I’ve been using a camera for a portion of my livelihood for the better part of the last 20 years, and I have never seen more parents where they just are not supposed to be.
There is one Bethlehem parent who insists on being in the penalty box at hockey games. I’m not sure what’s harder to believe — that someone lets a hockey mom hang out in the penalty box to take pictures, or the hockey mom has the audacity to do it.
What if other parents wanted to? What if 10 parents wanted to? Should the players sit in the bleachers so the parents can sit on the bench and take photos unobscured by the safety glass? Maybe the parents can strap on a pair of skates and photograph games from the ice — gonzo style.
There are hockey parents from CBA and Shaker/Colonie who carry cameras while they work the door of the penalty box — if you don’t know, the home team has a volunteer in each box opening the door for players who are told to take a break for committing one infraction or another. But not the mom from Bethlehem. She is just there taking pictures.
There is another Bethlehem parent who admitted to me he has a fake press pass so he, presumably, can get on the sidelines and photograph his daughter playing lacrosse.
This is a grown man, a supposed upstanding member of the community, admitting he sneaks onto the sidelines just photograph his daughter playing a high school sport.
I said to him one day how there was a time when parents were not allowed where he was standing at just that moment. He said, quite unabashedly, something like: “That time is probably now, but I’m not going anywhere until someone tells me different.” Then boasted about how the athletic director in East Greenbush told him to back off.
Again, a grown man. A high school sport. A fake press pass. I used to sneak into football games … when I was 14.
I have to wonder, and still wonder, if the games are about the kids or the parents with cameras.
If you go to any football game it’s like everyone in town who has a camera is on the sidelines. Shaker High is, by far, the worst. But they are at any sport at any school. They end lines of basketball games are sometimes busier than those at the concession stand.
What if all the parents in the bleachers who have a cell phone want to come stand on the sidelines and take photos and cheer on the team from there. Actually, why even bother with sidelines … just stand at back 10 or so yards from the ball and click away.
I can see a couple reasons for what is going on.
One is relatively inexpensive, higher quality gear. Literally, anyone with a few bucks can become a decent photographer if they are in the right place and have a somewhat decent eye.
There was an old photographer at The Record, who used to say: “Photo by Nikon” or “Canon” or “Sony” and then “held by” whoever shelled out big bucks for it.
Spend $2,000, put it on program, point and shoot and you too are a “photographer.”
The second is the money involved in high school sports. Look at any program and you will see a huge list of businesses being “thanked” by the team. The business gets its name out there by sponsoring a good cause, and the team gets who knows what.
It really is a gray area, and I don’t know if there is an official record of how much money is donated for the advertisement, or where the money goes.
Safe to say, I bet a coach would be hard pressed telling the proprietor of a law firm to get back in the bleachers after the school — or the booster club — just cashed one of his checks.
So why is it bad, you may ask.
Well, for starters, I was covering a Guilderland football game last fall when a young, strong, fast athlete got knocked out of bounds and took the legs right out from under a football mom taking photos from the sidelines.
She popped right up, but was admittedly sore, and I bet she was even more sore the next day and probably for a week.
What if she broke her leg? Or more seriously hurt than that? Would she turn around and sue the school district? What if her cameras got trashed? Would she demand a replacement?
Maybe there is a stash of cash somewhere from the checks mentioned above for just such an occasion.
I know, as a working member of the press, I am covered by workers comp and I know my boss would pick up at least a portion of whatever damage was done to my gear. Most importantly, after a number of close calls, I know how to stay out of the way.
I’m not saying the football mom sued, or her cameras were damaged. And I’m not saying she donated to the Booster Club. What I am saying is she didn’t belong where she was, and the districts are just asking for trouble by allowing it.
A shot here and there is fine and expected. I’m sure parents are proud of their kids, and want to memorialize certain events in their young lives. But some of these parents are spending the entire game where they are not supposed to be taking frame after frame of who knows what.
I know the refs don’t like it. I’m willing to bet the coaches don’t like it. And I’d be willing to bet even more the kids don’t like it either.
Thankfully, most parents do in fact act like adults and stay in the bleachers where they belong.
If a student or two wants to hang on the sidelines to hone their skills and take photos of their friends to put on the team website … fantastic. I have let interns at this paper use thousands of dollars worth of my equipment to see what it is like to use pro stuff and learn something about the trade.
It would be disingenuous to not mention a self-serving motive here. Part of what I do is I get paid to shoot. But, that part is not all fun and games. I spend at least as much time in front of a computer editing as I do shooting. The kids work hard, and deserve credit for their efforts and natural athletic abilities and I think they do appreciate the coverage.
Just like I’m sure they appreciate fans showing up to cheer them on, including the parents.
It’s a pretty simple formula: Let the kids play and let the media cover them. And let the parents come and cheer them on — if they want to take pictures, more power to them, so long as they spend an extra grand to get a longer lens and shoot from the stands.