As most of you are aware by now, I recently added a blind link in the right sidebar, called the Catch of the Day, illustrated by the famous photo of Dwight Clark from the 1982 NFC Championship Game. We’re going to talk about that photo today. But first, a bit of backstory.
My original plan was to call the blind link Touch ’Em All, illustrated by a close-up photo of a stirrup-clad foot rounding third base. But I couldn’t find a suitable photo for that, so I thought for few minutes and came up with “Catch of the Day,” figuring I’d use a photo of an outfielder making a great catch. I’ve always loved this photo of Nyjer Morgan, so I considered using that. But in order to make it fit in the sidebar, I would’ve had to crop out the shadow, and the shadow has always been one of my favorite things about that photo. So that wouldn’t do.
I spent a bit of time looking around for other photos of outfielders making catches, and then I thought, “Hmmm, it’s football season, so why not a photo of a wide receiver making a catch?” From there it only took about two seconds to decide upon the Clark photo. It shows two great uniforms, striped socks, and one of my all-time favorite sports moments (I remember exactly where I was when Clark caught that ball). And besides, for a feature called the Catch of the Day, what could be better than the Catch?
Turns out to have been a good choice, because it prompted the pseudonymous Hungry Hungry Hipster to produce a very interesting visual analysis of that photo. I’ll turn over the floor to him now.
Deconstructing the Catch
By the Hungry Hungry Hipster
I’ve been fascinated by the famous photo of the Catch for years and have always thought it to be the greatest photo ever of NFL action, and possibly the greatest sports photo, period. The photo has always been very visually pleasing to me, so I recently decided to find out why.
Out of curiosity I applied the golden ratio, the rule of thirds, and perspective to the photo, and I was completely blown away by the results. Now I know why this photo has always been so visually stunning to me: Compositionally, it is divine. I’ve prepared a series of exhibits to support my points. [To learn more about the golden ratio, the rule of thirds, and perspective, look here. Also, for all of the images that follow, you can click on the image to see a larger version. — PL]
I began by overlaying a golden spiral on top of the photo and right away I was floored:
I couldn’t believe how certain elements in the photo were lining up exactly with the lines and curves in the golden spiral. Arrow A points to a horizontal line lining up with the top of the stadium. Arrow B shows the curved line touching San Francisco player number 71’s right hand. Arrow C shows Dallas player number 58’s right foot touching the curved line. Arrow D shows number 58’s body touching a vertical line. Arrow E shows a referee’s and another 49er’s feet touching the curved line. Arrow F shows the curved line going over the left corner of Cowboys player number 24’s shoulder pads. Arrow G shows the curved line coming in contact with the border where the top of the stadium comes in contact with the border.
Next I rotated the spiral 180 degrees. Again, I got spectacular results:
Arrow A shows how the longest vertical line passes over the football. Arrow B shows how the top of Dwight Clark’s pants is aligned with and is an extension of the longest horizontal line. Arrow C shows how the longest vertical line goes through Clark’s left knee, up his left arm, and through the football. Arrow D shows a vertical line in the middle of Dallas player number 24’s body. Arrow E shows a vertical line aligned with the edge of 24’s torso. Also, the bottom of the 2 is aligned with a horizontal line.
Next I flipped the spiral horizontally. Again, great results:
Arrow A points to the longest horizontal line lining up with the bottom edge of the stadium’s upper level. Arrow B shows 49er number 71’s foot touching the curved line. Arrow C shows Cowboy number 58’s body aligned with the longest vertical line. Arrow D shows the football touching the curved line. Arrow E shows the curved line moving down Cowboy number 53’s body, all the way to his foot, where the line touches the border where the goal line touches the border.
Next I rotated the flipped spiral 180 degrees. Take a look:
Arrow A shows the top of 49er number 71’s helmet touching the curved line. Arrow B shows 49er number 49’s right hand touching the curved line. Arrow C shows the bottom edge of the stadium’s upper level coming very close to lining up with the longest horizontal line. Arrow D shows the spiral starting at the top edge of the stadium, continuing through the 49ers logo on Clark’s helmet and moving through his hand clutching the football. The green circle shows that the longest vertical line passes over Cowboy number 24’s right hand.
Next I applied the rule of thirds. Again, the results were remarkable:
Moving from left to right, the green oval shows the bottom edge of the stadium’s upper level aligning with the bottom horizontal line. The blue oval shows the right edge of Cowboy number 58’s body aligning with the left vertical line. The pink oval shows the top of the stadium, the top of Clark’s helmet, and the bottom of the stadium lighting’s support pole meeting at a crosshairs in the rule of thirds grid. (That stadium lighting support pole pretty much acts as the right vertical line.) The pink oval also shows the edge of Clark’s right sleeve aligning with the top of the stadium and the right vertical line passing over the 49ers logo on Clark’s helmet and his left TV number. The yellow oval shows Cowboy number 24’s right elbow very close to a crosshairs, the tips of his fingers on his left hand touching the bottom horizontal line, and the bottom horizontal line moving across the left corner of his shoulder pads.
For one final analysis (as you can tell, I’ve really been studying this photo), I applied some perspective:
I noticed strong diagonal lines between Clark and Cowboy number 24. At first glance I thought they were parallel, but after actually putting lines over the photo I noticed they all emerged from a vanishing point. Line A is at the same angle as Clark’s shin and also touches the top of Cowboy number 58’s helmet. Line B is at the same angle as Cowboy number 24’s arms and also touches the bottom of the 8 on Clark’s jersey. Line C connects the tops of the two players’ helmets, and Line D is aligned with the angle of the ball from tip to tip.
Overall, a really fascinating experience, and it probably helps explain why the photo is so famous and iconic. If you want to know more, here’s an article about the photo and the photographer who took it.
Sensational work there, HHH. I have only one thing to add: Has anyone else noticed that Clark made the Catch bare-handed? Football gloves were still uncommon 30 years ago. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The widespread use of tacky-surfaced gloves is one of the biggest football developments of the past generation, and certainly the most underrated one.
San Francisco treat: In yesterday’s Ticker I mentioned that the Giants would soon be unveiling an alternate road uniform. Now Chris Creamer has reported that the new design will be a reprise of the team’s 1980s road grays.
Personally, I always liked that design, and I’m glad to see it’ll be coming back. Odd that they’re going with two distinct gray roadies, though. Could this be a transitional phase, with plans to have the alternate supplant the primary in a year or two? Hmmmm.
Loathsome corporation plans to ruin beloved league — or not: Got a note yesterday afternoon from a reader named Alex (he prefers that his last name not be used), who works in sports retailing. Here’s what he had to say:
Today I ran into a Nike rep who I’ve known for a few years. He was showing the upcoming Nike NFL sportswear line, which will be called “The League.” After showing the pieces (cardigan, letterman jacket, a few sweaters and shirts), he then said that all NFL teams are going to receive the Pro Combat treatment, and that all the teams would get a uniform overhaul. He stated that the amount of combinations won’t be as great as with the NCAA teams, because of the NFL’s uniform rules, which made me believe that this might actually happen.
I don’t know if this is the truth or not, but the rep isn’t the kind of guy who would blow smoke up my ass. FYI, the sportswear collection actually wasn’t terrible.
Calculated “leak”? Total bullshit? More about tailoring/cuts/etc. than graphics? Eh, whatever, we’ll all find out soon enough.
Meanwhile, calling the retail collection “The League” seems like a missed opportunity. They should call it This League — as in, “In this league, you can’t miss an open-field tackle like that,” or “In this league, you can’t lose the turnover battle,” or whatever.
ESPN reminder: In case you missed it yesterday, my latest ESPN column, about how uniform design affects a TV spotter’s work, is available here.
Uni Watch News Ticker: Gatorade ended up sponsoring a sideline urination on Sunday. … Speaking of corporate sponsorship, the annoying sandwich company that has attached its name to various football games is scaling new heights in douchebaggery. … New license plate design for Ohio (from Jason Hillyer). … Vonta Leach of the Ravens had to get a new helmet after his old one got seriously dinged up last Thursday (from Thomas Courtman). … New high school football uniform regulations for the state of Washington (from Rick Rutherford). … Here’s the new Euro 2012 soccer ball. “Looks really plain,” says Kenny Loo. … John Thompson came across a site devoted to U. of Minnesota football uniforms. … Here’s another team using a repurposed XFL logo (from Jeffery C. Schmidt). … Interesting story about which newspaper logos inspire the most trust. … Are you looking for a job with uniform-related responsibilities, like “Oversee, schedule and account for the uniforms that are sent out nightly for laundering” and “Oversee return of terminated employees uniforms”? Has it recently occurred to you that maybe you shouldn’t have smoked quite so much pot in high school? Are you willing to answer “Minimum wage plus a quarter” when asked about your hourly salary requirements? If you answered,
“Yes!” “Uh, yeah, I guess” to all of these questions, then there’s a job waiting for you at Giants Stadium (and if you get the gig, send a muffin basket to Franklin Freytag). … Here’s a classic from the Black and Blue division: Packers vs. Bears — on the basketball court (big thanks to Jeff Ash). … It’s hard to see, but UVA appears to have been wearing sweatbacks last night. Is that a new look for them? (As spotted by Al Williams Jr.) … Amusing find by Tris Wykes, who suspects the Williams field hockey team “must have the worst combined eyesight ever.” … Interesting note in this article regarding the Pac-12 title game in Oregon: “Friday’s Pac-12 championship game should feel like any other [Oregon] home game, though technically it’s being hosted by the conference rather than the UO athletic department. … The turf in Autzen will still bear Oregon touches; the only changes will be to the conference logos, which will be repainted to be specific to the title game” (from Kyle Mackie). … Louisville hoops players are guarding against head injuries by wearing MMA-style headgear in practices (from Matt Dowell). … Jake Elwell notes that Ed Westfall’s 1967 and ’69 hockey cards show him wearing what appears to be a hand-drawn “A” designation. Jake and I both assume that Westfall never wore this on the ice — right? … Okay, so it’s only in black-and-white, but still, it’s not every day you get to see video footage of an NBA vs. ABA all-star game (nice find by Ben Fortney).