Last year, a few months before he was named deputy picture editor for SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, Steve Fine decided to introduce himself to SI reporter Beth Schmidt at the Winter Olympics in Albertville. At two o'clock in the morning. While standing underneath the balcony of the hotel room in which Schmidt had, until that moment, been sleeping. "Peacefully, I might add," Schmidt recalls. "Then I heard this tremendous commotion down in the street and realized someone was calling my name. He said his name was Steve Fine, but I distinctly remember thinking at that moment, Who is this guy?"
As Schmidt was about to learn, Fine was then the sports picture editor for The New York Times, and he had heard through the media-center grapevine that Schmidt was covering the luge later that day at La Plagne. The Times had a photographer there, but Fine had been unable to contact her, and the newspaper needed a photo of U.S. luger Robert Pipkins for the front page. Fine would not rest—literally—until he was sure he had his picture. Schmidt dutifully relayed the message to the photographer: four months later, when Fine was hired by SI's director of photography, Heinz Kluetmeier, Schmidt was the least surprised member of our staff.
"Steve is frenetic," Kluetmeier says. "He has three speeds—fast, nonstop and faster—and when you give him a task, he doesn't stop until it's done." Between them, Fine and Kluetmeier have transformed SI's photography department into a place where the energy is as high-speed as the film that's used there, sort of Fotomat shack meets Animal House.
One day last year at the Olympic media center in Barcelona, the two were deep into editing the thousands of pictures taken by photographers during the Summer Games, when Fine suddenly realized that the 4 X 100 relay would start in 15 minutes. "If we jump on a bus, we can just make it," Fine said to Kluetmeier. When reminded that the event would be shown on TV, Fine replied, "No! You've got to be there in person for a thing like that."
"He was totally involved," says Kluetmeier, who recalls the finish of that race as one of the most thrilling moments of the Barcelona Games. "Steve gets incredibly excited about all sporting events. If he had a nine-to-five job, he'd probably go to them all anyway."
In what passes for his spare time, Fine tries to spend as much of it as he can with his wife, Dot, and daughters Lily, 6, and Jamie, 4. He also plays leftfield for the SI-United Press International softball team in the New York Press League in Central Park. "Steve is as good a picture editor as he is an outfielder," says SI's editor at large, Steve Wulf. "In both roles he demonstrates an extraordinary eye, unsurpassing hustle and the ability to run down most any shot."