ESPN Mag: Last Time They Met
In late September, ESPN Photo Editor, Jim Surber asked me to photograph the two men caught up in the now infamous video that shows Brian Downing “teabagging” Garrison Stamp who passed out at a Bourbon Street Krystals in New Orleans after last year’s trouncing of LSU by Alabama. This story, written by Mark Winegardner, part of ESPN’s, One Day, One Game issue, examines what happened that day and the fallout for Downing and Stamp as well as their families in the aftermath of the viral video.
To be honest, until I got this assignment, I had not seen the video or even heard about it. I am not a huge fan of football or of viral videos for that matter. I watched about a minute of it and didn’t need to see any more. It is painful to watch. Painful, as many people have said, because no one, not even Downing’s friends, stopped to help Stamp (or Downing). And painful, especially once you meet them both, to see how two people’s lives can be irrevocably changed in today’s world, not because of football and not because of alcohol (although partly), but because of the internet.
In the story, Winegardner describes the moment when Downing and his wife are headed to Target and the video goes viral:
On the way, as they cross the Chattahoochee River, Brian’s cell rings. It’s his sister’s husband.
“Um … dude?” the brother-in-law says. “Did you know you’re on the Internet?”
Brian frowns. “Huh?”
“From New Orleans. I think you’re on the Internet.”
Just then, Andrea’s cell goes off. It’s her best friend from high school, who’s heard from a mutual friend that he’d seen someone who might be Brian on a football website. Andrea looks over at her husband.
“Do you know what for?” the brother-in-law asks Brian. Brian’s phone vibrates with a text message, then another from someone else. “I think I have an idea,” Brian says.
The best friend doesn’t want to tell Andrea exactly what the person who might be Brian does on that video, but she communicates the gist of it. She says she’ll send a link. Andrea’s thinking, It can’t be. That’s not Brian. Another call comes up on her phone, then a text message. Brian hangs up. He has calls coming in too and a fusillade of texts. Neither one answers.
Brian pulls his Escape to the side of the road. Andrea is shaking. She asks him what’s going on.
It is a bit of a challenge, photographically, to photograph both perpetrator and victim without casting that judgement on the subjects. I wanted, above all, to simply document them so that the reader could see them, as two human beings first.
Not to belittle the very real crime that took place, but I see them both as victims. Victims of today’s harsh online social environment. Unfortunately, no one stepped in to save either one of them from that.
I would like to thank Jim Surber and the whole gang up at ESPN Magazine for trusting me with a great story.
Quoted text by Mark Winegardner.
All images unless otherwise noted, copyright Greg Miller.