The Colin and Clay Show
Sports photographers often have the best view in the NFL house. During the 2013 season, The MMQB will regularly talk to the game’s best shooters about what they see from the sideline (or the stands, or the blimp) and how they get the critical shot.
BY EMILY KAPLAN | PHOTOGRAPHS BY ROBERT BECK/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED
Sports Illustrated photographer Robert Beck kneeled in the middle of the end zone. With 9:30 remaining in the first half of Sunday’s game at Candlestick Park, San Francisco faced a 3rd-and-6 at the Green Bay 10. “I thought the Niners might run up the middle,” Beck says. “To keep the Packers honest.”
Not quite. With no passing options, Colin Kaepernick scrambled to the sideline. That provoked a late hit by Clay Matthews, a sideline scrum and two blown calls—a crucial series in San Francisco’s 34-28 win. “Did I know it would be a key moment? Definitely not,” says Beck, an SI photographer since 1986. “I misjudged the play, but luckily I was close enough to capture the action anyway.”
Initially, Beck focused on Matthews. The All-Pro linebacker with blonde hair that spills below his shoulders—one of the most charismatic and visually interesting players to shoot, Beck said—launched toward Kaepernick two steps too late. “I knew Clay made comments about Kaepernick during the week,” Beck says. “So anything between the two would be big.”
Beck then concentrated on Niners tackle Joe Staley, who instigated the scuffle by shoving Matthews. (After offsetting fouls, the officials incorrectly allowed San Francisco to repeat third down; Kaepernick threw a touchdown pass). “It was so loud, I couldn’t hear the public address announcer,” Beck says. “I didn't realize what happened until later; I just kept shooting.”
Beck snapped photos of the tussle until Kaepernick and Staley exited. “Once they left, I knew the refs would clean it up,” Beck said.
So he glanced at the sideline. “And I saw [Niners coach Jim] Harbaugh going absolutely crazy,” Beck said. “So I focused on him for a while.”
The California-based Beck will miss shooting at Candlestick Park. The facilities are a bit old, he said. Getting there—two roads in, two roads out—can be tough. “But the big games and big plays that have happened there—it’s great to have a stadium with so much history,” Beck says.
And the photographer enjoys being right in the middle.