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The Pac-12 in Polaroids

The only real photography

This article was written by guest writer Sam Weyen. You can follow him and the current tree @DaStanfordTree

Close your eyes and think deeply of 1947. What do you picture? Do you see Jackie Robinson making his debut in a Brooklyn Dodgers jersey? Do you feel the explosiveness as the US and the USSR make Cold War eye contact for the first time?

No. No you do NOT. You picture Edward H. Land presenting the first Instant Print Polaroid camera in New York City to the Optical Society of America.

Yes, the Polaroid camera was birthed from Edward’s stout hips over 70 years ago, and ever since it’s been a staple for kombucha binge drinking hipsters, Outkast enthusiasts, and four of the six weddings my Aunt Kaki has had this decade.

The advent of so-called “digital cameras” may have damaged the social salience of the Polaroid camera, but I for one—a card carrying Blockbuster member and a shareholder for Kodak—am still a believer.

So for this year’s Pac-12 Tournament, I set out to see if I could prove to those sellout “DiPhos” (Digital Photographers) that there is only one way to truly capture basketball in motion. Rule of Tree credentialed me as a photographer, I grabbed my trusty Polaroid OneStep 2 Viewfinder I-Type Camera, and I set out to do the Lord’s work.

Flashing my badge to the photography czar, I was met with a gruff and condescending chuckle. Prejudice knows no bounds.

I was led court side to a bivouac of DiPhos. Each photographer was occupying a 1 by 3 foot rectangle outlined in white tape. More cyborg than human, I was astonished to see each sitting in a Crazy Creek chair packed to the brim with technological profligacies: scopes, lenses, extensions, boom mics, bump stocks, silencers—it was disgusting. Were they even human?

Origami-ing my flesh into my designated rectangle, I thumbed through my ammunition: 8 Instant Photos for the day’s 4 games. I mean seriously who knew polaroid film would be so expensive? The buzzer sounded and I began to paint my canvas.

Game 1: Oregon State v. Utah

Excuse me, is THE LOUVRE available for comment? My first polaroid of the day would make Banksy leak from his eyeholes:

As I’m sure you’ve read about the Tournament That Never Happened TM, Utah’s Alfonso Plummer shattered records (Klay Thompson’s) and jaws (Mine) as he nailed 11 of 16 three pointers. It took about 35 minutes for Alfonso to (1) come close enough for a camera without zooming capabilities and (2) not move his body for the ~3 seconds required to capture him chemically.

Game 2: Arizona v. Washington

Okay okay so this one didn’t turn out so great. I mean I couldn’t use my flash for obvious reasons (though isn’t Vegas in some respects the flashing capital of the world!?) and besides Washington had the audacity to wear black…

But maybe… just maybe…. It’s symbolic? Washington didn’t really show up to this game, and that’s reflected in my polaroid a la Marty McFly’s family in Back to the Future.

Game 3: Stanford v. Kal

Ever on the hot streak, I have TWO photos to share from the Stanford game. The first shows Daejon Davis after a layup, his body appearing ghostlike and holy in the film to signify his Divine Mandate. I don’t want to brag, but I’d also like to point out I got the ball on the backboard. I’d like to see a DiPho do that.

The next is the whole gang in what would turn out to be their last huddle of the season. There’s a weight to this picture seen on the faces of the players and built into their postures. Also I did accidentally spill some Dr. Pepper on this guy so it is also literally heavier than the others.

Game 4: Washington State v. Colorado

Meh. Do you really need a photo from this one? Instead, here’s a polaroid of me and fellow Rule of Tree contributor Grant Avalon:

And then after that, the world sort of imploded. Rudy Gobert single handedly shut down the NBA. The NCAA slowly rolled back the scope of the Big Dance and its affiliate conference tournaments until they were no more. Even golf was cancelled.

As the event was called off and I shuffled out of the arena, polaroid companion in hand, I began to wonder… was my experiment a success? Did I prove that Polaroids belong in the world of sports? Would my ligaments ever recover from being crammed into a little white photography box?

Probably not. But I knew in my heart that Edward H. Land would be proud all the same.