Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
February 14, 2015

Picture of the Year (Sports Feature): What is it About Men and their Balls?

It could have landed on his shoe. It could have bounced and landed on that other guy’s straw hat. But, it didn’t. Instead, it settled at ground zero — symbol-wise, at least — of male pride, power and performance. And then, where is male performance most typically exercised and evaluated? Yes, on the field of sport.

It may seems like the world’s ultimate choice for a caption contest.  The picture, however — “Unplayable Lie” —  won a Picture of the Year, International “Award of Excellence” in the Sports Feature category. The vitals are as follows:

U.S. golfer Matt Kuchar (R) looks down at his ball laying on the lap of spectator Ricky Earl of Toronto after Kuchar’s approach shot landed and came to rest on Earl’s lap on the 18th hole during the final round of the Masters golf tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia April 13, 2014.

Given American machismo, the ironic thing is that, between an American golfer, one of America’s most venerable golf courses and one of America’s most prestigious golf events, the lap belonged to a Canadian.  Like I said, the “situation” is built for bawdy (body?) humor.

Almost the same day I saw the contest page, however, I came upon a NYT article about Tiger Woods. The title read: His Game in Tatters, Tiger Woods Takes a Leave. The thing is, male performance and male worth are so strongly equated, it forms the context, or at least a theme, in so much sports and news photography.  Sure, the photo could simply reflect Woods’s frustration. At the same time, though, it has that “ground zero” feeling (just like Dubya and his crew took it in the shorts that day) that Tiger Woods, one of the most successful golfers of all time, might have something to be ashamed of.

(photo 1: withheld until official POY results. photo 2: Donald Miralle/Getty Images. caption: Tiger Woods, who said he would be out indefinitely, wrote online, “I need a lot of work on my game.”)

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