One great thing about being a photographer for the Daily News is the amount of travel we get to do. Last night I made my first trip to Vanderbilt University to cover the Lady Toppers battling the 20th ranked Commodores. I rode down there with Dr. James Robinson a friendly, well-known local dentist. He shoots pictures for WKU’s Sports Information Department. It seems like there are a lot of doctors and dentists shooting on the sidelines of sporting events these days. Of course it’s easy to tell them apart from the newspaper and magazine photojournalists. No it’s not the media credentials hanging from their necks because lots of people can get those. And it’s not the grizzled look of the news veterans who have been coming to these events for years. The doctors and dentists are easy to spot because they have the most expensive cameras. But I have shot a lot of games with Doc Robinson and am long over my lens envy.
I was excited about going to Vanderbilt and curious to see what the basketball arena would be like. Just the Vanderbilt name evokes a certain vision of grandeur and nobility. Maybe it’s the history of the shipping and railway magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt that makes everything sound so expensive, or maybe its just the tuition fees at the school that do that. Either way I could picture chandeliers hanging down in place of halogen lights and people dressed up to view the spectacle known as NCAA Women’s basketball. I envisioned the arena as some grand theater with a parquet hardwood floor for the sports. A place that Dr. James Naismith would be proud to have to showcase his invention.
I was a little disappointed when we got to Memorial Gymnasium in Nashville. It was cavernous but not really grand. It seemed like a bunch of theater seating coming at you from four different directions. Maybe it was designed for country music events. Maybe they should rename it the Wynnona-dome or something.
It seems strange as far as basketball arenas go. It is almost like four arenas or four theaters if you will, almost like four separate sets of stands. The floor, unlike most other schools is raised and the teams benches are along the the baselines instead of the sidelines.
The Vanderbilt people seemed friendly though and I wasn’t there to admire the architecture but to shoot a basketball game.
I sat down in the end zone and was soon joined by other photographers. Attendance in the building was very sparse at the start of the game and never really got any better. The night before was a sellout when the undefeated Vandy mens team played Wake Forest.
A young photographer sat on my left and a television cameraman was on my right. After shooting the action for awhile I noticed the young photographer would tap his hand holding the camera with his open hand after every Vanderbilt score or good play. It almost seemed like clapping but without sound, more a symbolic type of display.
After awhile I asked him if he was cheering. He answered that with the lack of fans in attendance he thought his team needed all the help they could get.
I said that usually cheering by journalists is discouraged and there are even signs to that effect posted in press boxes everywhere. He said that “The Hustler” who he worked for, was not bound by any of these rules. Interesting I thought to myself, deducing that the Hustler was the student newspaper at the university and not the more well-known adult magazine.
Either way Vanderbilt didn’t really need any help as they easily defeated the Lady Toppers. I felt bad Western lost but kept it to myself, after all we are supposed to record the event and not be part of it.