Seeing Blue, Green and Gold: Watching an NFL Game Through a Camera Lens
By Matt Baide
Watching an NFL game from the sidelines has always been on my bucket list.
Being on the field and immersed in the action, taking in the fans and the weather and (hopefully) being treated to a great game is something I can finally check off after this Sunday.
As a lifelong fan of the Seahawks, I had always hoped this would be the case at a Seahawks game. And after finally getting confirmed for a photo pass for the Seahawks-Rams game, I have never been more excited to attend a game in my life.
I arrived in Seattle around 10:30 Sunday morning and scrambled for about 20 minutes trying to find that nonexistent parking garage with easy access to I-5 after the game.
I was decked out in my classic bright yellow rain gear — the stuff I usually wear to prep football games — because the forecast called for rain for the duration of the game.
As I was waiting along Union Street to meet my parents (who had bought tickets to see the game and, I hope, me), I didn’t expect to run into anyone from Lewis Country. But as I saw my mom at the crosswalk, I locked eyes with Onalaskan Tony Holm, who was also attending the game. Small world, right? I met up with my parents and picked up my press pass from Will Call.
The next face I recognized was a big more notable: ESPN’s Kenny Mayne, walking away from the Will Call booth just ahead of me. I wanted to tell him I enjoy watching him on SportCenter, but I was attending this game as a professional, so I decided it probably wasn’t the best idea.
Photo pass in hand, I strolled through the media entrance and made my way to the field as the doors hadn’t opened to the public yet and many players were out on the field warming up.
I started snag file photos, shooting stars Russell Wilson, Cooper Kupp, Bobby Wagner and Sebastian Janikowski.
I quickly realized that, with just two cameras, I was the least-equipped photographer on the sidelines — and my 300mm lens was big, but nothing compared to the equipment some colleagues were packing.
Walking around pregame I saw more familiar faces, including Walter Jones, who was taking photos with a camera constantly following him. Steve Raible, the radio voice of the Seahawks, was down on the field, as was former Seahawks quarterback Seneca Wallace.
I moved to the Rams sideline about 20 minutes before the introductions to get a good spot for the players coming out of the tunnel. A security guard informed me that the Rams sideline was free to roam, but the Seahawks sideline was closed behind the bench, so it was an obvious choice to be on that sideline for most of the game.
The Rams came out and I almost got ran over by a couple defensive linemen before Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh walked by me. The Hawks defense was introduced pregame and after the Canadian and US national anthems, we were underway.
Seattle elected to defer to the second half, so the Rams received the ball first. Los Angeles went three-and-out its first possession, but I found out just how loud it is down on the field. There were a few photographers wearing earplugs, and I can understand why, and it amazes me that the Rams were even able to get a snap off. It’s hard to hear the person next to you, let alone a quarterback in the shotgun formation.
One of my favorite photos was during the first quarter, when I saw Rams running back Todd Gurley — who had three touchdowns on Sunday — on the bench near me looking away. I pointed my camera at him and waited for a bit to see if he would turn my direction. He eventually turned, saw my camera pointed at him, and proceeded to look away, but not before I snapped a photo of him.
I staked out a spot in the first and second quarter so I could get the Seahawks making tackles or an interception return and so the Seattle offense would come at me with its plays. This turned out to be a good strategy when Frank Clark snagged an interception on the goal line.
There were a few times when the FOX camera guys stepped in my way, but other than that, I didn’t have too much trouble getting my shots.
The second half, I moved around with the ball a lot more, and tried to get some sweet shots in the back of the end zone. On the first drive of the third quarter the Hawks ran a sweep to my side with Mike Davis and I thought he was going to get in and celebrate near me, but to no avail. Instead, David Moore caught the touchdown pass — one of his two on the day.
I was also approached in the fourth quarter by a gentleman decked out in official NFL gear, who gestured at my neon rain gear and asked if I was going fishing after the game. I told him I was not.
After the big catch by Tyler Lockett near the end of the fourth quarter I felt a game-winning field goal or a big touchdown coming, but the Rams defense held and Gurley and Jared Goff put the game away.
I didn’t get some of the shots I’d hoped for, but it was was a fantastic experience. My personal favorite shot is the tackle shot of Todd Gurley getting stuffed by Bradley McDougald and Shaquill Griffin, even though Gurley scored a few plays later.
It was one of the highlights of 2018 for me, and it’s always nice to cross another experience off the bucket list.