[It’s my favorite time here at me.com: GUEST BLOG TIME. In this week’s guest blog, my friend and maker of photographic awesomeness, Rob Tringali, reports from high, high, high above Yankee Stadium. After many hours, Rob returned to earth to file this entry. He’s still floating from his experience, though.
You may remember Rob’s guest blog last entry, from the 2007 MLB ALCS.]
Take it away, Tringali …
Growing up in the ’70’s watching and attending sports events, a few things signaled a big game to me: Howard Cosell, a guy in the stands with a multi-colored wig holding a John 3:16 sign and the Goodyear Blimp hovering overhead. So when I was offered the opportunity to photograph the 2008 MLB All-Star game from the Direct TV blimp, I jumped at the chance. It sounded like a cool experience: floating high above Yankee Stadium on a warm summer night while the sun was setting. A photographer’s dream.
We were scheduled to lift off from Essex County Airport in New Jersey at 6pm. But once I got there, I found out I might not make it onto the blimp. Here’s why: Blimps are strange. They are like flying lawnmowers. A blimp can only be so heavy to lift off the ground, obviously, which has something to do with the way the helium is heated by the sun all day and the purity of the helium itself, among other things. So I stood on the runway talking to the pilot about all the mathematical equations that go into possibly leaving me behind.
Four of us were scheduled for the ride, and I was the last man on the totem pole. You load in like a four-man bobsled. First the pilot, then the cameraman, then the sign operator and then me. You walk with the blimp down the runway, and when the pilot gives you a signal to jump on, you jump on. Now came the moment of truth. I get my signal … and we were off. I made it! I guess it was my lucky day. Will get back to that later.
The blimp sailed across the Hudson on a glorious Manhattan night towards Yankee Stadium, which could not look more beautiful. The sun was sinking in the west and I was fifteen hundred feet above the House that Ruth built. It’s a memory I won’t soon forget. We watched a flyover by the Stealth Bomber and then the game started. I started shooting photos like mad for the first couple of hours, and then I asked the cameraman what inning it was. “The top of the seventh,” he said. Perfect. We’ll be out of here in an hour.
Then, the dreaded words photographers (and most fans) hate to hear: EXTRA INNINGS.
This was not good. I had to “relieve” myself, and we’d already been in flight for several hours. But I could last a little while. Wait. The American League has the bases loaded with no outs. Give me a sac fly, a passed ball, anything … No! Are you kidding me? They didn’t score. I’m going to be here a while. I was warned numerous times about bringing extra Gatorade bottles for this exact situation, but I didn’t listen. And I couldn’t announce to the rest of the crew that I had a small bladder. Not this first-timer, I couldn’t be the first one to go. Hmm … there was a 4-foot by 3-foot window next to me. Would anyone notice? They all looked so busy. Nah, I can wait.
And wait … and wait … and 11th, 12th, 13th inning. This isn’t happening. This great joy ride has gone terribly wrong. Can I survive a jump into the East River from here? Aren’t we running out a fuel? Hey, Captain … I see a red light flashing. We should probably turn around and go back. All kinds of thoughts are racing through my mind now.
Surprisingly, you could make some sense of what was happening in the game from way up there and we all became whoever-scores-first-fans. Who’d have thought my night would end with four guys in a blimp cursing at the top of their lungs.
But finally, after 15 innings, there was a winner. Time to go home. But that wasn’t an easy process, either. Landing a blimp isn’t easy. We didn’t officially land until 3:30 a.m. and I was home by 4:30. It was quite an experience, but I’m pretty sure my blimp flying days are over.