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Space, Time & Football: Two of Team 132

Marissa McClain/Daily
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By Marissa McClain, Managing Photo Editor
Published November 22, 2011

When I watch Michigan football games every Saturday, it’s through a telephoto lens. This very small window into the game allows me to capture moments that go by too quickly to appreciate in real time. Every game, my aim is to get “the shot” — the image that sums up hours of action in one still frame. And though I think there is something beautiful about the way a single image can tell its own story, something is lost in the transition from event to image.

I take upwards of 2,000 photos every game with a shutter speed that lasts 1/5,000 of a second. In other words, I capture less than a second of time during a three hour-long game. Despite my best efforts, I can’t rightfully say my view of the game — or of the players on coach Brady Hoke’s “Team 132” — is all-encompassing.

I try to capture moments that illustrate these men as individuals. I'm able to see certain things like senior defensive end Ryan Van Bergen's chest bump with Michigan Athletic Director Dave Brandon and senior center Dave Molk's head-butt with freshman offensive lineman Jack Miller before each game, but there’s only so much I can see through my 300mm lens, standing a safe distance away from the action on the field.

On the field, I’m an outsider looking in, and the only time I can really get a clear picture of my subject matter is when I look up from my viewfinder.

I wanted to see the view from the other end of the lens.

The Fan

Tuesday night press conferences at Schembechler Hall are always chaotic. As practice ends and players rush to grab food or go to class, a few get pulled aside to answer questions from the media.

On this particular Tuesday night, a little boy stands by the door and holds a Sharpie marker and a football. He blends into the crowd and eagerly watches as players speed by him. He is too overwhelmed by all the action to approach anyone for an autograph.

Junior wide receiver Roy Roundtree could easily overlook this young fan. He has other things to worry about. He already had a full day of class and practice, and now he has to speak to the press about Saturday’s game before heading to yet another class.

Roundtree has his priorities straight, though. He walks straight up to the boy and asks him if he wants his autograph. The small gesture probably meant the world to that boy, and that isn’t lost on Roundtree.

Roundtree is a fan of the game first. At the mere mention of his teammates or his favorite players, his eyes light up. He’s so impassioned that during our interview, he often forgot I wasn’t inside his head, as he told me fragments of stories and omitted names. Those kinds of interviews can be frustrating, but his excitement was so contagious that I didn’t mind listening a bit closer.

As I listened, I was reminded of a lecture in one of my classes. Physics Prof. Robert Savit told us about Einstein’s Theory of Relativity — how time can’t be understood in a linear way because as we move relative to each other, time can actually bend and shift in speed depending on our perspective.

Savit’s explanation of relativity sounded similar to Roundtree’s description of the way he feels when he is catching a ball during a big play:

“It just seems like everything slows down once the ball’s in the air,” he said. “Your mind is so set on focusing on that football — you don’t hear nothing. It’s just silent. Once that ball’s in the air … You think you’d hear the crowd, but you don’t see the crowd because you’re so zoomed in on that target.”

This odd combination of science and sport gave me my first insight into the mind of the players I capture every weekend: Roundtree isn’t just another player on the field who is in the right place at the right time — he is a craftsman of time, a strategist, but most importantly, Roundtree is an individual with his own perspective.

Roundtree discovered the sport after his family moved from Pahokee, Fla.