Sentinel-Tribune story of Oct. 21.

Oct. 21, 2005

By JACK CARLE, Sentinel Sports Editor - Tom Thaler gets a unique look at Bowling Green football every week.

The father of Falcons' senior defensive tackle Mike Thaler, Tom sees the game through the view-finder of his digital camera as he roams the sidelines.

The elder Thaler not only takes pictures of his son, but focuses on every Falcon as a hobby which has evolved into a labor of love. The Thalers will be on the field Saturday for Family Weekend at Perry Stadium against Western Michigan. Kickoff is at 4 p.m.

"He took 275 pictures from last season, at his own expense, threw them on a CD for all the players, people in the administration, coaches. He did close to 200 (CDs)," Mike Thaler said. In the works is a CD with BG's GMAC Bowl victory over Memphis, with photos, music and sound, for all the players.

Tom started taking pictures from the stands when Mike's older brother, Paul, was a senior at Miami in 2001. Paul was the starting center for the RedHawks and was snapping the ball to Ben Roethlisberger. Mike was redshirted at BoG that season. The Thalers are from Cincinnati.

"I got the idea there (at Miami) because it was so hard for the players to get pics of themselves. You had to go through so many channels and then you hardly even got them," Tom said.

When Mike started getting playing time in 2002, Tom continued taking pictures. With help from J.D. Campbell, in BG's athletics communications department, Tom secured a sideline photo pass for the Falcons' home games.

"When I got to Bowling Green ... everybody just made you feel at home," Tom said. "It's worked out fine. I really appreciate the fact they went along and tried something new."

After the 2002 season, Campbell helped Thaler obtain photo credentials for away games.

"They wanted to see how it was going to play out and if there was going to be any problems or any complaints on the field," Tom said about the 2002 trial run. "I didn't want to have any of the parents having an objection with me being on the field. I didn't want to cause any kind of an uproar."

As Mike's career at BG has progressed, Tom has found the need to update his equipment. Just three weeks ago he purchased a high-profiled Nikon and now has three cameras with which to work.

"He looked at his pictures and said I need them more clear, I need a better lens. So he started buying more and more. He's probably on his fourth or fifth camera right now; he's gone all digital," Mike said.

"I went nuts. Each year, I said I was going to stop spending money," Tom said. "In the field I'm in now, I service autos. I'm a tool freak and you've got to have the right equipment to do your job and that's basically the way I look at this."

Concentrating on taking pictures has given Tom a different perspective.

"You get to see the game, but yet you really don't because you're more focused on getting the shot," Tom said. "I'll miss a lot of intricacies of the game.

"Being down there on the field, you can't really show any emotion one way or the other."

With both father and son on the sidelines, there are some ground rules.

"We don't talk, that was one of the established rules," Mike said. "At first, it was kind of different to have a parent down there. Sometimes when you come off the field, he's 10 feet away from you ... It was weird at first ... You're used to it now."

Although the two don't verbally communicate during the game, Mike looks for his dad before the game, especially when the Falcons are on the road.

"When we come out for pre-game, I try to find him to just make sure he's there. Some of the trips we've had, like flying up to Boise, I never get a chance to talk to him before the game," Mike said. "It's never a question of whether he's going to be there, it's just a matter of if he is driving or flying and when's he going to get there."

All the travel expenses, plus camera equipment, computers and everything else needed for Tom's hobby come out of his own pocket.

His only reward is the positive reaction he receives from the players when they get their photos.

"You see the smiles on their faces, it makes it all worth it," Tom said. "It lets them have something to remember themselves by."