Images: Volume 1, Week 47

Scramble_11071987This Saturday, when Kansas and Kansas State meet in Memorial Stadium, one team will be fighting to avoid a winless season. The other will be fighting for their bowl life. Neither team met their hopes or expectations for the season. Yet, neither team will match the frustration and disappointment of the game the two schools played on November 7, 1987.

That game ended in a 17-17 tie. The Dunkel Index called the game the battle between the two worst teams in football. Other commentators called it “The Toilet Bowl.” Both teams went on to lose their final two games of the season. KU finished that season 1-9-1. KSU  finished 0-10-1. KU fired coach Bob Valesente after the season. K-State coach Stan Parrish lasted only one more season.

In what the late Topeka Capital-Journal columnist Bob Hentzen called “a very entertaining game, given the two teams’ records,” Kansas State drove down the field to set up a game-winning field goal on the final play of the game. That is when the two teams reverted to their futile ways.

The Jayhawks’ Marvin Mattox blocked the 32-yard field goal attempt by the Wildcats’ Mark Porter. The ensuing scramble to recover the ball for some sort of miracle finish proved to be more comical than sensational.

This Saturday’s game looks to be played in cold and rainy conditions. That surely will add to the drama of what I can only hope will be an “entertaining game” that will not end in a comical fashion.


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Images: Volume 1, Week 46

TailgatingThe scene in this week’s picture depicts something completely foreign to me. Tailgating is a Saturday or Sunday ritual I have never really participated in even though I have attended countless college and professional football games over the past 46 years of professional work life. While barbecue grills smoke away beside spreads of every conceivable food option, I trudge past them with loads of camera gear hours before a game starts.

In the 80’s as Kansas State and the Kansas City Chiefs grabbed a stranglehold on the tailgating world, I made this photograph before a Kansas State game at KU. I have photographed many more such scenes since. None has been better.  Besides the wonderful food setup in a van, fans for both teams truly enjoyed themselves.

Laura and I stopped at my sister and her husband’s tailgate before KU games at Kansas State for a few years. Sally’s husband, Denny, played linebacker for the Wildcats during the Vince Gibson years, and lives and dies with the team’s fortunes. Our stops were always brief, but it was good to see them having fun even though they no longer go to games as their children moved on with their lives and their own children.

We do wish friends would host post-game tailgate parties. Laura and I could pull up chairs and relax with some food and discuss the day’s game. Of course, by the time we completed all our work, that would be two to three hours after the game. By then weary and likely hung over fans have packed up and are long gone. That might be for the best.

We took in one of those post-game scenes this year after the Chiefs lost a Thursday night game to the Denver Broncos. Shooting for Sports Illustrated after a late decision on the game by editors in New York, we parked in a general admission lot, a taxing 20 minute walk from the stadium with all our gear. By the time we returned to our car post game, only the hardiest Chiefs’ fans remained, drowning their sorrows over the late loss. With traffic lines slowly winding out of the trash-filled lots, when offered a beer, we were so parched, we chose water instead.

Listening to them bemoan the Denver victory on a late fumble recovery, we realized maybe it was best for us to simply move on and wish them well. We wish the same for all those fans taking pleasure in the modern American ritual that tailgating has become. Enjoy.

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Images: Volume 1, Week 44 & 45

Screaming_FB_PlayerHigh school sports are in one word – beautiful. For the most part, there remains a pureness in the hearts of the coaches and players that reveals itself in wonderful photographs. If only photographers took the time to delve deeply into their hearts to find the purest essence of sports, they would find that essence is not actually on the playing fields.

Like any young photographer, I loved shooting action. I still do. That is what is all about, right? Pounding down the football field, slamming home a shot or canning a big three-pointer. The big stars making big plays. It took time and photographic maturity to see there is so much more to any game or match than the action on the field. That is where high school sports excel. The emotions of players, coaches and fans remains so wonderfully raw if only a photographer looks away from the action.

The first example in this two-part story is a photograph I made of a Topeka West football player in the mid ’80’s. With a Friday night victory, the Chargers qualified for the state playoffs. Water drenched the coach, cheerleaders leaped into the arms of the players as fans deliriously followed the team to the buses that would take them from Washburn University’s Moore Bowl back to their school.

Football success at Topeka West has always been rare. One jubilant player enjoyed every minute of the celebration. Even on the bus, with his mohawked head stuck through a window, the player never stopped roaring with delight. Surely his head remained jutted through the window and his exultation heard along the four mile journey to the school. Even the paper’s news editors deemed the moment as newsworthy and tore up their front page to lead with the photograph.

Phoenix_Union_FBSadly, this photograph is bereft of such exhilaration. In the fall of 1981, Phoenix Union High School in downtown Phoenix closed out its football season and its amazing history. The beautiful school constructed in 1912 would close in the spring. Once a power that won 25 state football championships, declining enrollment left the team stripped to the bone by 1981. The Coyotes remained winless going into their final game of their final season.

In a stadium with a capacity of 23,000 that hosted the NCAA Salad Bowl from 1948-1952, the team gathered before their final game in a portion of their locker room lit only by a single light bulb for their final emotional pre-game pep talk.

Cheerleaders stretched a paper banner between the two goal post supports as the players charged onto the field. With his arms upraised as he sprinted onto the field, the Coyotes’ starting quarterback caught his right arm on the goal post and dislocated his shoulder.

Yes, high school sports are beautiful. In a too bizarre moment that has to be true, high school sports can also be cruel. Phoenix Union’s final game did not begin or end well.

Posted in America, Arizona, Education, Football, History, Journalism, Kansas, Photography, Sports | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Dark Secret of Our Household

Jake_Luke_Royals_11032015Where did we go wrong?  You try to raise your children well. You teach them. You encourage them. You gently guide them, all with the hope the children you love so much will turn out to be happy, well-adjusted and productive citizens.

Then one of them starts hanging out with the wrong crowd. Her life begins to change. Parents sense this, but far too late. She made frequent night trips to Kansas City along with a secret book she kept from her worried parents.  Before we knew it, one of our daughters was too far gone. She became an addict, hooked on the…Kansas City Royals.

Yes, that is the dark secret of our household. We tried, tried so hard. Laura and I dressed both Julie and Kelly well, took them to the right places and shared the nuances of life with them with the hope they would not make mistakes in judgment. All to no avail.

Jake_Royals_Gear_11032015Julie is a Royals fan, and there is nothing Laura and I can do about it. The Yankees hats, shirts and even a trip to Yankee Stadium somehow failed to take hold where it counts, in Julie’s heart. Even teaching her how to score a baseball game with her own scorebook, while well learned, did not bear the names of Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettite or Paul O’Neil. Instead, nondescript, quickly forgotten Royals’ names filled the lineups of games that seemed a complete waste of her time as she sat in Kauffman Stadium. She could not be deterred.

Now finally, the Royals are World Champions and deserved of all the adoration that comes with their first title in 30 years. We are happy for Julie and other friends that have suffered for so many years. Julie was only two years old the last time the Royals ruled baseball in 1985. We are fine with all that.

Even Kelly, a professed non-sports fan, began following the Royals since World Series MVP Salvador Perez is her Kansas City neighbor. In the midst of game five, she texted wanting to know “what’s a pitching duel?” She followed with “I am just trying to keep up.”

Jake_Jeff_Baseball_Caps_11032015What scares us the most are what these pictures so tragically depict. Julie is tainting the minds of our grandchildren, Jake and Luke. While they could not go to Kansas City to join the 800,000 people for the victory parade and party, Jake and Luke took part in a victory parade at daycare. That is how it starts.

Come next spring, Laura and I will go on a carefully planned cleansing program. We will sit with our grandsons watching Yankees games and stress the heritage of baseball’s greatest team. If things do not go well, a trip to the Bronx and a walk into Yankee Stadium will hopefully take this time.  For now, I picked up three-year-old Jake after pre-school Tuesday, proudly wearing my Yankees cap.

Back before we lost Kelly and Julie

Back before we lost Kelly and Julie

Ah, but who are we kidding?  We are so happy Jake enjoys watching baseball it is hard for us to get too upset. He looks like a true stud as does his five-month-old brother Luke. Next summer Jake starts tee-ball. Time to teach him to spit, cuss and adjust his crotch. Well, maybe not cuss. What more could we do for our grandson we will always love?

Posted in America, Baseball, Jake Phillips, Julie Phillips, Kelly Jacobsen, Laura Jacobsen, Luke Phillips, Sports | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Images: Volume 1, Week 43

Rowing_Crash_04081971Last Sunday, Laura and I arrived at the KU rowing boathouse in Lawrence’s Burcham Park. The facility sits along the Kansas River just north of downtown. We were photographing the annual Jayhawk Jamboree, an afternoon-long rowing event for men and women with races ranging from 4,000 meters to 30o-meter sprints. With food, drink, bands and activities galore, the event always is fun for the rowers, their families and friends of rowing.

Yet, one forlorned man stood staring at a Tulsa boat. The front third of the boat lay broken off on the ground beside the rest of the carbon fiber shell. The team’s rigger certainly was not having fun as he picked up the pieces of the shattered shell and explained how the boat broke loose on the trip from Oklahoma.

On April 8, 1971, I was two days away from my 20th birthday. On my way to Lawrence for an assignment, I came upon a group of forlorned men just three miles east of the old Kansas Turnpike service area. The Washburn University rowing club slumped in shock beside their splintered boat laying in the median of the four-lane highway. Strapped to the roof of a station wagon, the high winds of the Kansas spring caught the eight-rower shell and snapped it loose with disastrous consequences.

These were the earliest days of rowing in the Midwest. The budget for the club was whatever the team could raise to support their emerging efforts to help the sport find a place in the consciousness of Kansans. Tulsa’s broken boat was just one of many stacked on the specialized transports that are now pulled behind pickups to regattas.

On that April day, the loss of their new boat devastated the Washburn rowers. Yet, as athletes always seem to do, the team carried on to the regatta in Springfield, Illinois. There the Washburn club found a boat they could borrow to compete for the love of their sport.

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Images: Volume 1, Week 42

ASU_UCLA_FBOn October 3, Arizona State took on UCLA. Picked to be a Pac-12 title challenger this season, the Sun Devils’ play had been disappointing. Meanwhile, UCLA , undefeated and ranked No. 7 in the polls, looked to keep rolling in front of a home crowd in Pasadena’s Rose Bowl. Surprisingly, ASU pull off a dominant 38-23 upset.

That made me think about an ASU-UCLA game I photographed on November 14, 1981, when UCLA was still playing their home games in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The AP poll ranked Arizona State No. 9, while UCLA ranked No. 18. The Bruins won the battle 34-24. The UCLA defense, gang tackling ASU star running back Gerald Rigg, forced seven Sun Devil turnovers to pull off the upset victory.

Thirty four years have passed between the two games. It would be a stretch to pull out the old cliché, “What goes around, comes around.” Instead, I  will use another cliché, “Thanks for the memory.” Any trip to Los Angeles for football always turned out well for me.

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Images: Volume 1, Week 41

Landon_Alf_VotingThis week’s Images celebrates a Kansas legend, Alf Landon. Twenty eight years ago today, Landon passed away at the age of 100. The Republican Party’s nominee for the President of the United States, Landon run against President Franklin Roosevelt in 1936.

The results were historically disastrous. Landon lost the popular vote by more than 10 million votes. Even the state of Kansas voted for Roosevelt. The electoral vote proved to be down right ugly, 523 – 8. How then did defeated candidate go on to become one of the state’s most beloved legends? Frankly, I am not sure. Yes, Landon served as Governor for two terms. He balanced the state’s budget in the difficult times of Depression, and always spoke out on a variety of issues with the good of Kansas at heart.

Historians note Landon was averse to campaigning, but his thoughts on the changing times during his long life proved to be profound for young politicos. His series of Landon Lectures at Kansas State University hosted seven Presidents and continue today. His second daughter, Nancy, served three terms as a United States Senator.

Yet, the way Landon lived his life with joy and conviction I believe made him so popular. He aged gracefully. On a beautiful spread of land in west Topeka, Landon continued to ride his horses in a stately manner until late in his life. He became a wondrous character and a perfect subject for a long list of photographers from the Topeka paper.

By the time I began my work at the paper, I was too young and inexperienced to be granted time with Landon. As I matured both personally and professionally, certain photographers had grown popular with Landon. I was happy for them. Blessed by a long list of other politicians and sports figures I photographed, the excellent work of the others worked wonderfully for our paper.

That is not to say I never photographed Landon and did make photographs the very particular man enjoyed. The image of Landon emerging from the voting booth in his riding attire after voting for his daughter, Nancy Kassebaum, was one. I photographed the Senator more than her father over the years, including the image of the state house funeral service after the passing of Landon in 1987.


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