Tribute: Luis Pacheco–Behind the camera, in front of it all
By Jimmy LaRoue
Chances are most of you didn’t know Luis Pacheco, but most of you probably know, or have known, someone like him.
He was the person behind the scenes, behind the camera, the one lugging the equipment, the one who set things up so that others could look good, and then, after you left, wrapped things up.
Generous in word and in deed, a joyful spirit, Luis died in a car accident last weekend–all too soon.
I met Luis in 2001 shortly after I started a soccer blog. Mark Bushman, who would later become my best man at my wedding, asked if I was interested in covering Richmond Kickers’ games. Not being a fool, I said I was, and he arranged to get me credentialed.
The excitement from that soon turned to fear–fear that I would embarrass myself among people who had far more knowledge about soccer than I did.
Luis made sure I didn’t feel embarrassed, and made me feel welcome. I watched many a game with Luis up on the roof of the University of Richmond Stadium press box, though invariably I would miss something. He never did.
He would trek up the stairs to the roof of the press box with a seemingly-endless amount of gear, which he would set up in the enclosed room and then in the open air of the night sky, he’d set up his camera and film the game.
Between his seeing eye and the fact he filmed games for the Kickers, and for a cable soccer show that Mark hosted on Channel 3, on which the show aired when it was on then-Adelphia cable in the Fredericksburg area, Luis offered to make me tapes of games, too.
That started a tradition whereby I’d bring VHS tapes for him, and he’d copy games for me and give me the game tapes, most often before I even left the stadium, so that I could go back and watch them. I’d check them to make sure I got the details right, and if the game was a particularly good one, I’d watch them over again.
He continued making tapes for me through the 2006 season, the last in which I had covered the team regularly for my blog, which by that point had turned into a full fledged website. Though he also filmed games involving D.C. United and the then-Washington Freedom of the then-WUSA, I remember him strongest from those games in Richmond.
He knew everyone, and was at ease around everyone, and in talking with him, it was clear he loved two things–soccer and his family.
Luis was one of those people who made me feel at ease in covering the games, and even when I clearly didn’t know what I was talking about, never made me feel that way, especially on the rare appearances on the soccer show. I’m not, and never have been an eloquent speaker, but he never had an unkind word about me being on the show.
When I didn’t know someone I wanted to interview, he would help set it up for me. And when he was done filming and I was done interviewing, we would head back up to the press box, chat about the game and what went right, or wrong, and invariably, I would grab a tape he had ready for me by the time I got the game stats. On his own time away from games, he gave me files of highlights I could put on my website.
He did that even on top of his other responsibilities at the station, and the responsibilities he had to his family.
In spending time around him, he shared his passion for soccer and his family. He so loved being at the games, and when I was laid off from my job and had to leave the central Virginia area to take another job in the Shenandoah Valley, I didn’t think I’d get the chance to cover soccer again.
From the end of 2006 until the start of this season, I made it to exactly zero Kickers games, and maybe two soccer games period because of the various jobs I had that left me little time, and put me at great distance, from covering soccer.
I still had the many tapes he made for me, but of those, just five have survived the five moves I’ve made since then. Four of those tapes are of Kickers games from the 2005 and 2006 seasons–the 8-4 barnburner of a U.S. Open Cup game with Ocean City in 2005, and the 2005 USL First Division semifinal, a 3-1 Kickers’ win over the Rochester Rhinos. The tapes from 2006 include a 5-3 Kickers win over the Western Mass Pioneers and an 8-0 win over the New Hampshire Phantoms.
The fifth of these tapes is particularly meaningful to me, as it involves the only tape I have of me playing soccer. That year, Luis came out to film the Commonwealth Soccer League’s championship games, and my team, FC Rangers, was in the final. It wasn’t one of my best games–I had played much better in the semifinal–but it stayed 0-0 through regulation and the first OT. We ended up losing 1-0 in double OT. I got scored on with about a minute before the game would have been decided in penalties.
Luis was kind of my play in defeat, and he still made me a tape of the game, even though it wasn’t necessarily a game I wanted to remember at the time. Anyone trying to make me get rid of any of these tapes is going to have trouble.
After five seasons away from soccer, I got the opportunity to once again cover some Kickers games this season, and sure enough, I ran into Luis at each of them–at the season-opener, the night Mike Burke had his jersey retired and at the last game of the season. We talked about catching up again next season, and about bringing him more blank tapes so I could get more copies of games.
Leaving the press box after the Kickers’ last game of the season, I shook Luis’s hand and said I looked forward to seeing him again on the roof next season. It won’t be the same without him there.
It would be fitting if the Kickers named the press box there, or at any future stadium, after him. In particular, the roof should be all his. He was a treasure to the game.
And though I loved being on the field with the action for the games in which I took photos, I always thought he had the best view of the games.
I have to believe that he’s got an even better one now.
With apologies to my friend, Mark Bushman, I’m going to share what he wrote about Luis on his Facebook page on Sunday, the day after he died. I believe it to be an eloquent tribute to a great man:
RIP to my good friend Luis Pacheco, who was killed in a car accident last night. I received the call from his brother early this morning.
Luis was the reason my soccer tv show existed for as long as it did. He was the director, editor, producer, cameraman, and everything else needed to be done to put on a professional type of program. For years, Luis and I tirelessly spent entire weekends driving to DC United games, Richmond Kickers games, or somewhere else on the east coast to cover the sport we both loved. People usually saw me carrying our bags, and Luis right behind carrying the camera, tripod, batteries, and mikes (he didn’t like anybody else carrying his equipment).
Everybody knew and liked Luis, particularly his colleagues, team officials, and a great number of players. Half of my interviews w/ these guys were the result of them just coming up and talking to Luis, and me saying “hey, since you’re already over here…” I can’t tell you how many times we got special parking access or got to go through a different gate because the attendants knew and liked Luis. Saved us lots of walking w/ all of that heavy equipment. Phew!
Luis’ work was so good that he routinely received requests from both the home and visiting teams, as well as players, to send them copies of the games he’d recorded. He KNEW how to film the game as good if not better than anyone else, and he typically had better shots and angles of the goals and big plays that were missed by network cameras.
Luis would work so many hours in a day that he’d get so tired he’d stop speaking English and just start talking to me in Spanish, which I don’t speak very well. I’d yell “English, dude!” and we’d both laugh our asses off…
A lot of my friends in the soccer community had the chance to meet and/or work with Luis. I hope you all enjoyed it as much as I did. I thank him for teaching me as much as he did about this business, and he will definitely missed this coming year when I go to a Kickers game and he won’t be there filming it.
Luis was also, first and foremost, a strong family man. He spent endless hours with his children and grandchildren, even bringing them to games on occasion in Richmond. I’ll never forget the time I walked in and there was his 12 year old with the head phones on, following the players w/ the camera as they warmed up… “Gotta start ’em young,” he said.
Sorry this was so long, but I wanted to express my support, gratitude, thanks, and love to someone who has made such a positive impact on my life and allowed me to do some things I never thought could be done.
Thanks, buddy, I’ll miss you!
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