Heartbreak hostility

Riverside Brookfield’s basketball season came to an end last night as they lost in overtime to Marshall in a sectional semi final game of the Illinois state playoffs. A prayer of a three-pointer at the buzzer by Marshall forced overtime. Marshall hit another shot with one second left in the overtime period to win it. RB players and fans were stunned.

I was more than prepared to photograph the typical celebration/disappointment that always ensues after a game like this. A lot of emotion gets bundled up and someone’s bubble is going to burst no matter the final score. It’s one of life’s most important lessons. You can’t win ’em all.

Most RB players reacted like any high school kid would. They were heartbroken and many wilted to the court, hands over their faces. One player wept, and I can’t say I blame him. I’ve photographed a lot of games at RB this season and he was clearly the team’s senior leader. Darn fine player too who clearly works hard and I never once saw him exhibit something that could be considered anything but great sportsmanship. An all around good student athlete it seems. That he was upset was understandable.

He was sprawled out on the court when I began photographing him. Not because I wanted to add to his disappointment but simply because it was a moment to document, just like the hundreds of others I’ve documented throughout the season. A season in high school sports can produce plenty. Preseason optimism. Nervousness as a season begins. The heated game against a rival. Senior night. And, the end. I was there for all of these and more this season at RB. Not by choice, but because it is my job.

Of course most teams end their season with disappointment. I’ve photographed it many times. Players console each other and they begin the process that we humans all go through, which is to understand even more the importance of trying your best, working as a team and moving past the notion that one game ever means more than the others.

And while I have little doubt the players on RB’s team have a better handle on this than most, one of their coaches clearly has a lot to learn. As I attempted to photograph the player on the court, this RB assistant coach took exception and intentionally blocked me. When I moved, he moved to block me again. After I told him to not do that, he physically bumped me, got in my face and began berating me. He cursed at me and let’s just say, questioned my sexual orientation a few times.

It didn’t catch me off guard because this is unfortunately typical behavior for a lot of high school coaches these days. Not sure why that is, but my guess is they are for the first time in their life big men on campus and try to emulate the fire-breathing coaches they see on television. That sort of new found glory and power, imagined as it is, can lead to some pretty aggressive and obnoxious behavior.

I listened to the coach for awhile and tried to make my own point, but quickly moved on. A short time later, I shot this photograph of the same student on his team bench. I have always felt it important, even on the smallest of settings, to clearly represent the role of media. Maybe even especially at a community-minded paper like the one I work at now, it is important to maintain that journalists are there to cover, not to promote. The good times and the sad.

2 Responses to “Heartbreak hostility”

  1. Good job Jason. The photo is good, the story better. Thanks for sharing the working side of your photography. I always look forward to one of these popping up in my feed. Green Line Ale at Poor Phil’s or High Life’s at Fitzgerald’s?

    Bunch of Oak Park dad’s playing the main stage at Fitzgerald’s tomorrow night in two different local bands.

  2. Thanks, David. I heard about the Fitzgerald’s thing. I actually randomly photographed a couple of the fellas who will be performing as they shot hoops on Adams St. last weekend.

    I’m actually heading out of town this weekend. Let’s hit up Poor Phil’s and some of that Green Line Ale next week. I had a pint of it a couple weeks ago. Not bad at all!

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