(But bonus points for Cal).
In bygone eras, athletics were defined by personal competition: one person or group striving to better another via physical strength and ability. It was not until the turn of the 20th century until sports, organized or otherwise, took off in popularity among the general public. Furthermore, as time passed, sports and the spectacle of athletics became ever more present in the everyday lives of regular people, where we find ourselves today. Athletics are a multi-billion dollar industry, in every country in every corner of the world. Multiple media networks exist solely to provide sports-related information.
Didn't that guy get a Web Gem last night?
How did the simple concept of physical competition get this far? My theory is: the advent of media imagery first made possible by photography at the beginning of the 20th century enabled people to connect with athletics far more than times prior. Regular people could now live vicariously through their athlete heroes because they could see their struggle on a daily basis through photographs. The sports fan could put themselves in the place of the athletes in the photographs, and seemingly form a bond with someone who "shared" that struggle.
Oh God my neck.
But truly great sports photographs do more than show a physically gifted person on the field. They tell a story about. So, CGB, what is your favorite image from all sports? Why? What does the image tell you or make you think? Has it affected your sports fandom? Do you just like it because it looks cool? Dig it up on Google images and post it... (Also, don't feel like you have to have a long writeup or anything...just post!)
Anyway, here's my favorite.
Kinda odd, I guess, since I have never been nor ever will be a Bulls fan. But I find this classic capture from the 1988 slam dunk contest to be as representative of an athlete as I've ever seen.
For starters, the photo itself isn't technically amazing. It's not like this was difficult to take, or the photographer got a one-in-a-million lucky shot. He was just in the right place at the right time to make the capture. But what I love about the picture is that it basically encapsulates what was Michael in the early stages of his career. Already having wowed people with his dunks, smoothness, and seemingly endless airtime at UNC and the pre-championship Bulls, he was just starting to make his name as a star in the NBA. Look at the crowd; each face is transfixed on Michael. There are no lights in the background, and the image fades to darkness as the distance from Michael grows. The anticipation is palpable; the crowd looks like they're watching the rise of a 4th of July firework that's still 100 feet from exploding.
When I see the picture, I almost feel like I'm watching a movie, only it's slowed down to the point where motion has stopped. I can imagine what happened before, and what's about to occur. One might question why the photographer didn't snap the picture as Michael was driving the ball through the hoop; slam dunks are what the fans came to see, anyway. I think that he didn't do so lends itself to the photo. After all, just as Michael had yet to become the greatest to play the game, and the the Bulls had yet to become the dynasty they are now known for, Michael had yet to slam the ball home. But with all the obvious potential energy from the time stopping, 3-point-line jumping, gravity-defying athlete about to be unleashed on the hoop, the fans, the city of Chicago, and the game of basketball itself, the crowd didn't need to see him slam it home.
They could already see what was coming.