I spent the weekend in Texas, at LaDainian Tomlinson’s 3-day football clinic, on the campus of TCU.
Holy hot. I have to say that first. I have to get that out of the way.
Here’s the thing: For the most part, I shoot my own stories. Sometimes I get a cameraman, but for this story (as is the case pretty much anytime I’m traveling) I did not. Now, I’m not complaining — being a “one-woman-band” has afforded me a lot of opportunities and is really the foundation of who I am as a reporter — butttttttt … sometimes it’s harder than others. I mean, think about it. I’m out shooting in humid, stuffy Texas heat and pretty much drenched in sweat, running around the football fields, trying to get good shots, but in five minutes I’ve got to go on-camera and interview a superstar.
Wipe off my forehead, throw on some powder, hope I don’t smell, guzzle a little water and smile, smile, smile … all while sweat drips down my back.
Yeah, that’s a good visual, huh?!
That’s how I roll.
Okay, onto the superstar.
Kevin Acee and I decided to go to Texas long before LT decided to retire. We knew he was in a contemplative state about the game, and we knew he started a football academy that he was very involved with, and both of those factors prompted us to book the flight to Fort Worth. But the week of the trip, LT gave up the NFL and went into history books with the Chargers. That sort of changed our angle, but not really. We still wanted to go and see what his mindset was like post-retirement and what this whole LT-Academy was about … so off we went to Texas.
I mean, it’s LaDainian Tomlinson, a prolific running back who defined the Chargers organization for nearly a decade. Given the chance to go, you go.
I’m glad we did.
It was awesome to see LT in this kind of environment — coaching, mentoring, advising — and every once in a while breaking out in a little cut or run against the athletes. Kevin and I chatted with LT throughout the weekend and talked to him for about an hour on Saturday. He was relaxed, open, super involved with the kids. He seemed very, very comfortable with retirement.
This example is trite, but it’s all I know, so I’m going to go with it. Most of you know dance was/is a huge part of my life growing up and really was my career path for nearly 12 years. I worked a full-time “real job” — you know, with timecards and benefits and stuff — and then I’d go teach for five or six hours every night. It was my passion. That was after dancing all throughout my childhood, teen and college years.
I loved it. I thrived on it.
When I chose to stop teaching to pursue my path as a sports reporter, I felt the most immense hole in my life … even though I knew it was the right decision. Dance had — and to some extent, does — define me. And when it stopped, I missed the kids, the creativity, the music, the costumes, the culture … “Dance Moms” is real, yo! It’s no joke! And you get used to that, to being a “studio brat” and having that family.
So, I can’t imagine how LT might feel come September.
What impresses me about LT is that he has a plan. He’s gotten advice from former teammates; he’s read books and forced himself to stay on a schedule (get his son ready for school, take him to school, come home, run, etc) … He wants to keep busy and “not sit on the couch,” he told me. But he also admitted he knows he’s going to have rough days.
Here’s the video:
And here’s some pictures from the trip … enjoy!
The hotel we were staying at had one of those waffle-makers, you know, where you pour the batter in and make your own. Except this is Texas! They don’t have ordinary round waffles! No sirree! They have Texas shaped waffle-makers. Kevin made one every morning … And I’d rip off the panhandle.
A little interview action.
Some more interview action.
I couldn’t resist.
I have an awesome job. Really, I hate to brag, but I do. As a “new media” sports reporter, I get to travel, write, shoot videos, edit, report, create and dream up ideas centered around professional sports teams. I meet amazing people and interview athletes daily. I witness the battle on the playing field between success and failure all year long and am inspired by the tiny moments (because it’s those moments that create the big ones) where triumph beats adversity.
And sometimes I complain.
Yep. I know. I’m ashamed to admit it, but it’s true.
You know how it goes. In any job, there are complications. Support you don’t get, resources you need, people who are jerks … Those moments when even though you’ve prepared and lined things up and made seven backup plans, life decides to laugh at you anyways and kick you in the shins and make you pull an eighth out of your butt.
Sometimes, I lose perspective.
Where am I going with this, you wonder? Well, let me explain:
Bill Johnston is the public relations director for the San Diego Chargers. His wife, Ramona, has Huntington’s disease, a genetically caused brain disorder that takes away a person’s ability to walk, talk, swallow, eat and think. Slowly, that person becomes just a shell of himself or herself. It’s such a sad disease, because it robs a person of his or her spirit.
Every year, Bill and his family — along with the rest of the HD community — tirelessly raise money to help find a cure for HD. A few weeks ago, I tagged along with Bill and his daughter, Hayley, as they ran the Rock-And-Roll Marathon in support of HD:
My life decisions often include what I’m going to wear the next day, or if I’ll have carbs for lunch, or whether or not I can cover a story. Maybe *sometimes* I might think about my future, and if I’ll marry or have a family or where my career might be in ten years. Hayley faces a decision of whether or not to be tested for a disease that she very well could have … A disease that would make all other decisions trivial. Stop. Think about that for a second. Think about one of your kids having to face that.
And Hayley is so strong.
The thing about Bill and Hayley is that they are two of the funniest, most optimistic, friendly, professional people you will ever meet. They are, for lack of a better word, cool. You’d wanna hang out with them and drink beers and watch the game. Certainly I don’t know what goes on in their personal lives, but I know their courage isn’t an act.
Last night, I went to one of my favorite events of the year — the “Shoot To Cure HD” event. It’s basically a tournament style basketball shoot-off at Chargers Park. People form teams and go at it, and usually they’ve had a few cocktails before they take their shots. It’s pretty fun. Plenty of Chargers show up, and this year, it was the coaches and defensive line that made it to the end of the tournament. Here’s some sights and sounds (excuse the poor quality — I used my old FlipCam):
Remember what I was talking about in the beginning of this post? How sometimes I forget what an awesome job I have (and life, really) because of a bad day or some jerky egotistical athlete? Well, guess what — my whole family is healthy. I am healthy. I have the choice, every day, to steer my life in any direction I choose.
Ramona does not. And depending on a test result, Hayley might not either.
I’m not trying to give you all the “don’t take life for granted” speech. But I can say that my life is changed because of Bill, Ramona, Hayley and their family. Take a second, go to an event, or simply read more about HD on this website. Help them find a cure.
Side note: I took my first motorcycle ride during the marathon, to try and find Bill and Hayley on the course. Pretty sweet huh???
I’m back from my week-long road trip with the Padres and will give you guys a post shortly about how all of THAT went. In the meantime …