In the baseball movie, “The Rookie,” Jimmy, the lead character played by Dennis Quaid, is an aging high school science teacher who also coaches the school’s baseball team. On a dare from his players, he tries out for pro ball, and actually lands a minor league contract. At one point in the movie, after another hot, dusty, all night ride in the team’s crummy old bus, as they are getting dressed to play another meaningless minor league game in another crummy minor league stadium, Jimmy looks at one of the other players, and says:
“You know what we get to do today, Brooks? We get to play baseball.”
I was reading a post by a sports photographer the other day. He had posted a shot from a major league baseball spring training game. In that post, he mentioned that he really liked spring training because he didn’t have stay for the whole game, something he was going to have to do once the regular season started.
My first thought, my last thought, and my still-thinking-it thought was, “You ungrateful little @#$%#@#%!! I know dozens of photographers who would gladly stay for the whole game.”
Of course, I know all about deadlines, and how much work it is to go to the stadium a couple of hours early to set up remote cameras, which of course have to be taken down again after the game.
I’m sorry, but I have no sympathy for people who don’t want to stick around till the bitter end and then complain about a couple hours work. None.
Before I retired and was able to turn my attention to photography full time, I was, among other things, a theatrical technician. I worked backstage on some pretty big productions. In the early 1980’s, when I was about this young man’s age, I toured with a Broadway show as a member of the crew.
On that particular show, we had several 18-wheel semi trailers full of stuff — lighting, sound, scenery, props, costumes— that had to be unloaded and set up in every theater we played. It took 4 DAYS to do that. Not a couple of hours before the gig. Four 10-hour DAYS. Once set up, we did 8 shows every 7 days, which meant at least one “double header” (to relate back to baseball) — 2 shows in one day, each about as long as a 9 inning baseball game. Then, at the end of the week, we had to take all that gear down and put it back in the trucks, so we could move to the next city and do it all over again. That tear down alone took 6 to 8 hours.
I did this on that show every single week, not for the 6 months of a baseball season, but for 14 continuous, non-stop months. Without ever getting to go home. If I wanted to see my family, they had to come to me, wherever I was. I’ve known people on similar shows to go through all that for 3 or 4 YEARS.
Don’t want to stay for the whole game? Can’t wait for the season to end because you’ve been working your can off? No sympathy here.
But let’s take it back to sports.
I have a friend who is what is referred to as an “A-1.” Audio 1. Head Audio Engineer. He works for Fox Sports and ESPN mixing sound for football and basketball.
But it’s not just sitting in the truck running sliders up and down. It’s showing up at the stadium or arena a couple of days ahead of the game, and running miles and miles of cable, setting up any number of mics, making sure it all works, making sure the commentators’ headsets and mics all work. Yes, he has a 2 or 3 man crew, but once the game starts, those guys are running the parabolas, chasing down glitches, and all that, while my friend sits in the truck, mixing it all together so the fans at home will be able to hear the game and everything that goes with it.
Oh, and did I mention, that unlike this photographer, my friend and his crew also deal with the pre- and post-game shows? So it’s not just sticking around for the end of the game, then packing up a couple of remote cameras. It’s much more than that. I have never heard him complain. About anything.
We have been given a gift. Two gifts, actually. First, we are lucky enough to be able to look through a viewfinder and see a great photo, then capture it. That alone takes considerable skill and talent.
The other gift is to be able to make money doing what we love. Some are lucky enough to make a darn good living at photography.
I am reminded of something that I became very, very aware of through my many friends in show business —
For every person you see on TV or in the movies or on a stage, there are 100, if not 1000, who never got the break that star got. They worked just as hard. They are just as talented. They just never got the break.
This applies to photographers, too. For every professional photographer shooting a major league game, there are probably 100 or more other photographers who are just as good and work just as hard, but never got the big break.
You think it was hard work and talent alone that got you where you are? No. You were given a gift. Whether you believe in a higher power or not, you were given a gift. The gift of being able to shoot photos for a living in “the big time."
If you are fortunate enough, as Jimmy was toward the end of “The Rookie,” to go to The Show, be grateful. Be thankful. Because if you complain about having to do the job that was given to you, the job you WANTED, the job you worked so hard to get, then remember — there are at least 100 people standing behind you, willing, eager, and fully capable of taking your place in a heartbeat.
Be grateful. By the way, you know what we get to do today? We get to shoot photographs . . .