Editor's note: Throughout 2010, SI.com will run a gallery of staff photographer Bob Rosato's shooting assignments and his recollections of the road trips. Here's his January recap (You can check out the gallery here.)
The early start to the year is always an exciting time. NFL playoff races, bowl games, hockey, NBA and the start of the conference schedules in college basketball make this an incredible time in sports. This year is no exception and, in fact, it has a little odd twist.
Starting the year, I was assigned to the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans to cover Tim Tebow’s last game at Florida. I arrived in New Orleans on New Year’s Eve. (New Year’s Eve in the Big Easy, it is crazy!) I drove there from Atlanta because flights were difficult with Florida in the game. Stayed in my hotel room all night because outside… Well let’s just say it was interesting!!
The game was loaded with storylines that changed as the game drew closer, with Florida’s head coach Urban Meyer perhaps stepping aside one day and staying the next day. Cincinnati, Florida’s opponent, had already lost its head coach to Notre Dame. So the storylines going into this matchup were potentially significant aside from Tim Tebow closing out his college career. No one knew how the emotions on both sides would affect the play.
Florida looked like a different team from the SEC Championship and they played with a fury. Although it was a very one-sided game, the pictures I made even excited me. We came away with great pictures!
The next day I was off to Dallas for what would be the first of two weekends in Dallas for the exact same two teams, the Eagles and Cowboys. Needless to say, the Cowboys were peaking and the Eagles were laying eggs. It looked like the Sugar Bowl, very one-sided.
My assignment going into the game was to key on the big-play receivers, Miles Austin and Deshawn Jackson. Not knowing how the game was going to unfold, I really had to concentrate on making pictures of each guy. I always create a good variety of images because one just doesn’t know how things can change in the course of a game, let alone how our edit staff may choose to layout a story. This turned out to be the case as we ran a cover of Miles Austin. I had no idea until I saw the magazine during the week. When the game ended, I knew I was coming back to Dallas the following week. One little stop in between, Pasadena, for the BCS National Championship.
Funny, sometimes our travel is odd. I could not book a flight to Los Angeles from Atlanta the day before the game because the flights were so booked up with people connecting though from Alabama onto LA. I flew home from Dallas and spent 12 hours there before heading to Los Angeles.
Out in Los Angeles, I found the warmest weather I had seen in weeks. Everywhere, including home, was well below freezing. The game was also great! The outcome, great! (Wife is a BAMA grad, life is good) The difficulty in covering championships at any major level is the amount of people on the field, before, during and after the game. I have to say, they did a nice job managing it there at the Rose Bowl except for one rouge security guard. Let’s just say if he had taken a half step backwards, he would have been the 12th man on Texas’ offense.
You can guess when the worst time was. I was in perfect position for the play of the game. Alabama causing a fumble after a hit on the quarterback. But myself and another photojournalist were completely blocked as the 12th man moved in front of us at the moment. As frustrating as it was, we still had a job to do and make great images. We did just that!
Now another trek back to Atlanta (for 12 hours) and back to Dallas for the rematch. And it was a rematch, an exact rematch. Dallas blew Philly away as they did the week before. Eight quarters of dominance. The two teams were playing at different speeds. It was obvious to me.
Although Dallas’ speed wasn’t enough to overtake Favre, I returned to the Big Easy (my second home this year) to cover Saints. Ever hear of Raider Nation? Well who would have thought there’d be a Who Dat Nation! The dome was loud and excitement was everywhere, until the first play of the game. Arizona broke for a touchdown and you could hear a pin drop. There was this sense all of a sudden that the Saints were playing like they finished the regular season. But the Saints didn’t think so. In the blink of an eye, they had a lead. The defending NFC Champions were blasted out of the dome.
Next up, another return to New Orleans for the Championship game against Minnesota. SI assigned three others to the game besides me, and for the first time in my SI career, we were limited with credentials and had to change our strategy. Of course, this game turns in to one of the best NFC Championship games in recent memory. New Orleans’ beloved Saints are going to the Super Bowl.
I ran out of breath chasing coach Payton and Drew Brees all over the dome field after the game. The postgame felt like a Super Bowl. The energy in the dome was higher than I had ever experienced there and that goes back to Super Bowl 24 for me. The only time it was as loud or close is when the dome re-opened after Katrina.
On to Miami for my 22nd straight Super Bowl, and the storyline is awesome. Peyton Manning against his father’s old team and the area in which the Manning’s grew up.