Andy Gray has the job that nearly every sports fan on Twitter wants.
Gray is a senior projects producer at sportsillustrated.com, which makes him responsible for operating the Twitter handle @SI_Vault. The account posts pertinent, sometimes jaw-dropping photos from Sports Illustrated's extensive archive—one that holds every image published in the magazine's pages since it launched in 1954. Nearly 50,000 people follow the account, which posts between 20 and 40 images each day.
Gray runs the account with a friendly voice and a snarky edge. He's like the buddy on the couch sitting next to you—the one who's flipping through a magazine and shouting "Look! Look!" each time he comes across a shot he likes.
"Soccer fans brawl after a Everton-Southampton game," read one post that prefaces a photo of one fan throwing a jab at another’s head.
"Kentucky sorority girls celebrate the Wildcats," offered another, this one with a photo of five girls in blue holding their fingers in the air.
Sometimes, he hits the jackpot.
Take one instance two weeks ago, when Gray realized that an NCAA basketball matchup between University of Louisville and University of Florida would pit coaches Rick Pitino and Billy Donovan against each other for the first time.
Gray dug into his mental archive and remembered that Pitino used to coach Donovan at the Providence College from 1983 to 1987. A quick search on the archive's database brought up a picture of a younger Pitino shouting directions at Donovan during a 1987 timeout.
"Those opportunities are rare," Gray told the Daily Dot. "If those happened all the time, I'd have the easiest job in the world. But [they don’t], so you have to be creative in figuring things out."
Gray keeps that creativity buzzing by waking up every morning and checking for relevant headlines that might lead to good photo opportunities. Anything can work; He just needs a relevant hook. He looks at birthday lists, reads box scores, and checks every "on this day in history" caption that he can find.
"I have an idea between [scans of] Twitter and Tumblr of five or six things that I want to touch every day," Gray said. As for "the rest,” he said he builds photo galleries for the site and often comes across “crazy photos."
“Type in '1984' and 'Stanford' to find a photo of John Elway for something, and you'll end up with a picture of Tiger Woods [who played his college golf at Stanford] from when he was lik six years old. Stupid things like that where you didn't even know what was happening will turn into these great photos for us to tweet out."
He also deals with less specifically sports-related shots like the magazine’s much-beloved swimsuit pictures. But Gray's quick to point out that the @SI_Vault handle can't become a bastion for all things Kathy Ireland and Tyra Banks, despite his acknowledging that sex sells.
I try to sneak in one or two since they get such good traction," Gray said
Instead, Gray tends to focus the bulk of his non-sports related photo hunting efforts on finding pop culture pictures, which resonate with audience and editors alike. He's always keeping his eye out for the next great crossover shot.
"The TV show Webster had a lot of sports stars. There are some funny pictures of [former New York Knick center] Patrick Ewing and Webster, who's like 4'4", playing basketball together at Madison Square Garden.
"That, to me, is the perfect picture. You have Patrick Ewing, who everybody loves, and you have him playing basketball against someone who's literally half his size. It's everything you want in a photo, and it has a sports connection."
Photo by @SI_Vault