Then and Now

A very cold @LittleLauraHeald atop a scoreboard at Gillette Stadium for the AFC divisional playoff game against the Jacksonville Jaguars on January 12, 2008.

I covered my first NFL playoff game on this day in 2008.

My hometown Jaguars were taking on the undefeated New England Patriots in Foxborough, MA.

It was the first time I felt a true northern winter and the last time the Jaguars were in the playoffs. 

I was excited before the game. The week before the Jaguars had defied all odds by beating the Pittsburg Steelers to advance to this game. On top of that, light snow was in the forecast. Snow to a Florida kid is like fairy dust - incredibly exciting to think about but not actually real.

I dressed poorly for the cold. As a lifelong Floridian I literally didn't own a winter coat. Instead I wore a turtleneck and fleece hoodie, which topped off my worse clothing decision of all - rain boots for shoes. In my incredibly naive mind, rain boots seemed logical since it might snow and snow is precipitation. Rain boots, however, are made mostly of rubber. Rubber does not insulate. Not even a little bit.

By the end of the first quarter my feet were 100% numb atop a very cold and windy, metal scoreboard. The Jaguars were faring a little better, though I was more concerned with unfreezing my feet than I was with who would win the game. The Patriots, of course, went on to beat the Jags. And how to NOT dress in the cold became my first lesson of 2008.

I had many real-life lessons that year. 

2008 was a year of firsts. That was my first NFL playoff game. A couple weeks later I covered my first Super Bowl. Later that year I shot my first NASCAR race, first Kentucky Derby, first USATF Championship, and first Olympic Games.

It was a whirlwind of lessons and mistakes, failures and successes.

NASCAR taught me to expect the unexpected, and to never judge a book by it's cover.

At the Derby I discovered that problems are obstacles to overcome, not annoyances to slow me down.

At the USATF Championships I learned the value of preparation (though I still struggle with that one).

Working the Beijing Olympics taught me that I can function for exactly 22 days without sleep before I crash and burn.

A decade later those memories still feel close; as if they only just happened. In some ways they only just have. Memory has a way of distorting time; of making the distant feel present.

I started 2018 much like I started 2008, by going to a Jaguars playoff game on a cold, January day. Only this time I went as a fan (GO JAGS!), dressed appropriately (notice the ear muffs) and the Jaguars won (barely).

Being a fan at the Jaguars vs. Bills game during last week's wildcard playoff weekend. After freezing myself half to hypothermia in my first playoff game a decade ago, I took no chances  with the cold and bundled up with ear muffs, a scarf, a down jacket, and - not pictured - running shoes and wool socks.

Still, 2018 is young, and if the past has taught me anything, it’s that a lot of surprises are still to come.

I will likely not have as many “firsts” as I did a decade ago, and that's fine. Many of the jobs I do now are jobs I've done before - in one way or another - and I now have more time for things like being a football fan (see photo above).

The mayhem of deadline journalism prepared me well for the clients I currently work for, from sports and editorial photography, to cinematography and video editing.

As I look back on what was, I'm excited about what is - past, present and future.