback was outdueled by the Dolphins' Bob Griese in passing yards, Staubach claimed the more important victory, snapping the Cowboys' reputation for being unable to win important playoff games.
Super Bowl V, Jan. 17, 1971: Baltimore 16, Dallas 13, at Miami
Baltimore Colts rookie kicker Jim O'Brien boots a game-winning field goal with five seconds left over the outstretched arms of the Dallas Cowboys rush. O'Brien's field goal delivered the championship to Baltimore and broke a 13-13 tie.
Super Bowl IV, Jan. 11, 1970: Kansas City 23, Minnesota 7, at New Orleans
The Kansas Chiefs defense recovered two fumbles, made three interceptions and held the Minnesota Vikings to 67 yards rushing (172 passing), thanks in part to Buck Buchanan (86) and Curley Culp (61).
Super Bowl III, Jan. 12, 1969: New York Jets 16, Baltimore 7, at Miami
New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath looks downfield to pass against the Baltimore Colts. Broadway Joe's team backed up his victory guarantee as New York upset the heavily favored Colts 16-7. Namath completed 17 of 28 passes for 206 yards and was named Super Bowl MVP.
Super Bowl II, Jan. 14, 1968: Green Bay 33, Oakland 14, at Miami
Two weeks after defeating the Dallas Cowboys in the waning seconds of the Ice Bowl, Bart Starr and the Packers got past Oakland with ease in Super Bowl II, 33-14. Starr was again the MVP.
Super Bowl I, Jan. 15, 1967: Green Bay 35, Kansas City 10, at Los Angeles
Green Bay Packers quarterback Bart Starr lofts a pass in the first meeting of AFL and NFL champions, played Jan. 15, 1967. Starr's 250 yards passing and two touchdowns earned him Super Bowl MVP.
Still, Iooss landed the SI cover that week with a portrait of Packers wide receiver Max McGee.
The next year, Leifer (who shot 14 Super Bowls), took his most famous Super Bowl photo ever -- a shot of Jerry Kramer carrying Vince Lombardi off the field following Super Bowl II.
The most famous early game -- the Jets win over the Colts in Super Bowl III -- naturally gets a lot of attention. As SI’s senior photographer, Liefer was assigned the favored Colts during Super Bowl week, which meant Iooss was left with the AFL’s Jets.
"I got the secondary assignment," Iooss said. "Believe me, no one thought the Jets were doing to win."
But the Jets turned out to be the story and Iooss camped out at the Galt Ocean Mile Hotel in Fort Lauderdale where he shot some amazing shots of Namath walking on the beach.
"I remember Walter being there that day because he was a pain. He was all over with his camera, taking pictures," says Namath, in the film.
That week, Iooss ended up shooting one of the most iconic NFL photos of all time -- a confident Namath sitting poolside in Fort Lauderdale talking to reporters about why the Jets would win.
"The picture at the swimming pool prior to our Super Bowl, well, that turned out to me a memorable picture," Namath said. "Every time I look at it, it gives me good vibes."
The still photos in the documentary from the first 15 or so Super Bowl games are remarkable to see because you are seeing something you never see today -- sunlight. Iosss talked about how the shift to dome stadiums and kickoffs at night has eliminated the sky from Super Bowl photos. The game has also morphed into a mega-event, with more than 6,000 credentials handed out. Photographers can no longer shoot from behind the bench and they now work with digital cameras (Super Bowl 37 in 2002 was the first digital Super Bowl for Sports Illustrated.) Leifer shows Tomic limping to the field, at 78, as a symbol of forging on in the modern game. The film concludes with the four men -- all in their 70s except Biever -- vowing to continue the streak.