Book Review: Husker Game Day 2010 - Farewell Big 12
Months ago, Ken Jarecke sent me his Husker Game Day 2010 book to review. Every week I see it and I think, "I really need to publish that review", and then I forget. Well, Christmas is coming. In other words, it's about bloody time, eh*
You can remember the names of sportswriters. Randy York started at the Lincoln Journal Star in 1968 and still writes stories you love for Huskers.com. Mike Babcock of the newly formed Hail Varsity is known for his knowledge of Husker history. Tom Shatel, Steve Sipple, and if you're a little older, Don Bryant.
You remember announcers. Husker fans know Kent Pavelka (1983-1996, for football, still does the basketball broadcasts), and the famous Lyell Bremser ("man, woman and child!") who held the post from 1939-1983.
You certainly know all the national announcers, even if you might hate them, this week's most hated being Chris Spielman and Sean McDonough, with McDonough's performance being enough to perhaps replace Ed Cunningham on your most hated list.
But sports photographers?
Those guys. No one remembers them. Maybe you remember the name of a photographer from Getty Images who captured a photo of Brandon Kinnie last year. Or maybe you've come to know Dennis Hubbard, a professional photographer who's kind enough to regularly share his shots with us here at CN.
Fact is - no one gives a damn about sports photographers. That's kind of a shame, really. I remember years ago when I was a kid one of my favorite things on a fall Sunday was opening up the sports section and seeing shots of a Husker play progression in the Omaha World Herald. They'd lay out a series of photographs showing how the play developed, with arrows showing where the key blocks were made and how the running back recognized those blocks and made his cut on the way to a touchdown.
Those articles were gorgeous, wonderful, and beautiful beyond belief.
You'd think if you were in charge of the OWH you'd be able to go back and find those old photos, those old layouts, and start churning them out again, especially in the offseason when everyone is so thirsty for Husker football that the start time of a game becomes a story in all the major news outlets in Nebraska.
It's doubtful the OWH can, given that that they suffered from a common problem that's plagued most of humanity throughout it's existence - the failure to recognize that history is happening now, that the failure to preserve the present leaves big blank spots in the future.
Unfortunately, the Omaha World Herald, like most newspapers of its time, probably threw the negatives for most of those photos away. It's not like I'm blaming them entirely, but dammit, the OWH was the newspaper for me in Curtis, Nebraska. The Lincoln Journal and Star (separate then), didn't exist for me until I actually went to college at UNL. Until then, the OWH was the paper for the state of Nebraska.
Fact is, there are precious few photos of Nebraska football pre-oh... 1990-ish (that's being generous), and when I say precious few, I mean that relative to the thousands upon thousands that were taken but have disappeared over time.
You'd think the preservation of photos would be better in the digital age, but it's not. It's worse. The internet is a darned fine place for sharing photos, but it's horrid at preserving them. All those photos on Facebook you'd thought would be there forever tend to disappear when you stop being friends with someone or they have to be removed because someone got married, is trying to get a job, or had to grow up.
In the digital realm we're creating a world for future generations that largely doesn't exist. Color is enhanced, depth of field, contrast added, until the scene portrayed in such photos barely resembles that of the original. If you doubt that, head to flickr.com and take a look around. It won't take you long to discover that a lot of what they consider "interesting" is fantasy. Add in photoshopping and HDR, and you come to realize we've created a fake reality.
Sports photography is done with a 2.8 commercial zoom lens, used to shorten depth of field so that only the subject, typically the athlete, is in focus during the "big play". The player (or players) is/are separated from the world around them as if nothing else exists, nothing else matters. There's nothing wrong with that type of photography, it plays an important part of telling the story of a game.
The problem is that there's plenty more going on.
Husker Game Day 2010 - Farewell Big Twelve is a chronicle of Nebraska's last season in the Big 12. Jarecke's photography goes beyond the standard game day sports photography and gives us an entire season of images that transcend the action on the field.
If there's one thing that Jarecke does better than the typical sports photographer, it's capturing the emotion of the game. Most sports photos are glory shots. Much of the football action in the book captures the grit of football as well as the players' emotions as they progress throughout a game.
An example: Things look well and good at the beginning of a shot sequence during the Oklahoma game. As the play progresses, we see Taylor Martinez surrounded, then sacked, his helmet torn off in a helmet-to-helmet hit, and in the final shot you see Martinez' grit and determination as he does everything to hang onto the ball, despite an Oklahoma player trying to poke him in the eye.
A photo that sums up the Washington game; a dry-erase white board lies on the turf with a hole in it that one presumes is just about the size of a fist.
The photos of Bo Pelini greeting players before their final home game on Senior Day are intimate and very powerful. You get a glimpse of a man who, in that moment, is not their coach, but their surrogate father. I got misty eyed the first time I saw them.
In one of the more poignant shots in the book, Pelini kneels in prayer behind a fence before the Texas A&M game as just a few feet away a barrier separates the rest of the world waiting for the game to begin.
If you've gotten the idea that I love this book, you're right. I've concluded that Jarecke's photography books may be the most important Nebraska football books available today because they not only capture the games, but the world that surrounds them. Their true value will not be realized for years to come, which is why this review is still relevant and the idea that you'd buy a book that came out a while back is too.
The good news is that Jarecke's book has dropped $15 in price, although it may not remain there for long. Christmas is coming, and if you don't own it, Husker Gameday 2010 isn't a bad choice for a unique Husker book. Only 5000 have been printed.
*Now maybe I'll get inspired and fix the downstairs toilet. It hasn't worked right for at least a couple years.....