Drew Brees lifts son Baylen after Super Bowl XLIV victory and Porter’s game changing interception (Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
Tracy Porter #22 of the New Orleans Saints intercepts a ball and thrown by Peyton Manning #18 of the Indianapolis Colts and returns it for a touchdown in the fourth quarter during Super Bowl XLIV on February 7, 2010 at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
Super Bowl XLIV was all ‘dat and then some! After spending much of the week hanging in South Florida, watching all the nonstop ESPN analysis of the Colts v Saints, I was more than ready to shoot the game. Other than one gig for one of my favorite commercial clients the NFL Players Association, who hosts one of the better parties during Super Bowl week, I had a fairly quiet time leading up to the big game as most of the work and planning was done weeks before. In the much-anticipated match-up between the two high-powered offenses led by the two best quarterbacks in the NFL, the game looked to be an exciting shootout between Brees and Manning.
Halftime Show with the Who (Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
Part of a stellar Getty photography crew, I was one of 16 photographers (12 sport/4 entertainment), 9 photo editors, and 11 photo messengers, with every angle and detail was covered. I was positioned as one of 5 on-field photographers and was honored and flattered that the team had faith that I deserved to be there even as a non-staffer. Every photo position is important to the whole operation and until the end of the game you never know where the best angle will come from for the “moneyshot”, and that’s what makes its exciting to be anywhere in the stadium. (See shot by Jed Jacobsohn of the key Porter interception to ice the game, with Manning on his wallet, that ran on every A-1 nationwide)
The game started as most predicted with the Colts’ D smothering a nervous Brees offense, and Manning looked like he was getting all the time in the world to score at will to all his weapons. After the Colts stopped the Saints on a 4 and 1 (after 4 run plays???), it looked like things were heading toward an Indy blowout. But in a turn of events, momentum shifted in favor of the Saints. They somehow managed to hit a field goal to end the 1st half, as the youngster Hartley was money hitting three 40+ yard field goals in the game. I’m not sure if everyone was lulled into sleep by the halftime show, but cagey Coach Peyton used it to his advantage calling a ballsy onside kick that they recovered to start the 2nd half, while the half-time crew was practically still pulling the stage off the field. And then finally late in the game going for a 2-point conversion which was converted after a review. After the Saints scored to make it 31-17, the final minutes and the Colts last futile drive really didn’t matter, as the celebration in the French Quarter and the Who Dat Nation had already begun.
Ashton Kuchar trying to figure out how to be a sports photographer while Demi Moore looks on from the sidelines… (Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
I had the assignment of following a losing Peyton Manning off the field (win or lose), which didn’t go well as he was visibly upset walking off the field even before time expired, not even stopping to the customary post-game handshake with Drew Brees’. Having my shutter bumped to a 5th of a second in the crowd didn’t help my chances of making a frame either. I’ve been involved in several post-game scrums on filed, but this one definitely ranked as one of the worst. Not for the claustrophobic or faint of heart, you usually find yourself in a moving wave of hundreds of photographers, angry security, video crew for the networks, film crew for Disneyland, and others who probably shouldn’t be on the field (i.e. James Carville and Spike Lee) pushing and shoving to get to the athletes and coaches. At one point, a group of photographers fell down and got trampled, and others were trapped by the rushing wave following Brees and security guards holding a useless rope that was clotheslining everyone at the neck.
Being from San Diego and covering every home Charger game, I have always been a Drew Brees fan and thought that the Chargers never should have let him go even with the shoulder injury. But I guess when your starter sustains a possibly career ending injury and makes less than his back up, it leaves the front office with only one decision to make. With that said, I couldn’t be happier for a Quarterback and a city that came back from the brink, to find themselves as World Champions where they belong. One of the most touching moments of the night happened a couple feet in front of me when Drew lifted his son from the arms of his wife, and with tears welling up in his eyes kissed and hugged him.
(Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
As my customary regiment at a Super Bowl, I tried to weasel my way into the winning locker room, which is always a crap-shoot but an endeavor which I’ve had success with in the past. As I followed the Coach Peyton and Lombardi trophy into the Saints locker room, I got to the door where security guards would either let you pass unnoticed or grab you by the collar and say beat it. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m a short 5’7”, say the right thing at the right time, or just keep my head down and look like I belong, but we again strolled right past security with the trophy, and found ourselves in the locker-room again. My runner/helper John Salmon, who did an unbelievable shadowing me the entire night, couldn’t believe we were in. About 10 minutes into it, one of the Saint PR guys told us that we probably had to leave, and after pleading my case to him for about 5 minutes he didn’t seem like he was going to change his mind. But he softened his grip after the gracious team photographer Michael C. Hebert said it was cool that I was in there, and he saw me chatting with starting Linebacker and all-around good guy Scott Fujita (whom I’ve kept in contact with after shooting him in New York last summer for the NFL Players Ad Campaign). Being in there with the players was such a special moment that most of the time I watched and soaked in the scene, only shooting sparingly
as not to take away from it. This is why I love shooting football and I love the Super Bowl.
Scott Fujita #55 of the New Orleans Saints and family celebrate
(Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
After about 8 hours of running around with cameras on shoulders, I caught the last media bus back to the media center, had a drink with the crew at Irish Pub across the street from my hotel, and went back to the hotel and packed my bags. By the time I was done with that it was about 4:30am and only had a couple hours until my flight. I jumped in the cab to the Fort Lauderdale Airport and fell asleep for a about 15 minutes.
The cabby with an undecipherable accent woke me up when we arrived at F.L.A.and asked “What airline are you on man?”
To which I answered, “United…”
“United doesn’t fly out of Fort Lauderdale” he replied.
I checked my itinerary in my bag and said, “Oh shit, my flight is out of Miami!!!”
“No worries man, we’ll get you there in time…”
30 minutes later with a large fare on the meter we were there. I whisked through the Premier Executive lines, which was a huge time saver, and jumped in my bulkhead window seat. In about 8 hours after a connection I would be home in beautiful San Diego, would have about 24 hours to unpack and repack the bags, hang out with the family and head back to the airport to leave for the Vancouver Olympics for three weeks. Aahhh, the joys of being a sports photographer…