I made a mistake. A big mistake.

I was on a business trip to Boston after photographing a hockey game between the Boston Bruins and the Columbus Blue Jackets at the TD Garden in the north end of Beantown. It was midnight as I walked past the lively bar adjacent to the cozy Hyatt Place hotel I stayed for the night.

I was tired. I’ll start with that excuse.

Entering the frigid hotel room where the air conditioning had been cranking for the past six hours, I was about to do a bad thing. I should have just planned to grab my book, get under the covers alone and read myself to sleep.

But I didn’t.

Yes, you probably guessed correctly what happened next. It was the worst decision that I could have made.

I turned on the television.

In full disclosure, we hardly ever turn the television on in our house anymore. Having three young boys has made Elizabeth and I make a radical stand against the bizarre content flooding the screen. You can scoff at me. Call me an old grump. An out of touch curmudgeon. I’m cool with that.

I watched a football game with our nine-year-old son a few months back. The words erectile disfunction were mentioned more during the commercials than screen passes were thrown during the game. And if they weren’t marketing to the older men with sexual problems, someone was lying dead on a boat with bullet wounds throughout his body. How many crime scene shows can one network put on the air, anyway? Mind you, this was during a game on a Sunday afternoon.

I miss the times when the only thing marketed were soft drinks and the Budweiser clydesdales. Those were the good ol’ teeth rotting, alcoholism days. Back when things were simple.

At the hotel, I pressed the alluring red button of the remote and proceeded to spend the next two hours completely wasting the next two hours. I saw at least seventeen murders- six of them by Will Smith alone during a wild little spree he went on in some industrial park. I was surprised because I had always heard that Will was such a nice guy.

My television was a colorful dispenser of fights, cheating spouses, political vitriol, even more murders, a basketball game featuring a team from Iowa and at least four infomercials. I found refuge in the infomercial. Fortunately I didn’t get depressed enough to buy the electric razor.

Does anyone really watch this stuff? It turned out that they do.

The average American watches more that five hours of television each day, according to the March 2014 “Cross-Platform Report” released by the Nielsen media ratings company.

The average American is also overweight, in debt, depressed and anxiety ridded. At the same time, Americans are overwhelmingly polled as feeling overworked and too busy. How in the world does the average American have time to even watch five hours of television?

As a recent outsider of the boob tube world, those two hours of empty calorie consumption left me anxious, depressed and negative. My old political hangups flared again and I saw the world as a much darker place.

I had a conversation about politics with a friend recently. They were stunned that their own sibling couldn’t see how their political party was so out of touch and dangerous. The sibling felt the same way back. They both watch opposing cable news stations exclusively.

And it made me think that the higher ups at these competing networks are in a private room somewhere giving each other high fives and fist bumps behind the scenes. Sometimes I truly believe they are intentionally trying to keep everyone mad at each other. It’s good for ratings. Who’s going to keep watching if they calmly, rationally and intelligently argue both sides fairly?

But is that reality? And don’t even get me started on reality television. I’ve been around enough television production to know that hardly any of it is real, even the ones you think are.

I what do you think forty hours of television a week can do to a mind?

Back to top|Contact me

It was the Summer of ’98, the year Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa captured everyones attention towards their quests for the baseball home run record. That summer, I was preparing to go back to school, Ohio University specifically, to finish my journalism degree. I was caught up in the home run race as well.

A few weeks before I left for Ohio, the St. Louis Cardinals and McGwire visited Shea Stadium with the slugger one homer away from 50. Myself and a group of friends were there as McGwire hit number 50 and 51 and received a rare standing ovation from the opposing crowd.

When I returned home that night I was totally wrapped up in the chase for 62 and I pulled up the Cardinals schedule online. I noticed that they would be playing in Cincinnati on September 9th and 10th. Cincinnati was less than four hours from Athens. With the rate at which he was racking up home runs, he just might break the record on one of those nights. I immediately bought one ticket for each game and crossed my fingers.

Over the next two weeks, I packed all of my stuff getting ready to move to Ohio while constantly monitoring the home run chase. The thought of getting the photograph and celebration of such a historic moment became my goal.

I loaded my car on Sunday, September 7th and drove over to my parents house on Long Island, New York to say goodbye before hitting the road. I still remember my mother handing my a wadded up pile of cash while trying unsuccessfully to hold back her tears. My dad hugged me and wished me luck, and I was on my way. By the time I made it to Athens, McGwire was in St. Louis, sitting on 60 home runs.

The next home run would tie the record. That would be great to photograph, but I really wanted to record breaker. The Cardinals had two more home games before the games in Cincinnati.

As I unpacked and got used to my new tiny apartment, I planned in my head where I would be during his at bats. Should I try to get to the outfield, using my long lens to capture the scene from that angle? Maybe sneak down near the photo well on the first base side near the credentialed photographers to get a close up shot of the historic swing?

Monday was Labor Day. I walked around the beautiful campus getting a feel for the place, which I loved. It felt like my new home from the day that I got there. I slid into one of the dozens of bars on Court Street for a sandwich and a beer to witness McGwire clobber his 61st home run that afternoon, tying the record set by Roger Maris. If he didn’t hit a home run the following night, I was going to be given my shot at recording history.

Tuesday was the first day of classes. A whole new beginning for me. At 26, I was older than the typical student but I had the same butterflies. I remember my first photography class that morning. I remember meeting some photo students that became good friends, some even to this day. What I remember most, though, is leaving my History of World War II class that evening in a hurry because the Cardinal game had started and I needed to get back to see it.

There was a restaurant between the the building where my class was and my apartment. I ran in to the nearly empty, dark saloon and asked the first guy I saw if McGwire had homered. No, he said, he didn’t in his first at-bat. I ran, and fast, up the metal stairs leading to my dingy little room and turned on the television.

I called my brother, and we were talking about it. I was telling him my plans, How I was planning to cut a few classes on Wednesday (not the best way to start a new college era) and leave for Cincinnati. I was really excited and nervous when McGwire stepped to the plate in the fourth inning. He’ll probably get three more at bats, I said. If he can just hold off.

And then he swung. I actually was happy at first, it looked like a line drive. A double, maybe, if it got over the left fielder. But the announcers voice kept rising and I kept waiting for the ball to start dropping. It dropped, but after disappearing behind the left field wall like a thief in the night. A thief that just stole my chance at photographing history.

My heart sunk. It was over. No chance for history, as the fans in St. Louis went bananas, my brother was on the other line of my phone. “You O.K.?” he said, or something like that. ” But, but, that didn’t look like…um….crap….really?”, was how I think I responded.

So now I had these two useless pieces of paper called baseball tickets. And then I thought about it. This is a national story. Actually an international story, judging by the press. The game in Cincinnati will be his first road game after breaking the record. There will be a standing ovation. He’ll raise his arms, probably, lift his batting helmet for the crowd. it will be a hell of a moment!

So on my second day of school, I cut my last two classes and hit the road for the Queen City. Ticket in hand, I was making good time. As the fates for this story would have it, a few cars decided to have a little get together on the road, creating a pretty major roadblock on a pretty minor road. Optimistically, I looked at the clock and the time of the first pitch and assured myself I would make it.

It really was a race against time. I cringed when I would see the numbers change on my clock inside of my car. As Cincinnati came into view, the announcers on the radio spoke with extra emphasis was they described the game from the night before. The players were warming up as I somehow talked my way into a relatively good parking spot near the stadium. I grabbed my photo gear and crossed the bridge towards the stadium when the crowd began cheering louder than they should have.

I was walking as fast as my legs would let me when the cheering turned into an all out roar. The game had started. McGwire walked to the plate for his first at bat and received a long standing ovation. He lifted his helmet, the moment that I envisioned in my head that morning. It looked exactly as I had hoped. Except I was outside when it happened, staring at an ugly concrete stadium while some dope asked my repeatedly if I wanted to buy peanuts.

Exhausted and defeated, I continued into the stadium. Figuring that I should at least get some photographs of McGwire while I was here, I finally made it inside the stadium after the next inning. I could barely make out McGwire as he entered the dugout as I noticed his replacement run to first base. He had been pulled from the game after his at bat! That was the cherry on top. The icing on the cake. That fat lady had sung.

With my tail between my legs, I left the Riverfront Stadium. I drove back to Athens that night with not one photograph of Mark McGwire. Just two days of bad timing and ironic results. Returning to class on Wednesday morning, I had the reprieve of not having to explain my silly quest because I wasn’t there long enough to tell anyone about it. Until now.

Back to top|Contact me

Don’t judge a book by its cover. I’ve heard that phrase about as many times as I’ve seen a book cover. What is funny is that it is usually used to describe a person and not a book.

I think about how often we are fooled by ‘the cover’. We see this in the celebrity world even day. Images are created to fit a finely crafted persona. Publicists, television, websites and magazines build up false model of a

Back to top|Contact me

Andrew Golota-Riddick Bowe fight

July 11th, 1996. Madison Square Garden, NYC.

On a warm summer night, a month before my formal photography internship at New York Newsday was to begin, a lightly regarded heavyweight boxing match was to take place at Madison Square Garden. Not credentialed for the fight, I purchased a ticket for the bout, camera bag on my shoulder, prepared to photograph the match for nothing except the experience.

Hardly anyone seemed to care much about this fight, evidenced by the fact that the “World’s Most Famous Arena” was not even halfway filled to capacity. The light crowd made it easier for me to set up in a prime location, in the first level above the ring. Positioned next the the makeshift photographers podium to my right, I had a great look at the ring and ready for the fight.

The fight was dominated by Golota, who was way ahead in points even with having a few deducted by repeated low blows to Bowe. After six rounds, I was preparing to photograph a knockout when I noticed the battery on my camera beginning to die. I knew I was low on power and didn’t want to run out before anything eventful happened.

The seventh round was where all hell broke loose. Golota drilled Bowe with a fourth low blow, and was promptly disqualified. As they made their way back to their corners, a member of Bowe’s entourage threw a punch at a member of Golota’s crew. Within seconds , managers, trainers and and supporters of both sides entered the ring battle royal style and an all out brawl ensued.

Like in slow motion, I fired away as a witnessed Andrew Golota being hit from behind by someone with a cell phone.

I looked to my right to see Newsday photographer Paul Bereswill, who had this saddened look on his face, but also seemed concerned. Being in the second level of the arena, I never felt a sense of danger initially. Even though there was fighting going on even on the arena floor outside of the ring, there was not a reason to believe it wouldn’t calm down.

Around that time, I noticed muffled chants and screams to my right. They were in the far corner of the arena and moving towards the ring. It seemed surreal, but a group of fans, some waving what seemed to be polish flags, were charging towards ringside as many of the crowd were rushing past them to get out.

At this point, the battery to my camera had completely died. Without a backup, I was now a complete observer. Beyond my belief, these men rushed towards ringside, pushing aside fans on their way. As they made their way near the floor level is when things officially got out of control. Brawls broke out throughout the arena as complete chaos took over. Like a cancer, violence appeared in all areas of the building.

Like anything that catches you by surprise, it can be too late before you realize how serious the situation is. That moment happened to me as I stared at the madness below. Not believing what I was watching, I was snapped out of my trance by the sound of a skull being slammed against a wall to my left. The fighting wasn’t just in the ring or on the floor. It was everywhere.

I turned around to find two grown men brawling. Quickly, one got the better of the other and threw him to the ground. He then unceremoniously slammed the his head against the wall, kicked him and ran into the concourse. The beaten man, bleeding, jumped up and chased after him. At least two other fights were occurring around my section and I decided the that I had to get out. Packing my gear, I made a quick left and, before entering the well lit concourse, did a double take at the thick blood streak horizontally decorating the wall on my way out.

It was obvious that blood was spilled throughout the building. One person was critically injured during the melee. But seeing the amount of blood smeared against that wall was the lasting memory for me during a brutal night where a heavyweight fight had no winners.

Back to top|Contact me