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Photography, sports and life as seen through the lens of Seattle Times photographer Rod Mar.

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March 25, 2008 11:01 PM

The Foul Line, the Three Point-Line and the Thin Blue Line.

Posted by Rod Mar

So many lines in basketball.

There's the foul line, the three-point line, the midcourt line, the sidelines and the end line, and the two forwards and center combined are known as "the front line".

At the Sonics game against Portland last night, we were able to add " The Thin Blue Line" to that collection.

If you follow Seattle sports, you know that the Sonics were recently purchased by a businessman from Oklahoma City, and whose intent is to move the team there. Most of Seattle has been, up until recently, pretty apathetic about the possibility of losing their team.

The Sonics have 40 years of history here, but a terrible team, combined with no marketing effort to speak of, has placed the basketball team squarely in the shadows of the Seahawks and Mariners.

Oh, how I'd love to tell you what I really think about the situation, but that wouldn't really follow the mission of this blog, so I'll spare you the time and effort.

Anyway, a group called "Save Our Sonics" was holding a pregame "rally" of sorts at a bar near the arena. Among other activities, someone hired a small plane to fly a banner around the arena before the game with a statement calling for the team to stay in Seattle.

The press release called it a "photo opp", and that was the subject of the email I got from a sports editor telling me to be on the lookout.

I try really hard not to get bogged down by semantics, but there are no two worse words to a photographer's ears than "photo opp" (okay, maybe "no food" or "no beer" might come close).

To me, "photo opp" means, "well, this isn't really interesting enough for a reporter to write about, but maybe we can sucker some photographers to show up and we'll get some publicity anyway".

Let me be clear that this is certainly NOT what I think the authors of press releases imply when they use the term — but it's very close to what photographers infer when they read it on an assignment.

Of course, I digress.

I headed over to the bar and found 30-40 people milling around. There was a brief speech, a mention that the night would be peaceful and celebratory (celebrating what, I wondered), and they dispersed. They had met to get tickets they had purchased in a block of seats. There was plenty of media around waiting for something interesting to happen, but nothing did.

I thought they'd at least walk together with their signs and t-shirts to the arena, but they weren't that organized, even with three television crews waiting to put their efforts on the news.

Outside the bar, I looked up and found the airplane and banner. Airplanes and trailing banners can be good visuals to fans approaching the arena, but they make really boring photos.

I trailed a group of about a dozen fans as they walked to the game, and made a quick frame or two. This one was best:

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 16-35mm/f2.8 lens @ 16mm, ISO 400, 1/40th sec.,f11)

Once the game began, it was clear where the group was sitting, and they took advantage of the first timeout of the game to get noticed:

(Canon EOS 1D Mark IIN, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 115mm, ISO 1000, 1/200th sec.,f2.8)

Meanwhile, I was also shooting game action, since the Sonics were playing Portland, and the game was scheduled to be the sports centerpiece of the newspaper ("UNLESS SOMETHING GREAT HAPPENS AT THE RALLY", the email from my editor instructed. Uh, no.).

Seattle vs. Portland is really interesting because the Sonics, who belong to Seattle, don't feel like Seattle's team with all of the Oklahoma City talk going around. Portland, however, formerly one of Seattle's staunchest rivals, features two players who grew up and played in Seattle (Brandon Roy and Martell Webster), and a coach who is known around these parts as "Mr. Sonic" (Nate McMillan) for all he gave to the franchise when he played for Seattle, which, incidentally, was his entire career.

Got some decent action early as Portland's LaMarcus Aldridge came over the top of Seattle's Nick Collison on a rebound right in front of me.

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 24-70mm/f2.8 lens @ 30mm, ISO 1600, 1/500th sec.,f2.8)

It was after a series of chants that grew throughout the arena "SAVE OUR SONICS! SAVE OUR SONICS!" that I realized there was a larger number of police around then usual.

Normally, there are uniformed police around the bench area, and a few others wandering around. The only obstacles to the playing floor during most of the games is uniformed ushers who have fancy vests and sweaters, but not Tasers and firearms.

There were rumors that some sort of "civil disobedience" might occur at the game, as one national columnist suggested that irate Seattle fans "walk on the court" during a break in the game to make a point to the league that franchises with long histories shouldn't be allowed to change cities at the whim of an owner.

So, we had what is known as a "heavy police presence". I gently teased a couple of the officers who regularly work the games that their superiors obviously didn't trust them because they sent 50 uniformed backup for relatively unimportant game, and they laughed. However, the cops on the floor were totally business. Not sure how serious they thought the threat was, but they had their game faces on, lest any fan get a crazy idea.

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 24-70mm/f2.8 lens @ 24mm, ISO 1600, 1/250th sec.,f2.8)

No trouble was to be found on this night, unless you were the Portland Trailblazers and you lost to the Sonics, who earned only their 17th win of the season (against 54 losses). Former Husky standout Brandon Roy managed only 11 points on 5-17 shooting, and I made a frame of him getting blocked on the way to the basket in the fourth quarter, which turned out to be our centerpiece photo. It's always nice to get the former local star in the paper, especially since he is one of Portland's best players and the photo tells the story of the game.

(Canon EOS 1D Mark IIN, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 90mm, ISO 1000, 1/500th sec.,f2.8)

Here's the sports cover:

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