Robert Riger (pronounced REE-ger) grew up when triple threats -- players who can run, pass, and kick a football -- were relatively commonplace. In some way, they have perhaps been an inspiration in his own career as a sports journalist.
His craft is communication through pictures -- drawn, photographed, nd televised ones. His dual love of sports and the visual arts have seen him ply his trade as an illustrator-photographer with Sports Illustrated, and more recently as a writer-director with ABC Sports.
Several months ago Riger's latest book, "The Athlete," sort of a 25-year portfolio of his work, hit the stands. In making the promotional rounds, the author shared some rather interesting observations and opinions.
The most difficult sport to photograph, he says, is tennis. "you'd think it would be the easiest because of the confined playing area and length of a match. Long lenses are used more and more to zero in on the player's head and racket, but in tennis you must have the feet. There's great energy in tennis, and you need enormous camera speed to capture the movement along the baseline and up to the net."
Motor-driven cameras, Riger worries, could spell the downfall of sports photography. "I'll be working on an athlete's face, waiting to take one picture , and behind me I hear a shutter going bop, bop bop, and all he's doing is signing an authograph. You don't need a motor-drive for that, but the photographer uses it so he can return to his editor with a large selection of sharp, safe pictures."
On the "incisive kind of closeness" of today's visual images, he says, "A young boy probably knows as much about the mannerisms of a quarterback as he does his father's because he sees picture so much. TV can fill the screen with the face of an athlete at the highest movement of his craft, actually look into his eyes. You couldn't do this during the days of radio, and you couldn't do it during TV's early days, either, because the lenses weren't strong enough."
NBC's announcerless pro football telecasts, Riger feels, was "a bit of a ridicule," but it foretells the age of computerized coverage. "Certainly many sports will eventually be covered by drone cameras. Chips will be planted in a baseball's seams and cameras will t urn and cover base hits automatically."