Once we get them off on assignment, they're fine. Splendid, in fact—two fast-moving photographers who have always turned out crisp action, including nine SPORTS ILLUSTRATED covers in the past 12 months. But, well, there is this sort of little comedy routine involving Picture Editor George Bloodgood on the telephone: enter Bloodgood, sprinting into his office from a planning session. "Get me Sheedy and Long," he barks to his secretary. The phone rings. "Did you say Sheedy Ann Long?" says the operator. "She...."
"No," says Bloodgood, patiently. "It's Sheedy and Long." In Los Angeles the girl comes on and says, " Sheedy and Long. You want Mr. Sheedy or Mr...." "Well, which one is in?" says Bloodgood. "I'll put him on," she says. Pause. "Hello, Jack? Err, uhh, George? Who is this?" says Bloodgood. And from the other end comes a sigh; they have been through it all before. "Does it matter?" the voice says. "We're interchangeable. Some days I'm Sheedy and some days I'll be Long."
This confusion is worth all the low-comedy dialogue. Once assigned, the two men—their names are Jack Sheedy and George Long—can unleash a fearful photographic force. And the partners actually are interchangeable: a few years ago, when a Sunday call came from New York for Sheedy, Long answered and minutes later was on his way to climb Canada's Mt. Kennedy with the late New York Senator—after stopping at a store to buy a jacket and scarf. More recently, Sheedy as suddenly found himself canoeing through Northwest Territory wilderness with Writer Bil Gilbert. In all cases, no matter which man goes on what story—"we divide up the jobs with no rhyme or reason," says Sheedy—they share the picture credits and, depending on the luck of the draw, the lumps. Last Oct. 26 Long got the Syracuse-California football game phone call. Someone ran an end-around play right through him and he spent the rest of the season in a cast.
Such a partnership is noteworthy in sports photography, which by tradition is an every-man-for-himself profession, and this is one of the few alliances in the field that actually works. The two men traveled some 200,000 miles on SI assignments last year, producing excellent pictures on subjects varying from surfing to superbowls, basketball and big fights. Each keeps a bag packed by the telephone—they live 45 miles apart at opposite ends of the Los Angeles basin—and each stocks clothes for all occasions.
This week's lively color essay (page 38) is typical of the excitement the two can generate on the job. Sheedy got the call to go to Oregon's McKenzie River to shoot the wild white water. Or was it Long? Let's see. Jack? No, George. No matter. Sheedy and Long. The credit line counts.