John F. Russell: The good and bad side of sports are what make the game so special
February 1, 2014
Steamboat Springs — Everybody loves to watch the celebration that follows a big win. We love to see the excitement on the faces of the players of our favorite team during that winning moment.
I've witnessed that moment first-hand many times.
I was lucky enough to watch the emotion on Lindsey Vonn's face after she raced to the gold medal in the downhill Olympic event four years ago. I've been fortunate enough to have watched dozens of local wrestlers claim state titles. It's in those moments that I realize there are two sides to every game.
It's important to remember, at least in the world of sports, that celebration always is accompanied by disappointment. Sure, the images of the Olympic medalists celebrating are heart warming, but it's the effort put forth by those who failed to reach the podium that makes the moment worthy of gold, silver and bronze.
Personally, I think that ignoring the efforts and the emotions of those who lost would be wrong. To look the other way would make that moment less important for those who won and those who lost.
That's why in the closing moments of the Super Bowl you see the dejected faces of the team that lost, that's why we have images of basketball players with a towel covering their face after losing the NBA championships.
For every high school athlete who collects a championship on the floor of the Pepsi Center, there is a bracket full of those who fell short, but these athletes provided the tests that every champion must get past to earn a title.
Every time a high school team gathers in the center of a field or a court to celebrate, somewhere in the background there is another team looking for comfort in the arms of one another, fans and parents. Both moments are important.
So often in sports, we only focus on the winners and the final score of the game. But every championship has two teams and the final score is what titles are based on. In two decades as a photographer, I've seen both sides of the big game. Of course, I would prefer to make images of the winning teams, but some of my most memorable images are of the athletes who lost in that big moment.
Among my favorites is a football player laying on his back in the middle of a snow-covered field after the Sailors lost a state semifinal playoff game (I can remember the image, but I can’t recall if the Sailors lost to Salida or Florence that year), and I still can see the faces of the Cheyenne Mountain fans heckling Ramsay Bernard as he walked off the court after losing a state championship match a few years ago.
No they are not the images I had hoped for. In my heart, I truly wish every post-game photo opportunity looked like the wake of the 1998 3A state championship girls soccer game, where the Steamboat Sailors collected the state title against Palisade. But when I look at those images, I have to remember that the Sailors won, 3-2, and were one shoot-out goal away from being on the other side of the party. The simple truth is that winning and losing are both part of the game, and the images we remember should reflect the game and not just the winners.