Distractions in sports come in many forms

Published 7:54 am Friday, April 27, 2018

“Excuse me!” a woman cried out behind me.

It was a little hard to hear her. She was about 30 feet away, and the distant hum of traffic from Vicksburg’s busiest intersection was audible in the distance, even at the secluded confines of Halls Ferry Park’s tennis courts.

“Would you mind coming off the court!?” she yelled, as I sat on a covered bench alongside the middle of three courts, taking pictures while trying not to be a distraction to the players.

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“You’re distracting them,” the woman continued.

So much for that plan.

“Is he distracting you?” she asked two of the players who had just finished playing a grueling point in their match, ironically distracting them while trying to remove a perceived distraction.

My back was to both players and I had been shooting the doubles team on the other side of the court. The court on the left was empty. The court on the right had another doubles match in full swing, complete with the occasional stray shot crossing over to the middle court. I figured that would be more of a distraction than someone sitting quietly off to the side. The only time I did more than move slightly in the 10 minutes I was sitting there was to toss back a ball that took one perfect bounce and landed in my open bookbag.

“No, he’s all right,” one of them said.

Thank goodness he was a senior. His word carried some weight and the fervor died down about as quickly as it started.

Sports are weird when it comes to their quirks and what constitutes a distraction. I’ve followed high school golfers around the course and shot their pictures while they tee off, and they never seem to mind. Do that at a PGA Tour event, however, and you risk being thrown out.

Baseball and softball players are trying to hit a fastball while their teammates and opponents sing, chant and scream, and it’s considered part of the game. Use flash photography, though, and you’d have a better chance of sticking around if you called the umpire’s mother a nasty name.

I’ve shot tennis matches dozens of times in my career — including a few this year — and always camp in the same spot. Center court, off to the side. It’s the easiest and best place to get pictures. Most people don’t say a word. My goal is to be a fly on the wall, not a distraction. Occasionally, I guess flies get swatted.

Ernest Bowker is the sports editor at The Vicksburg Post. He can be reached at ernest.bowker@vicksburgpost.com

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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