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The right place, at the right time

The Baltimore Sun

There is a widely unknown fact about Preakness shared among The Sun staff photographers: Not much changes year to year. Infield bacchanal. Hats and fashion finery. Clean corporate village. Money and betting. Horses, jockeys and owners.

The unexpected "Running of the Toilets" arrived as something new - amid a barrage of beer cans.

Early in the day the Associated Press moved a great beer-washed photo from the toilets. As though personally insulted, and having missed the opportunity last year while working the infield, I felt it my duty to do better. Finished with my day's work in the grandstands I went in.

Why people gather around a stash of bathrooms, like the kitchen during a party, I will never know. But it was the place to be. Before too long someone climbed aboard the potty train and made a run. Soon, another. Then a third.

To this point all I had to show, other than some bad images, was beer-covered glasses and equipment. But then a large man decided he, too, must meet the challenge of the toilets dead on.

His scamper was slow and laborious. He paused, point-blank cans exploding like beer-filled paint balls on the doors below him. After a second pause, and with little momentum, he neared the apparent finish without stopping.

Leaping from the plastic roof, his energy absorbed as it crumpled, he positioned himself like Michael Phelps off the blocks. But his arc looked more like Evel Knievel's attempt at jumping the Snake River Canyon than a graceful swimmer's.

Staying on target, conditioned response washing away disbelief, I followed in the viewfinder, watching him fall into the gap as his brief flight neared its gravity-induced end. Short of the landing site, his head went down followed by his body. Crumpling to the ground, he lay unconscious for 30-or-so seconds, then woozily got to his feet with the aid of a cheering friend and a serious EMT, quickly escorted away and returning to anonymity.


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