Last season was a first for your's truly. I had never before covered a sporting event with a camera from the sideline. When Roy asked me to start writing for the site, we were much like the bulk of Hokie Nation, living in far flung places and watching the events unfold on television. It was an interesting gig. You could let someone else sweat the details of where to be, and what to shoot. You could concentrate on the game, and scream your fool head off for your team. You could go to the bathroom or grab some snacks from the kitchen. It's a nice comfortable place from which to cover games, I must say that right up front.
EXCEPT, it is just not the same as actually being there. I suspect that most of you have heard of the "Hokie Bucket List" thing. Well, some people, marketing and journalism majors with sports somewhere in their concentrations, athletic staff, and the security-event management folks are all used to it by now; but your standard ordinary every day Hokie is limited to an occasional bleacher appearance at Lane. That's not a bad thing, mind you, I loved every minute of every game that I attended and could stay-cold and arthritis don't mix. (Except the last 2 of the 2009 Nebraska game that I'd like to forget and my wife will remind me about until they close the lid and turn the key. We won't speak of that mistake.)
Last year, we left the tony ‘suburby’ environs of Northern Virginia for a much smaller and more sedate life in Blacksburg. That change afforded us the opportunity to step up a notch in coverage. Pete Moris graciously allowed us a trial run at the 2016 Spring Game, and the rest was history. We truly thank Pete and his staff for taking the "New Media" seriously and appreciate the privilege, greatly. There was one surprise that came in the media credentials package for last season. Roy had tossed out that maybe someone could come up with a camera and he'd apply for a Media/Sideline pass. We weren't a photography shop so it was a stretch, but both Joshua and I know how to take pictures and Josh had a nice Nikon digital SLR that might do the trick, so we told Roy to go ahead and give it a try. The smiles all started when I picked up that package of game credentials in August of 2016. We had six Press Box Passes as promised. Those gems were accompanied by six more media/sideline passes. You can talk about that Hokie Bucket List all you want, but it's time to add one old Hokie's dream shot from his 9th grade photojournalism class.
Well, a call to old BlueLoneWolf ended up with a "Sorry Dad, I use the camera for work, and it's in the office." The old Sony was so slow, and the memory sticks so little I might have gotten 20 or 30 shots if I was lucky. So, I swallowed big, went to my significant other of nearly 30 years, then... and asked if it was in the family budget, if I punted every Christmas and Birthday gift for the next several years to go out and buy a digital SLR of my own. She grimaced but like a trooper who knew that this was something special got into the Jeep with me and headed to the local department store where we knew a really nice Canon Rebel EOS was listed for a significant discount. It had a good lens, and took sports action shots - something that it was rated highly for doing well. I ordered a 128GB SD high-speed memory card, and the 2016 season was about to get going in a very different way than any other season for me.
Let me tell you that there just really isn't a manual for how to cover football games on the internet. Well there are some published site specific media guides and some stadiums have their rules of behavior plastered here and there, but really it's one of those dive in, ask questions, apologize profusely to the turks, and remember what you are supposed to do sorts of adventures.
Game Day requires a little bit of planning, and as the season progressed, my skills, and understanding of just what I was doing got more complete. I was reviewing pictures, there are thousands, for various summer articles, and even I could tell that with each game I became better and better at choosing angles, getting lined up, and getting clear of bodies that sent the camera into focus hell.
So, want to know what's it like? I'll tease a few things, here, but you'll have to wait because along with "A View from the Sideline" we are going to add “Covering the Hokies” which will be little color article about covering the game; outtakes, sights from behind the scenes at Lane Stadium (or FedEx), shots of what it's like to be on the sideline and press box, that sort of thing. It might not be on a fixed schedule every week, but this season we’ll give everyone a little peek at what it’s like to cover the Hokies. The first installment will be special because it’s the FedEx Game with West Virginia.
It’s one week and one day until kickoff. Stay tuned; get signed up for SB Nation and Gobbler Country so you can join in on the thread, Jay’s GIFs, maybe some pictures, too.