My last entry included my reminiscences about a very significant moment in sports history, the infamous Ice Bowl football game between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State in 1985. After I wrote that, I got to thinking about that night and how memorable it was, and searched YouTube for it. Thankfully, someone had a VCR going that night, and posted the entire game.
Watching it filled me with an odd sense of loss and regret, and here’s why: it seemed to us at the time that our goal was to photograph the game in spite of the weather, when, in fact, the weather itself was much more significant, particularly now when we look back on the moment. That moment wasn’t about a football game. We covered football games every week. That moment was about the coldest, meanest, messiest night out that 44,000 fans ever experienced.
When I get my time machine working (it’s really only missing a couple of hard-to-find vacuum tubes) and go back to that night, the game on the field would become very secondary. I think I would bring just a 28mm and a 180mm, leave the motor drives off the cameras (since the cold slowed them to a crawl), and concentrate on the icy experience of fans, coaches, and even us photographers. I would love to have an image of myself from that night better than this one…
That’s the rub, really: to see and understand what is meaningful and memorable when we photograph the moments of our lives. The game is what brought us to Stillwater, Oklahoma that night in November 1985, but the freezing rain, the cold, the wind — that was the memory.