It’s been two and a half years and I can honestly say it never gets old.
Being a photographer brings many different emotions, and my time at “The Good 5 Cent Cigar” has been nothing short of a triple-loop, double-barreled roller coaster ride. I felt like it was time I told my side of the story, from the photographer’s perspective.
One of my first assignments as a contributing photographer for this newspaper was the Bellator MMA event at the Thomas M. Ryan Center in 2012. As a novice, I passed by competitors and coaches training in the bowels of the stadium and couldn’t help but feel my nerves consume me as I took my place next to the octagon.
It was hard to focus on taking pictures when all I could do was stare with my jaw wide open at the barbarians two feet in front of me pounding their limbs against each other. The odor leaking off their tired bodies, blood spilling from all angles of their beaten faces and the sounds of every punishing blow are things that will stick with me for a very long time.
The now-Alex and Ani Court is where I’ve made my home over the past few years. Those two baselines are more familiar to me than anywhere else on campus, as I’ve photographed almost every men’s basketball home game since my start as a contributor at this publication. Out of the more than 15 games I have done, the Providence College, University of Massachusetts and University of Nebraska games have engraved themselves into my head.
The Ryan Center was packed to the rafters with hasty fans when the Rams looked to topple no. 21 Nebraska on Nov. 22. They looked like a sea of people ready to engulf me at any second (a true claustrophobic person’s nightmare). As I sit on the very object all 7,000 fans have their eyes fixed on, I ready myself for anything that could happen throughout the game. All those fans might be fixed on the 10 players on the court, but one wrong move, one stray basketball to the camera or one player steamrolling into me and those thousands will be eyeing me.
I’ve been warned multiple times before by security guards to move towards the end of these games to prevent a trampling from the impending student stampede. However, it never actually came to fruition until the Nebraska game.
The barriers separating the student section and court were removed late in the game, giving me my cue to clear the area. When the final buzzer sounded the students from both baselines rushed the floor, colliding in the middle of the court to resemble the beginning of a war battle. I found myself swimming around the pack trying to follow the “E.C.” chants. As I raised my tightly clenched camera above the crowd, I let the shutter roll as I hoped to capture the moment. Nine out of 10 of the photos didn’t turn out, but the tenth photo miraculously turned out to be one of my favorite photos I’ve ever taken. It ended up running with the game story on the website and is the new Twitter banner for URI Cigar Sports as well.
Although snapping the perfect photo gives me the most satisfaction, it was the little things I’ve learned that have made it that much more worth it. Watching from the sidelines and through a 200 mm. zoom lens gives you more than just a good viewing experience. It opens your mind to the hard work and physical demands on these student athletes to compete at a high level.
Whether it’s the grunts and pains of the football sideline, the gasping for air of the soccer teams or the mental toughness of the golf team, I have gained an appreciation for the athletes and everything they do.