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Press Credentials from a Simpler Time

September 28th, 2017 · No Comments · Football, Golf, Sports Journalism, Tennis, The Sun, World Cup

For all I know, journalists covering major sports events these days have an ID chip in their arms. Nobody gets into the media areas unless the sensor picks up your biometric data.

At minimum, credentials for an Olympics or World Cup  or French Open, over the past decade or two, have featured increasingly sophisticated and hard-to-alter media credentials, with photos and watermarks and holograms and bar codes. Security issues, of course.

It wasn’t that long ago that media credentials, even for big events, were fairly primitive. Or really primitive.

The other day, I came across a few of the oldies from back in the day, and they are pictured, above.

Really, that was all you needed to get the run of the place.

Let’s ID the four credentials pictured.

The gray, round one is “working press” credential No. 143 for the 1980 Masters Tournament. Augusta National couldn’t have spent more than a couple hundred bucks to get X number of the badges made, and then all it needed was an ID in the middle.

In my case, they misspelled my name! And apparently nobody much cared because I was there for six days and saw Seve Ballesteros put on the green jacket.

The ID bit of it reads: Paul Oberjurgi (!), Gannett News Serv., Rochester, N.Y. (This was before I was nationally famous, clearly.)

If someone showed up at the Augusta National press entrance, next April, with a name misspelled, he or she probably would stay on the outside, looking in.

That green-and-white credential? No less than the Kentucky Derby. Also in 1980.

Yes, I was there, about three weeks after the Masters. The credential is even simpler than the Masters badge. This one has a strip of paper on which someone has typed “Paul Oberjuerge 67”. But, see, it’s underneath some see-through plastic, and how could that be duplicated?

One credential, of those four, reflects where credentials were headed, just five years later. That would be the Wimbledon credential, good for admission to the All England Club during the 1985 “fortnight”.

The officials there got my information on a piece of paper: “Wimbledon 1985 … Paul Oberjuerge … Gannett News Service … and the No. 9 — which indicates I can enter the Centre Court media seating for the first nine days of the tournament. Or putting it another way, I was not able to sit in Centre Court media seating for the semifinals or finals.

And Wimbledon made it, oh, so much harder to tamper with, by affixing a mugshot of me on the info paper … and then running the whole of it through a laminating machine. Makes it sturdier, and the ball chain allows me to wear it around my neck for two weeks.

What could go wrong?

Oh, and Boris Becker won the gentlemen’s championship, that year. And I can guarantee that two full weeks of tennis is too much, no matter where or when.

Then we have the most primitive “credential” of them all, a rectangle of semi-heavy paper distributed by the soccer media department of the Deutsche Demokratische Republik — better known in the U.S., back then, as “East Germany”.

This boring but rare bit of paper allowed me access to the stadium in East Berlin where the U.S. national team lost 3-2 in March of 1990 to the soon-to-be-defunct East Germany, in a friendly ahead of the 1990 World Cup.

PRESSEKARTE at the top means “press card” and just below that indicates that the bearer is an accredited correspondent whose name is Paul Oberjuerge of The Sun in San Bernardino. (Gannett News Service paid for that trip; not sure why they are not listed, instead of my home paper.)

The credential has a stretch of time when it is valid, from March 22 to March 29, and the number of my credential.

Perhaps the best part is the faded blue stamp in the lower left, which shows the East German coat of arms (a hammer and drafting compass) and some writing which appears to denote that the “DDR” is playing “Amerika”. And signed by some apparatchik whose first name begins with F.

The thing folds in half, and on the other side are a couple of words: “Journalistisches Vorhaben” and “Sportberichterstattung” — which is a lot of letters to explain I am going to be doing “sports reporting.”

It’s primitive, and could be easily be tampered with, I’m thinking. But maybe the East German government was so hard on forgers that they didn’t worry about things like photos.

So. I’m proud of all of those, just as a reminder that I covered those events, and also as souvenirs of pretty much the pre-history of sports credentials.





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