If you think political campaigns are high-tech and sophisticated, cover a professional football game.
The public and press relations of NFL teams could get Refrigerator Perry elected president.I was in San Francisco recently, doing a piece on our local boys made good in the Bay area. As part of the package, I watched the Forty-Niner/Lion game from the press booth.
Think of this as coverage of the guys who supply you with game coverage. This is inside stuff, the story sports writers never tell.
Sports writers are coddled and catered to like Kings of Siam by the big league franchises. Food? We had a full-blown buffet complete with fried chicken, tacos, chips, dips and dozens of snacks and drinks. Every four or five minutes a young woman in a flight attendant outfit dropped by my desk to ask if there was anything I needed. There were more bathrooms in the press box than in the rest of the stadium.
We also had five television sets that constantly flashed replays of the action; we had our own color man who kept us informed about the twists and turns on the field. And we had information.
Lawdy, did we.
At half time, I had enough print-out sheets to compile a 400-page novel. Every play of the first half was printed out and explained with every "who, what, when and where" in place. There were statistics, then statistics about statistics. If a halfback moved from 48th on the all-time rushing list to 47th, we knew. If a Lion player was dating the sister of a Forty-Niner, it was all there.
Most writers didn't take a note. They didn't have to. It was an amazing display of high-powered PR in action.
On the other hand, I also learned a little bit of what life is like for sports photographers.
If sports writers are the glamorous quarterbacks of the profession, the photographers are the linemen. Or, to borrow an Army analogy, sports writers are the officers, photogs the grunts.
No buffets for those guys. When the weather hits 20 below, the photographers are out there in Eskimo outfits blowing on their hands. The writers are relaxing in a comfort-controlled booth.
Sports writers walk about 20 yards a game - most of that to and from the buffet.
Sports photographers walk about 20 miles. They get green knees. They get sun-scorched, run over and abused by the players and anyone else who wanted to give them a forearm shiver.
It is not white-collar work.
I sat there in my booth on the 50-yard line, watching the game through a shatter-proof glass window and felt bad for the photographers. Then I began to feel guilty. I felt so bad I left my seat to make another trip to the buffet.
Sports photographers are heroes, I decided after two drumsticks, but they're not very smart. If they were smart, they'd be sports writers.