Bob Hood (Chargers Ball Boy) – January 16, 1999
BH – Basically I started as a water boy in 1961. I got to work the first AFL all-star game here and I worked for the east team. I was working for the marine corps football team at the time where the Chargers were practicing. It’s just an old perennial hang around and ask long enough and finally get to do something. After I worked that game I got to, in 1962, I got to be an official water boy for the Chargers that season. And then in 1963 I went to my first training camp, which was Rough Acres and was luckily a part of that championship experience from Rough Acres right on through. And then I progressed through working in the equipment, assistant equipment manager, all those types of positions. Then in 1965 we were in Escondido and Sid Gillman, in his inevitable way of getting people to do things, walked up to me one day and said, “Hood. How are you with a camera?” I said, “I guess I’m OK.” He says, “Good. You’re our new photographer.” I said, “What does that mean?” He says, “Go down and see Dick Stole at Nelson Camera. He’s got a movie camera for you and you’re gonna be taking movies.” I said, “I am?” He said, “Yep. You’re the new guy.” And that’s exactly the way it happened. So I went down and we bought a Bolex camera with a magazine. It carried 400 feet of 16-millimeter film. And I got a quick crash course on how to load it. Then it had a big, huge Onjeneau (?) lens and 2 days later I’m on a tower in Escondido shooting practice film. After we’d shoot it, we’d take it all the way back to San Diego to have it developed that night. I would wait and then bring it back up and the coaches would review it with the players the next day or that night or whatever. But as you know, Sid was a big fan of film and we probably, I’m not sure because I wouldn’t have known, but we were probably one of the first teams that I know of to have an in-house “photographer” and take actual movies of a daily practice. We would always have the official photographer come out and do scrimmages and things like that, and of course the pre-season games. But in this particular case, they would bring the team over and whatever drill they were doing, they would to tell me what the coverage of the film should be and I learned to do that. So I guess I did a good enough job because when it came time for the first pre-season game and Sid came up and said, “Hood. Hey, you’re doing a good job on the film. You’re going to be in the end zone filming the game.” And I’m going, “Wow. I’m going to be in the end zone… But I won’t be on the field!” And he says, “No. You’re gonna be in the end zone. Up in the top of the stadium.” So all of a sudden I was off the field and in the stadium shooting game film. Sid was very innovative in the sense that we had a sideline (film shot) and most teams always took sideline film. He wanted end zone. And not only end zone, but we took two views of the end zone. He had a tight and a wide shot and there was actually… The shot that I had was the tight, I which I kept everybody from the tight end to the guard, or if they had two tight ends on the line, in the frame all the time. No matter where the runner went or what happened, I stayed on that view. So I didn’t see but half the game because once the play or the ball was thrown out of the frame, I was still shooting the play until it ended. I learned to open my other eye so I could see what was going on. Then he asked me how I was at editing and I said I had never edited anything and he said, “Good. You’re our new editor.” He had a way of making sure you knew what your job description was going to be, because he told you. So then, for games, those would all be edited together and there would be a copy made of them and then the linemen would get the tight view and the offense would get the side and wide and in some cases, it was all edited together so they would see. It wasn’t like video is today where you can pop out a certain magazine and put it in quickly. It was all run on one reel and then you went back in and cut them out and spliced them together. That became my job too.
TT – How quick was the turnover between your filming, your editing and their watching?
BH – Game day?
TT – Game day, practice, did it differ?
BH – There was a transitional period here. When I was doing this, I did this till about 1968.
TT – ‘65-’68?
BH – ‘65-’68. Also learned how to fix projectors. Once you agreed to do anything that was close to this, you became an expert on the whole thing. But what would happen is, I would do this… We had an outside photographer that was hired…two other photographers that were hired as outside photographers to do the sideline and the other view. He also had a processing lab. So that was the way it was done. Then Gene Leff, who had been a part of this operation on and off and shot highlight films, he actually brought a proposal to Sid, I think in 1968, to be an on-staff, full time photographer. Keep in mind at this point I was still going to college and I was doing it full time, but I was a student, if that makes any sense. And along with that proposal was the proposal to buy a processing machine. The Chargers would actually have their own processing machine. So the quicker turn around would come from that. To answer your question, in ‘65-’68, the film would be shot, it would go down to the lab, it would be processed. If it was a day game I would probably pick that up at 9 or 10:00 at night, and go to the training camp and start editing what needed to be done. So when the coaches came in Monday morning they had something. Then I would come back in Monday and build what we called “play reels” or something like that. So there was the time frame from shooting the game to processing it. But when the coaches came in on Monday, which was at that point the players day off, and they would prepare to review the previous games plays, that’s what I would do. Once we got the processing machine, it was a little bit faster. It still took time to process and that became a little quicker and was more in-house. But that was the next generation. That was the next step, to actually physically purchase a film-processing machine and do everything in house, which was the trend and the way it was going. But I think we were always just a little bit ahead of the trend.
TT – Now you say you had three different shots, you had the two end zones and the sideline. Now did you break those shots up by position as well?
BH – It really depended upon what they wanted. In most cases, the tight shot would be a separate reel and that would run as a separate reel. And I would take it for both offense and defense, because the defensive coaches used it for their technique. So I would have to go in and edit those two into an offensive reel and a defensive reel. The wide shot, in the end zone, would marry up with the wide shot from the sideline. So the players and the coaches would see the sideline view and they’d get the depth perception from it. But the training part, the real technique part always came from the end zone because you can see the entire development of what happens with the defense versus the offense. So those were always married together. In offense and defense too.
TT – Now compare how you cut and edited game versus practice.
BH – Practice was cut and edited by drills. We would have a 7-on-7, we would have a full 11. They may have offensive backs or receivers. So a lot of those were cut and edited based upon what we wanted that day and how it was shot. “You can these 3 things together and I want the defensive shot over here for the defensive coaches.” So that’s the way that was edited. He was always ahead in the sense that the whole team didn’t have to sit down and watch something they had nothing to do with. But, of course, in the case of a scrimmage, or a practice, you have got your own offense against your own defense. So there wasn’t that much difference because the offense had to watch it and they’d take it over and give it to the defense. There wasn’t really much to cut out if it was a 7-on-7 or 11-on-11.
TT – Gillman and his coaches obviously watched film constantly. What was the availability of film for players? How often did they watch? Did they take stuff home?
BH – Yeah, they did. Tobin would take a lot of film home and watch it. Most of them would watch it once or twice. I would think that the defensive players, especially the D-backs, would watch more film of the opponent. The offensive players may watch to see what the tendency for a D-back was and so-forth. It was available for them, and you’d be surprised. They didn’t watch as much of it as you’d think they would. But it was available to them. Then during the off-season, what I would do is I would build play reels. We would go back in all the game film and if it was a ZY out 99 play, I’d go through the whole season of game film and take all those. So if you wanted to watch a ZY 99 Y High, there’d be a can of that on the shelf. And the players could do that. And that was used for their benefit as well as the coaches and so forth.
TT – Did you have to sit back and watch each game and figure out what the play was, or did you have it pre-scripted?
BH – It was pretty well pre-scripted. You take that much film and edit it, pretty soon you begin to learn something. There were different nuances to it that you couldn’t tell. But based on the coaches had already broken down the film. By breaking down the film, literally they take it play by play and break it down player by player. They get grades as to how they performed on that particular play. So there already was documentation of the break down. I just had to go through the documentation and when I found that one, I would go and cut it and put it on a play reel. A lot of passing play reels, showing different patterns and different offensive strategy against the defenses and so forth. I learned a lot.
TT – How was the availability of getting films from other teams? Did you work with that as well?
BH – Yeah. In the ‘60s and the 70s it was a nightmare. There was no FedEx. There was no UPS Red. There weren’t these overnight services. There was a league rule that indicated that by a certain time frame, in other words, within 24 hours that the opposing teams for the next week… For instance if we were going to play the Raiders next week, on Sunday night a copy of that game film, not broken down, usually broken down into offense and defense, but a copy of that game film had to be sent out to the team that you were going to play that week. You had already received the Thursday prior to, that teams game film. So you actually got two games of film that, by league rule, you were supposed to receive on those days. Did you get it on those days? If it was the Oakland Raiders, HELL NO. They always figured a way to misroute it. And we used railway express, which combined air and rail and everything else. And I spent more time down at the train station, and it was tracked on a teletype. I mean, it was very archaic. And intentionally misrouted most of the times, unintentionally some of the time. Weather was a factor. And of course, when it didn’t show up on time, the first thing is that the Chargers were always suspicious that someone had misdirected it on purpose. The other thing that happened, and it was legal, but if you had a certain relationship with other teams and it may have been beneficial for you to receive a game film of them playing that team in an earlier game, that you normally couldn’t ask the team for. There were exchanges made that way, too so that you could see tendencies and so forth. Especially if it was the Raiders. We’d always try to get the film from somebody else because we knew that film was never gonna show up on time and they always had some lying-ass excuse. I can’t tell you how many times I came back to the camp empty handed and everybody waiting for it and I didn’t have it. But, the coaches broke that film down just like you would break down your own game film; to get the tendencies, to see the weaknesses, or the other things that were working. But it was a nightmare to exchange film. I’m sure now with UPS being a sponsor of the NFL, that is very simple and it is shipped out UPS Red and they probably have some method where everybody’s got it. And with video now, I’m not sure that you couldn’t transfer it some other method. Going to a TV station and having them satellite it to the TV station in your market and you’ve got it very quickly. But I can remember where Sid would actually put a camera in front of the TV and try to shoot what was at that time called a Kenoscope. And it was fuzzy and ugly, but just in case you didn’t get the game film. And keep in mind, that game film was in black and white. We went to color, eventually the Chargers went to color film before they progressed into video. So there’s been three stages of film in the history of this team and any other team. But the league is very restrictive and I’m sure they still are that certain things have to be done to not give anybody a disadvantage or an advantage. So it’s supposedly a level playing field. Oh, and you’d get film and the cans would be empty. And you’d get it and it wouldn’t be what it was supposed to be in the can. “Oh, I guess we put the wrong one in there when we shipped it to you.” It wasn’t even the team we were playing. It was some film that they had of another team and all of a sudden you’ve got the Jets and Boston and you’re playing the Raiders. Because they were looking at that from the previous week and they just happened to put the wrong one in. “Oh my God, here it is. Let us send it to you again.” A lot of tricks. And of course, I must tell you that we were pristine and never pulled any tricks ourselves. We were the good guys.
TT – How did your duties change after the film?
BH – Once I completed college, I decided early in my career with the Chargers that I’d like to be in the administrative side of the organization. And I was lucky because the organization grew as I grew and when I completed college, I sat down with Mr. Gillman and we discussed my future. And I was no different than any player discussing his future or salary with him at that time. Although he couldn’t point out many errors that I’d made on the playing field, to diminish my salary, he just easily assured me that I could certainly live on the salary that he was proposing that I make. Coming from $100 for the summer, to a fully paid person, a salary looked ominous to me. Although when I explained it to one of the team doctors, I said, “Sid thinks I can live on this.” And he looked at it and said, “I don’t even think you can afford to die on this salary, let alone live.” But I was hired then to be the camp coordinator. To actually run the training camp from the standpoint of… I had gotten beyond the scope of Mr. Gillman’s assistant, Charlene Mesner, and I handled all of the training camp administrative duties. From feeding the team to setting the camp up, to getting the players in and picked up at the airport and cut and back and started working closely with the business manager on travel details and was kind of his assistant. Kind of the team liaison between the administrative side and the football side. So that was my job during the summer. Then I kind of floated in a… My title was special assignments. Somebody once asked me what that meant. And I said, “it’s very simple. It’s the job that nobody else wants to do. I’m at the bottom of the chute, so I get everything that filters down.” So I was Special Assignments. Sometimes it was just, “Get Hood to do it.” But I was grateful to do anything, so I was fine. My ultimate goal, which I achieved there, was to be the business manager. And I progressed through special assignments, executive assistant to assistant to the head coach to business manager, I think is what I finally ended up with. Most of that time I was dealing in the administrative side, running a training camp, got involved in some of the promotions the club was doing, program sales and dabbled a little bit in the ticket sales department. Did a lot of off season work at working with the bars that had the tickets and putting together a player to go to the bar and show the highlight film and make sure they renew their tickets. There are a lot of things that are still being done, but were being done with a very skeleton staff. So I was lucky. I was in the right place at the right time, learned to keep my mouth shut very quickly and managed to survive for 17 years. It was good.