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My 15 minutes

Justin Tardiff | Tuesday, November 1, 2005

It’s not every day that you get on TV during a national broadcast, appear prominently in a photo in Sports Illustrated, and have a message board started about you. Here’s how it happened to me.

In the fourth quarter of what will most likely be the best football game I ever witness, I was on the sidelines photographing the game for The Observer.

As USC began its final drive by failing to advance the ball on first, second or third down, Notre Dame Stadium worked itself into a frenzy that I didn’t think possible. So much for those that say we’re a quiet stadium from a quiet Midwestern town. Having attended Chiefs games my entire life at infamously loud Arrowhead Stadium, I had never before heard Notre Dame Stadium become as deafeningly loud as Arrowhead, but on this day it was.

So came fourth down and nine for the Trojans. Until now, I had kept my cheering to myself while quietly taking photos and keeping my head behind the camera. But I could no longer restrain myself. With Matt Leinart a mere 20 yards away, I put aside my professionalism and joined the 80,000 others who were screaming their heads off. After the pass, my view was blocked by the USC sidelines. But I didn’t need to see what happened, I heard it. Silence and utter desolation by the many and shouts of elation by the few.

Now I was completely out of position, so I sprinted behind the USC bench and found a most opportune spot in front of the USC band right on the goal line. USC advanced to the two-yard line, and next came the one moment in Notre Dame sports history in which I will forever be ingrained.

There’s the snap and, wait a second, the play is coming right at me! Though I had the correct lens on the camera to get a shot of the play as it developed in the middle of the field, there was no way this lens was going work when the action came very close, about five feet as it turned out. So I lowered the camera and watched the action unfold in front of me: Leinart fumbled. You know the rest.

What I didn’t know or expect was the outcome of my lowering the camera. Sure I knew that being on the west sideline would increase my chances of making the TV broadcast, and it did. My plan of wearing bright colors (an orange shirt and green hat) so that my parents might see me on TV finally paid off … and then some. The next edition of Sports Illustrated featured six pages of photographs from the game, and sure enough, there I was, camera down and all, gracing the pages of SI.

In the photographers’ message board thread that started about me being caught “with my camera down,” one man quipped, “That may be the ultimate embarrassment for Mr. orange shirt.” Well, sir, at least I made it into Sports Illustrated.