In all the realm of photography, we have to believe there is no heartier breed than the football cameraman. Good football photographers are not just picture-takers, they are commandos trained and able to move quickly, to think ahead—to anticipate—and, in the ice-bucket days of November and December, to endure. If they cannot do these things then they are not good football photographers. We have never lost a football photographer, and we have gained literally thousands of excellent football photographs (as you can see in the color portfolio of some of the outstanding players of the forthcoming college season beginning on page 26). Assuming that we never will lose one, we allow our photo editors great latitude in testing the mettle—and the wind—of the men they assign to Saturday's games.
On a typical big-college football weekend—say, for example, Michigan against Minnesota in Minneapolis—we are likely to want fast color, color pictures that will appear in the very next issue. Initially, that means a chartered plane from Minneapolis to Chicago to get the photographer and his pictures to the color-processing lab by early evening. It is taken for granted when a photographer is assigned to a game that he will familiarize himself with the personnel of both teams. After that, he might get the following directions: "Watch the Michigan quarterback and right end on offense, the center linebacker on defense. Minnesota plays a rushing game, so concentrate on the fullback and left half. Watch for the key play; be alert for an interception because the Minnesota secondary is very quick. Use Ektachrome X in the first half, but you may have to switch to High Speed if the light fades in the third quarter. Take your sequence camera. Try to get some good sideline drama, crying cheerleaders and that sort of thing, and see if you can pick out Bronko Nagurski in the stands. We know there'll be 63,000 people there, but see if you can find him. Oh, yes, it's snowing in Minneapolis, but the weather bureau says it will be clear by game time and temperatures up into the 20s."
The things that have happened in the past, and that will happen again on these assignments, are not the things that make a photographer easy to live with. Film freezes and cracks while he is loading his camera. He cannot possibly work with gloves on, so his hands freeze, too. He develops housemaid's knee crouching on the sidelines and burns his lungs running up and down the field trying to anticipate the play. He gets knocked down by end sweeps when he has waited too long to bail out because he has the ballcarrier right there in the view-finder, and his 50 pounds of equipment go sprawling. If it is cold enough his sequence camera will slow down from 2½ frames a second to a virtual time exposure and, therefore, will be useless. At a night game he will have trouble using the necessary long lens, because the light is usually not strong enough. Then, ultimately, he will be far on the other side of the field when the Minnesota halfback intercepts the pass and runs 99 yards to the winning touchdown. He will miss the picture, but we will not worry. The other photographer (or photographers) assigned to the game will be on top of the play. You cannot take chances when you photograph college football.