When My Most Popular Photos Are Out Of Focus
They say you rarely go viral for the the posts you want.
To be honest I hardly consider the number of likes and retweets I received on one of my recent posts to be what anyone would consider viral, but given that it was a reply to another tweet and not an actual post to my account I think it ranks as one of the most interacted with tweets I’ve ever made. Which is why I’m sharing the story. Plus the end of this game was one of the more intense and controversial I’ve seen in 20 plus years of covering games.
The moment photographed above would lead to one of the more dramatic moments I’ve seen in high school football in a long time and what I thought was a highlight reel moment for a season, not just a game. Simeon, a Chicago Public School hosted Nazareth Academy in the Illinois quarter-final round for class 7A.
Simeon’s Alante Brown was a force on the field, who seemed to put his heart into every play and it’s always hard to see someone like that lose a game, but I could be saying the same thing about Nazareth’s Michael Love if the game had gone the other way. With around 30 seconds left in the game, I had lined up right on the goal line of the visitors side. With the score Nazareth (visitors) 34 – Simeon 27, this ensures I’ll be in position to photograph the tying score if it happens, or the victorious celebration if it doesn’t.
Brown finished off the run from the photo above with a leaping dive towards the end-zone pylon from about the 3 yard-line, which he touched the football to before landing out of bounds. I was quick enough to switch from my long lens to my wide lens as Brown raced towards me, firing off a burst of frames. Now a play or two earlier I had set the focus to the area I knew would be the location of any possible shot I was going to take, so somewhere in the rush to take the photo, I either instinctively hit the auto-focus button, or accidentally moved the manual focus ring, because my images were out-of-focus. The referee who was standing as close as I was to the play and was most likely watching Brown’s feet, where I was watching his upper body, ruled that he had stepped out of bounds around the 2 yard line. I looked through my my camera files and saw the photos out of focus, and was slightly relieved that what looked like the play of the game, and a photo I clearly should have had, in a sense did not matter now. Clearly I was wrong, or I wouldn’t be writing this post.
Simeon would run the ball on the very next play and be stopped with no gain, or a loss of a yard. They called their last timeout and there was a debate about where the time on the clock should be. In the end it roughly 5 seconds was removed to bring the time in the game to 20.5 seconds. Nazareth would end up swarming Simeon’s Deangelo Hudson behind the line of scrimmage and with roughly 15 seconds to go there seemed to be some confusion from just about everyone on the field.
From a ball flopping around in the air, to Simeon players standing on the other side of the line of scrimmage, or moving frantically to get the refs to place the ball; one side sprung up with joy an elation, while a large number of players on the other side collapsed in agony. For some of the press on the sidelines, we were talking amongst ourselves, wondering just what did we see. The ending felt weird, but I want to be clear I’m not saying that in a way to take away anything from the kids at Nazareth, or tell the kids at Simeon they shouldn’t be heart broken. Each week in November I see some of the states most masculine young men brought to tears.
In a tweet by Simeon fans you can see a video of the play and my shooting from the hip action. That’s when I added these out of focus shots of that would-be touch down and when Twitter kind of did it’s thing. Like I said, not really viral, but the number of retweets on a reply is most likely the tops for me.
I was the photographer right there, I thought he scored too. Looked like it on the 3 out of focus frames I grabbed. But 3 frames can’t tell the whole story. Interesting to see the video. pic.twitter.com/UqeG4E0vSz
— Vincent Johnson (@VincentDJohnson) November 13, 2018
Like I said in the reply. Three frames is hardly a mountain of evidence. At the end of the day, this score doesn’t win the game, it doesn’t even ensure overtime, as both teams had missed extra points. The best way to ensure a possible bad call from a referee doesn’t cost you a game is to be up by at least 10 points by the last two minutes.