Notes: Football & the Oscars
Updates and outtakes from recent essays, plus a story that will bring a tear to your eye
Between the Oscar nominations, National School Counseling Week, a series of very different photo assignments and the lead up to the Super Bowl, the past few days have been nonstop in our household.
In the interest of time and attention span (mine, yours, and ours), I decided to split this week’s essay into two parts, with the second coming tomorrow. This one has a couple of updates and outtakes from two recent essays (each with a link back to the first in case you missed it), a short “right place, right time” story, and a brief piece that you might not have seen that will bring a tear to your eye.
West Side Story: File under the “List of things you never thought you’d say” — My kid is in a movie that’s nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars.
Steven Spielberg’s marvelous remake of the 1961 classic is up for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Supporting Actress. It is a beautiful film well-deserving of the praise it has received. (In case you haven’t seen it in theaters, it premieres on Disney+ on March 2.)
Interesting piece of trivia: Ben is one of four “West Side” cast members who played the title role in “Billy Elliot: The Musical.” He was in the show for three years, including a year and half on Broadway (as Tall Boy/Michael understudy) and then for another 18 months on the North American tour (first as Michael, then as Billy).
The others are:
David Alvarez, who is terrific as Bernardo in “West Side Story,” was one of the three original Broadway Billys who shared in the 2009 Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical.
Myles Erlick, who was Snowboy in the movie, played the title role in Chicago, Toronto, and on Broadway. Same for Julian Elia (Tiger in WSS).
Here's a picture of Ben with two of three original Billys (Alvarez and Kiril Kulish) and Sarah Rosenthal (Little Girl in “Ragtime”) taken in September 2009.
What It Was Was Football: When I was a kid, my uncle would let me read or give me his old copies of Sports Illustrated, a magazine I devoured because of the quality of its writing. Paul Zimmerman, aka Dr. Z, was one of SI's best — that's saying a lot — and one of the first bylines I looked for while dog earing a back issue.
Working on the essay “What It Was Was Football,” I found this from a Zimmerman piece on Dan Pastorini and Houston Oilers, my hometown team that at the time was the lousiest in the NFL. I cut it from the final essay but it’s too good not to share:
Zimmerman wrote: "A bright young quarterback on the worst team in the NFL. He’d get sacked five or six times a game, get his nose broken, teeth knocked out and wrists and fingers mangled—and the crowd would boo him. ‘It’s like being in a street fight with six guys,’ Pastorini said, ‘and everybody’s rooting for the six.’”
Right place, right time
News photography often is about being in the right place at the right time, and being aware of the opportunity for storytelling moments. Example: On Feb. 3, my wife’s organization honored the 2021 and 2022 School Counselors of the Year at a gala in Washington, D.C. Because Jill is the organization’s executive director and spoke during the event, we sat at the head table. I pulled out my phone, primarily to capture a photo of my lovely wife at the dais, and got this shot of her recognizing Olivia Carter, the 2021 winner.
Later, when 2022 winner Alma Lopez accepted the award and started her speech, her proud father — a first generation immigrant to the U.S. — stood for a moment after everyone sat down and applauded. Out came my phone again.
Sometimes you just get lucky, even with a phone.
Given the Super Bowl and Valentine’s Day come back-to-back this year, here’s one of the sweetest stories I’ve read/watched recently.
Audrey Soape, an 11-year-old from an Austin suburb, lost her father and grandfather over the past year. Soape and her family have been fans of Philadelphia Eagles safety Anthony Harris since he played for the Minnesota Vikings, often offering the football player encouragement via social media.
Last month, the sixth grader had a daddy-daughter dance at her school, and Soape’s mother Holly decided to ask Harris to stand in. To her surprise, the safety did, flying down to Texas on his own dime and buying Audrey a dress, shoes and makeup. Here is the story, covered by NBC-10 in Philadelphia.