The greatest sports photo in history

greatest sports photowebOf course, there were lessons – many lessons – learned along the way, and I had great teachers. Let me tell you about the day I shot “The Greatest Sports Photo in the History of Photography.” It was 1980, and I was doing my internship at the Los Angeles Times. I was assigned to cover a high school cross country meet. I’d never photographed cross country, but how hard could it be? As runners crossed the finish line, I saw this exhausted girl staggering to the line. She made it and collapsed into the arms of two race officials. I thought I had just captured an incredible, one-of-a-kind moment. A person collapsing on the athletic field! I raced back to the Times with my developed print (I would do my processing on campus at CSUN), excitedly thinking that I had just shot an all-time great sports photo. This one would surely end up on the cover of the main Sports section! The editors didn’t share my enthusiasm. What’s so great about this, they asked? Well, look, she collapsed at the finish line. The editor smiled. That’s what cross country athletes do, he explained. They collapse, they fall to the ground, they even vomit. You can shoot that 20 times every meet you cover. Then some questions. Did you happen to get a picture of the winner? Uh, no. Do you happen to know who won? Uh, no. Did you at least get a picture of someone from the team that won? Uh, no. Do you know what team won? Uh, no. So you just shot the greatest sports picture ever and figured you were done? Uh, I guess. The editor chuckled and said no more. Lesson learned.

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