Tuesday of last week, I emailed Art Chase, sports information director for Duke men’s Lacrosse, to explore the feasibility of going with the Duke men’s lacrosse team last weekend for the Final Four in Baltimore, MD. Originally the plan for me was to go for Inside Lacrosse. But, after reviewing their budget, it was apparent they would not be able to afford flying and housing me up there. Looking at my budget, I couldn’t afford the trip either. Between hotels, gas and food, it was going to be at least $1,000. The email to Art was a shot in the dark to see if he had a photographer going up with him to Baltimore with the team. Ever since James Schaffer from Inside Lacrosse did a photo story on the team for their “Two Days In Durham” article, I wanted to something with the team also. But I thought the chances of Art saying, “Sure come on up with us”, were about as high as me emailing head coach John Danowski, asking if I could play and him saying “Yes”.
Obviously I would not be writing this post if he said ‘no’ (Art that is, not coach).
My original intent was to post photos and posts along the way during the weekend. But I was shooting more photos over the weekend than I could keep up with. So this is more for posterity than an update.We left Durham on Thursday around 11am. I actually did not take the team bus up but instead rode with Art and “T.O.” in a rental car. That worked well as we arrived in Baltimore long before the team which didn’t leave Durham until 4pm. Not to mention, other than one other player, I didn’t know a soul on the team and wasn’t really ready to be thrown in with a bus full of strangers.
Before the team arrived, Art introduced me to coach Danowski in the hotel lobby. “Nice arm in January against the Bears” his said referencing a certain Colt’s QB with the same namesake. I expected him to promptly forget my name, but was proven wrong when Art, T.O. and I went to his (very swank) hotel room a couple hours later. “Peyton Manning, what’s up?” he said, putting his hand up to give me “five” as we walked in. That would be my nickname for the rest of the weekend.
Traveling with the team was a little nerve-racking for me. Never mind the fact I went to UNC. I felt like a lamb being thrown to the lions. I was careful though to not wear anything with Carolina Blue; I wasn’t looking to get my butt kicked behind the bus. I’m kidding of course. All joking aside, as I mentioned, other than Art and one defenseman, I didn’t know a soul on the team. For me, that makes it harder to photograph the team behind-the-scenes. For a while, I felt like an intruding outsider and felt eyes wandering my way questioning why I was there. In time, I started meeting players little by little; some I introduced myself to, some introduced themselves to me. One problem with this is I noticed I had a bias to take more photos of the players I knew and less of the ones I didn’t. But in any case, I found the players and coaches very welcoming and friendly.In one instance, I had not yet received clearance to cover the team pregame in the locker room. Art was going to ask coach the morning before the game and was going to let me know if I had clearance. But when we arrived to the stadium, I could not locate Art anywhere to see if I had clearance, and my cell phone could not get a signal to call him. I saw coach however and asked him if Art had talked to him about me doing some photos pre-game. Given the wringer the guys were put though by the media in 2006, I wasn’t too optimistic. But I heard a “Not a problem Peyton Manning” while he put his hand up for a high five.As is known by most, Duke beat Cornell in the semifinals but fell by one in the national championship to Johns Hopkins. Even when Duke was down by one with 60 seconds to go, I still expected Duke to tie the game and send it to OT. From the start of the trip, I fully expected Duke to be taking the trophy back to Durham. But only seconds later, in what was a hard to comprehend moment, I saw players from Hopkins run out onto the field to celebrate their national championship. So just like that, it was over.
The locker room post-game was very emotional as anyone with a brain cell could presume. It even had me tearing up which I’m not afraid to admit. When coach was talking to the team post-game, a better photographer would have taken photos of the occasion. Sad moment or not, it is a part of history. But I couldn’t do; I just couldn’t pick up the camera. I was partially spent emotionally but mostly thought it was inappropriate to do at a time like this.T
he NCAA recently ruled that members of the 2006 Duke Lacrosse team would have an extra year of eligibility. Most importantly, that means every single player from this 2007 team, seniors included, can return in 2008.
Thanks to Art, “Big Dino” (Coach Danowski) and all the players for their hospitality over the weekend. For Dookies, you aren’t so bad.
Below are links to photos from the weekend.
- First is the “final gallery” of my favorite black and white images of the Duke lacrosse team behind-the-scenes. I picked my favorite 50 photos for presentation.
- Duke Lacrosse practice photos (5-25-07)
- Matt Danowski, Zach Greer and Devon Sherwood at the ESPN Coaches Clinic photos (5-25-07)
- Pregame photos of Duke Lacrosse v Cornell (5-26-07)
- Game photos of Duke lacrosse v. Cornell (5-26-07)
- Postgame photos from Duke lacrosse v. Cornell (5-26-07)
- Postgame media photos from Duke lacrosse v. Cornell (5-26-07)
- Duke lacrosse media day photos (5-27-07)
- Duke lacrosse v. Johns Hopkins pregame photos (5-28-07)
- Game photos of Duke lacrosse v. Johns Hopkins (5-28-07)
- Duke lacrosse v. Johns Hopkins postgame photos (5-28-07)