Longtime readers of this sports section have been spoiled for generations by an uncommonly talented sports photography department.
Photo chiefs Gene Breckner and Ron Siddle, Bernie Guzenske, Rich Breault and Evelyn Kristo all produced work that demonstrated why the industry term for photos is art.
With the reorganization of the paper under new ownership in 2017, that heritage of photographic excellence has continued under Kevin Reece.
He’s been our one-man photo department.
Kevin, in fact, is more an artiste than a photojournalist with a camera in his hand.
This nationally renowned sports photographer’s finger on the motor button of his camera is just as much a paint brush, the way it captures moments on the canvas of life.
FULL DISCLOSURE: Kevin has been a dear friend for more than 30 years. We’re both native New Yorkers who grew up idolizing the Knicks and the Jets, who considered Yankee Stadium and Madison Square Garden fellow cathedrals of St. Patrick’s.
I consider Kevin, his beautiful wife, Cathy, and their impressive son, Kyle, the first family of Los Angeles County.
Right around this time a year ago, Kyle tagged along with his Dad to Dodger Stadium. He was able to have brunch with us in the press box dining room before heading off on his own.
Then Kevin took Kyle aside and gave him The Talk.
For some reason, it hit me like a ton of bricks.
Here was this gorgeous Sunday, radiant with promise, yet Kevin had to go over safety procedures with his son.
Because he is a young African-American male.
I was still thinking about it three days later.
Because I know Kyle, it never crossed my mind that someone could think the worst of him for any reason, much less his race.
But not everybody knows Kyle took on the academic challenges of Loyola High School and fashioned an impressive high school career while finding time to play for the Cubs’ basketball team.
The fact that Kevin would have to have The Talk with Kyle that I would never dream of having with my godson Joseph, made me angry.
Lately Kevin, 52, has a emerged as something of a cultural conscience with recurring visits on ESPN Radio in Los Angeles.
He has a way of putting things into perspective the way his gifted hand-eye coordination does with his camera.
“Sports do bring us together, which we need more of right now,” Reece said. “Sports really is the last (vestige) of live television. Other than maybe the 11 O’Clock News, what do we watch live on TV any more but sports?
“I think back to the riots here in ’92, and there are a lot of things that have gotten better. But there are also things that haven’t gotten better, so we all have to keep working at it.”
Added Cathy Reece, a lifelong L.A. resident: “The crowds who are peacefully protesting now are so much more diverse (than in 1992). And the protests aren’t limited to one area of the city.
“I’m confident that something good will come of this.”
On this Father’s Day, Kevin Reece’s first photographic anthology, “Special Days and Special Nights” has been released for purchase.
The 36-page coffee table book contains everything from the last three Laker MVP’s (Magic Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant) award presentations to Vin Scully’s Dodger Stadium farewell to Denzel Washington and Sidney Poitier chatting courtside at STAPLES Center.
It’s the most fun you could ever have perusing what is really a history book in photgraphs.
Artwork, that is.
Log on to Blurb.com to purchase the print-on-demand book.
I’m going to.
The other one will be Joseph’s Confirmation present.