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Guard Caught with His Dick Out

A newspaper inadvertently prints a front page picture of a basketball player with his dick hanging out. Now it’s trying to convince readres that it’s an optical illusion.

WWW- posted on theeagle.com: The callers were: Mortified. Astonished. Flabbergasted. Outraged. Disgusted. Wondering what we were thinking. Asking, “Have you fired the photographer yet?” Businesses, including Albertson’s in College Station and several stores in Normangee, asking that papers be removed from the premises. “Inappropriate,” they said.

I was:

• Preparing my response for the onslaught of readers and customers who, for one specific reason, were calling The Eagle’s various departments, the newsroom, my phone and others about THE PICTURE that appeared on the Sports section cover Thursday morning.

• Convinced that the staggering reaction was an ill-informed rush to judgment.

The dominant photograph on the page was taken by staff photographer Butch Ireland. The picture showed Acie Law in mid-air, prepared to launch his game-winning 3-point shot that carried Texas A&M to victory over the Longhorns.

It’s the type of picture photojournalists savor and sports editors expect. Plus, fans seize on such pictures because that victorious moment frozen in time carries with it universal bragging rights – until the next game.

This picture caught readers’ attention for another reason. Beyond the winning shot by Acie Law, many readers – and some by word of mouth, without seeing the picture – were absolutely convinced the picture showed a University of Texas player moving to block the shot and, in the process, exposing himself.

When I first saw the photo on the Sports cover Thursday morning while downing my first cup of coffee, all I saw was the picture of Acie Law launching the game-winning 3-point shot. Nothing else.

An hour later I’d received calls from the office and some readers expressing a range of emotions about THE photo. None of the comments were complimentary. In the interim, I’d pored over that picture multiple times and was convinced that, despite the seemingly obvious, what you see is absolutely not what you get.

I know this newspaper’s photography staff. Dave McDermand, Butch Ireland and Paul Zoeller are highly professional, and their standards for content are unmatched. They know this newspaper’s standards and do not deviate from that norm.

Dave McDermand, our photo director, was emphatic: The picture does not show anything improper. He proved my point. I had him enlarge the photo to the size of a regular Eagle news page. The specific section of the picture in question showed nothing more than the white inside liner of the player’s uniform. The color was distorted for a variety of reasons, primarily because of the angle at which the picture was taken, the lighting, orange color of the uniform on the left pant leg reflecting up into the groin area, and the specific moment that was captured.

It’s that simple.

To read the photograph any other way is, in my mind, incredibly wrong and based on illogical assumptions. To think otherwise is to assume that the player was not wearing black spandex shorts, which he clearly was as evidenced by the picture; that he was not wearing an athletic supporter, which we’ll assume he was; and that he was intent on flashing Reed Arena, which he was not.

Look at the word “Texas” and numeral “1” on the jersey. Both in original form are pure white. As published, both are blurred and diluted to predominantly orange-soft white. If the color of the uniform had been slightly adjusted to accommodate for that flaw, the problem would have been corrected. No one would have thought otherwise.

The history of photojournalism is laced with moments that you embrace forever, or immediately forget. This is neither one of these moments. This is simply a case of a defining moment in sports, now forever skewed in importance because of bad light reflection.

Interestingly, I learned something about this community Thursday. We’re constantly accused of publishing stories with the No. 1 goal of selling newspapers. That’s categorically not true, but it’s conventional wisdom among those who don’t know any better.

Thus, you’ll want to know that while we were being inundated with angry calls at the newspaper, we may have set a one-day record for street sales of the newspaper. Every available copy of Thursday’s edition has been sold, including the copies from Albertson’s and Normangee. We probably could have sold a thousand more had we restarted the presses.

Ironic, isn’t it, that we sold the heck out of something that wasn’t a story – in fact, the ruckus was much ado about nothing.

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