ESPN Films Keepers of the Streak: TV Schedule and Documentary Preview

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistJanuary 23, 2015

Kansas City Chiefs' quarterback Len Dawson (16) gets ready to release the ball during the first Super Bowl, Jan. 15, 1967, against the Green Bay Packers at the Los Angeles Coliseum in Los Angeles, California.  The Green Bay Packers won the game.  (AP Photo)
Associated Press

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then the collected works of John Biever, Walter Iooss, Mickey Palmer and Tony Tomsic hold an incalculable value.

The four sports photographers will be the subject of an ESPN Films documentary called Keepers of the Streak, which is directed and produced by another legendary photographer, Neil Leifer. 

The name of the documentary is an nod to the fact that Biever, Iooss, Palmer and Tomsic have shot each and every one of the first 48 Super Bowls.

In an ESPN press release, Leifer spoke about his aim for the film:

Having spent a good portion of my life on the sidelines photographing NFL football, nobody can appreciate more than I just how incredible this streak is. Making this film was truly a labor of love for me as I have known these photographers for at least 50 years and understand how difficult it is to have accomplished what they have done and continue to do.

Sports Illustrated's Richard Deitsch provided a brief glimpse for what fans can expect to see in terms of visuals and what they'll learn about these four extraordinary photographers:

The doc opens with a beautiful shot of all four men meeting at the 50-yard line of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, site of the first Super Bowl on Jan. 15, 1967, and we quickly learn how each entered the business. (Biever’s father, Vernon, the longtime team photographer of the Packers, got his son a sideline pass to shoot the first Super Bowl when John was just 15 years old.) Throughout the film, Leifer shows the quartet working at last year’s Super Bowl in New Jersey, and it provides an honest look at sports photographers that we don’t often see. We learn of the near-misses to the streak over the years, including Palmer checking himself out of the hospital following a heart attack prior to Super Bowl X to make the game.

The documentary should be a great snapshot—both figuratively and quite literally—about how the Super Bowl has evolved over the span of nearly 50 years. Perhaps no American sporting event has had a more pronounced metamorphosis than the Super Bowl.

To truly appreciate the grand spectacle the Super Bowl has become, fans must understand its beginnings. And few are better prepared to discuss the transformation than Biever, Iooss, Palmer and Tomsic.

Keepers of the Streak also illustrates how skilled the quartets is and how dedicated each photographer remains to his craft. According to Deitsch, three of the four are in their 70s, and Biever, the only non-septuagenarian, is into his 60s.

Associated Press

Their streak has spanned six different decades, nine different presidents and roughly 30 different starting quarterbacks for the New York Jets.

Palmer mentioned in the SI article that the streak is essentially the biggest reason he keeps coming back to the Super Bowl, with Iooss replying that he'll maintain the run for as long as he physically can.

They've become a part of the furniture at the Super Bowl, and their photographs served to preserve some of the most legendary moments in NFL history. Without Biever, Iooss, Palmer and Tomsic, football fans would have an incomplete chronicle of the game.

With Super Bowl XLIX kicking off in a little over a week, it's appropriate these four men receive their just praise.

Keepers of the Streak will air Friday night at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN, with a replay shown Saturday on ABC at 12 p.m. ET.


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