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Embracing NFL's softer side at Super Bowl XXIII

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Posted at 7:08 AM, Dec 03, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-03 07:08:51-05

CINCINNATI — The Cincinnati Bengals made it to Super Bowl XXIII, their second, in 1989, facing the San Francisco 49ers, who had beaten them in 1982. The game pitted Bengals coach Sam Wyche against his mentor, 49ers head coach Bill Walsh. Held at Joe Robbie Stadium in Miami, it was a heartbreaker for the Bengals. The 49ers won 20-16 when Joe Montana threw a touchdown pass to John Taylor with 34 seconds left on the clock. 

Former Cincinnati newspaper photographer Michael E. Keating took this iconic photograph of the two coaches moments after the game ended. Here is his recollection of that moment:

Keating: “So as the clock ticked down to the end, and Walsh realized that this would be his last game (he retired from the NFL soon after the season), the two coaches met in the center of the field in a pretty hostile media scrum.

There was pushing and pulling with elbows flying everywhere, but as Wyche reached out to shake Walsh’s hand, Walsh said, 'I love you.' Wyche responded, 'I love you, too. I am happy for you like I’ve never been. Believe me. Congratulations! This is yours. You deserve it.' 

Walsh said of Wyche: "I trusted him, and I had my arm around him. I was starting to wind down from that point on. In a sense, he protected me. He really helped me off the field." Wyche followed with, “That was a good game.” 

Walsh replied, “Great game!”

I had a perfect position for that photograph and was lucky enough to get a few frames in focus. I don't think that I had been in a scrum like that before. The adrenaline was really pumping. I had told some of our writers about the “I love you” exchanges, but it was not widely reported until the NFL highlight video hit the market some time after. 

You retired from journalism. How often do you pull out your camera these days, and what subjects do you enjoy photographing? 
My greatest satisfaction these days is to make photographs that promote causes that result in change. One such example is a video we produced about a preschool reading-readiness program in Newport Public Schools that brought together funding from multiple sources to offer students a better-than-expected outcome. 

What is your current photography project? 
I worked with photographer Chris Smith on the Hoosier Hardwood Photo Project, a documentary about Indiana high school gymnasiums. We have an exhibit of over 100 photographs on display in the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in New Castle. I published “Cincinnati Shadow & Light,” a comprehensive book of photography from my career, in 2013. 

About Michael E. Keating
In an award-winning newspaper career spanning four decades, Michael E. Keating photographed news, feature stories and sporting events. Keating is a co-trustee of the Clyde N. Day Foundation in Newport, which assists individuals, institutions and initiatives for the betterment of mankind with a strong focus on children, education and the arts. Keating and his wife, Sarah, live in Northern Kentucky.