Saturday, June 26, 2010

Camera Issues: Redux

Re-posted from July 23, 2008 (for reasons that I will explain later).
An online op-ed in the New York Times sheds some light on how the N.C.A.A. treated some fans with cameras at this year's College World Series.

Takedown at the Ballgame
Published: July 19, 2008
The search for the Pure Sports Experience is spoiled at the N.C.A.A. College World Series in Omaha ... all because of a dispute that started when the N.C.A.A. refused to permit the author to bring a camera into one of [the 2008] College World Series games. Here's an excerpt:

I asked why had I already been allowed to enter the stadium three previous
occasions with my camera. The answer back was that the enforcement of the
N.C.A.A. rule had been lax. What rule? I didn’t see it posted anywhere.

An argument ensued, and I openly admit it got heated. An N.C.A.A. official
in an orange shirt was called over. He had one of those little faces born in
contempt, and he wasn’t happy.
* * *
Back inside, I ran into a man with a lens on his camera as long as Pinocchio’s nose. I asked him if he had had any trouble getting inside. He had no idea what I was talking about. So much for fair and evenhanded enforcement.
* * *
No matter how ill-advised or expensive or illogical, don’t even think of messing with the N.C.A.A. Just put up. And shut up.
I had a similar experience at this year's College World Series, sans the physical altercation that ensued in Bissinger's tale. Starting at around game five I began getting questioned about my camera and was told by the same guy that Bissinger described as having "one of those little faces born in contempt" that the N.C.A.A. is "watching" me and that I should not be surprised if I were asked to leave at some point during the game. Ominous warning notwithstanding, I conducted myself as I had in the previous games and took photos from the stands without incident or confrontation. In fact, at one point during game five J.D. Hamilton, the N.C.A.A.'s media coordinator and the person in charge of media credentialing for the Series, came up and sat behind me for a few innings as I was shooting pictures of the action, and he did not say a word to me. So I thought all was well.

By game seven, however, the security guy, who I came to know as Lou, was now telling me that I could not bring my long lens into the game, but I could bring in my 18-55 mm kit lens. So I returned to the car, deposited my zoom lens, and returned to watch (and photograph) game seven. During game seven I saw at least half a dozen fans with zoom lenses and each one I talked to had no problem coming into the game with camera in tow. Clearly this unwritten, continuously morphing "policy" was not being uniformly applied.
For the remainder of the series I played the "camera-policy lottery." As I approached the gate I had no idea what the "policy" would be. Sometimes I was permitted to bring all of my equipment in without so much as a sideways look, other times I was told that I was not permitted to bring in any camera with a detachable lens. When all was said and done, I was able to photograph all but three of the preliminary games. I went to game to game one of the finals, but decided not to even try to bring my camera in. It just wasn't worth thehassle.
This new approach by the N.C.A.A. and the College World Series of treating fans bearing cameras with suspicion, if not downright hostility, is quite disappointing. Especially for someone who has been taking photos of these games since 2002 without a whisper of concern. Indeed, I think the fan photographer is good for the Series and helps foster and spread the enthusiasm that surrounds it. I've never sold the photographs I've taken. But over the years I have provided copies of photos to players, members of players' families, and even some fans who have asked -- all free of charge. I understand the N.C.A.A.'s concern over the unauthorized commercial use of images taken at these games, but this year'sarbitrary and capricious approach seems to be the wrong solution -- and certainly one that unnecessarily tarnishes the College World Series experience for some loyal fans.

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