I shot Super Bowl XXIV in New Orleans in 1990
Posted on January 29, 2013
Photographer Brad Mangin during Super Bowl XXIV between the Denver Broncos and San Francisco 49ers at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana on January 28, 1990. (Photo by Brad Mangin)
We are in week two of the hype surrounding Super Bowl XLVII between the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers in New Orleans. Being in the Bay Area I am seeing endless coverage of the 49ers first trip back to the Super Bowl since beating the Chargers in Miami in 1995. All of this reminiscing has me thinking about the first Super Bowl I ever shot back in 1990. Super Bowl XXIV involved the 49ers and Denver Broncos and it was also in New Orleans. It was an assignment I will never forget.
I was a 25-year-old staff photographer at the San Ramon Valley Times in Danville, California working for my good friend and the best chief photographer I ever had Bob Larson. I was just a year removed from my college years at San Jose State University and I was enjoying the privilege of having a newspaper staff job in the Bay Area. I worked nights and weekend covering tons of high school and Little League sports. I shot a bunch of Tri-X and struggled to ID each kid in every black and white 8 x 10 print I turned into the paper.
Before I landed my job at the 15,000 circulation paper I interned at the biggest paper in the Lesher chain, the Contra Costa Times in 19987 and 1988. During that time I had the chance to tag along with wonderful staff photographers like Jon McNally and Dan Rosenstrauch to many pro sporting events. I gained great experience shooting some Giants playoff games in 1987 with Dan and many 49er games with Jon.
I loved getting the opportunity to shoot the big time events and usually did a pretty good job, thanks to the coaching I received by Jon, Dan, and Bob. These guys helped me grow so much as a young punk sports photographer. Based on the quality of my work I was selected to go to New Orleans with Contra Costa Times staffer Jon McNally to shoot the 49ers play the Broncos in Super Bowl XXIV in New Orleans. I could not believe my good fortune.
Jon was our advance guy and he went early in the week to cover media day and other festivities in town while I flew out from San Francisco with our picture editor Randy Becker on Thursday afternoon. Being the frugal Times our itinerary was pretty classic. I will never forget flying Southwest Airlines from SFO making stops in Phoenix and San Antonio. We changed planes in Houston, and survived the scariest flight of my life into New Orleans as we weathered a crazy storm that threw our plane all over the late-evening skies above Louisiana. That flight scared the shit out of me and I was so glad when we landed.
On Friday I headed into the French Quarter from our crappy Comfort Inn in Kenner (near the airport). Of course the three of us all roomed together with me in the rollaway bed, but I didn’t complain one bit. I was shooting the Super Bowl! My first stop was a voodoo museum where I did some pictures to go with a feature story. I don’t remember much else from that first day other than having to go to the AP darkroom in the Superdome where we were set up with a Leafax transmitter we had borrowed from the Los Angeles Times. This was the era when everyone had stopped making prints (except for Nick Lammers from the Hayward Daily Review!) and we were all sending pictures back to our papers by scanning color negatives and sending the digital files over analog phone lines. This process took about 30 minutes for a captioned color photograph and wasted many hours of time we could have spent doing much more enjoyable things on Bourbon Street.
Saturday morning dawned brightly into our tiny hotel room as airplanes whizzed overhead. The day promised much excitement for McNally and I. First up was the Kodak photographers brunch. We were all about cool free events and this one had our name written all over it. The highlight for us was meeting and chatting with legendary photographer and artist Robert Riger. I knew of Riger and his work from his numerous appearances on the Roy Firestone show. He could not have been more charming as we scarfed down the free Kodak food together.
Our afternoon was booked solid as we planned to attend the famous annual party thrown by super agent Leigh Steinberg on a Mississippi riverboat. Will Clark of the Giants was supposed to be there and McNally and I were pretty damned excited about going. All we needed to do was move one color feature picture to the office that I had shot of some local fans partying on Bourbon Street the night before. Easy right? Not so fast. The bad phone lines in the south made sending a simple color picture almost impossible. The magenta printer kept coming out too small back at the office and we were stuck resending all day and into the evening. No riverboat for us. The only thing left to do was grab a late dinner and get ready for the big game the next day.
The game itself was anticlimactic. The 49ers beat the crap out of the Broncos 55-10 and the outcome was never in doubt. Because of the lopsided score there were no great action pictures, but I did my best to get pictures of the 49ers and Joe Montana doing well.
McNally and I were stuck in New Orleans till Wednesday thanks to some pretty nifty travel planners at the office, so we had tons of free time to explore the Garden District and above ground cemeteries. The highlight for me though was the education McNally gave me on the amazing photography of O. Winston Link. Link’s work was featured in an awesome photo gallery on Royal Street in the Quarter. It is funny the things you remember from a big event you attended over 20 years ago, but seeing Link’s bizarre and breathtaking black and white prints hanging in the gallery of big steam locomotives going down the tracks near a drive-in theater at night left a huge impression on me. Thanks Jon!
Although I was only 25 at the time of this game I was smart enough to know I wanted- and needed- to have the official Super Bowl XXIV press pin. However, since we did not get in till Thursday night they were long gone by the time we checked in. Years later as my pin collection grew and became more important to me I purchased the missing pin (see above) as a fun souvenir of my first Super Bowl.
I had a great time covering the Super Bowl in New Orleans 23 years ago. It was my first big out of town assignment and I learned what Jägermeister tasted like. I think the Super Bowl should be held in New Orleans every year. The town is made for big events with so many fun places to spend time all within walking distance of the hotels and stadium (unless, of course, you are stuck in a Comfort Inn out in Kenner by the airport). I am thinking of all my friends covering the game in the Big Easy this week and I wish them all the best. I will be watching on television this Sunday and rooting my photographer buddies to make some great pictures that will someday hang in a gallery inspiring young photographers the way the images by O. Winston Link inspired me back in the day.