There are many things that happen during a year. So many things, in fact, we tend to forget the little ups and downs of each day.
The salty midnight air was thick in my lungs. A shock of 80 degree heat caused me to remove my hoodie as I took my first step out of Miami International Airport. Uber was quick. I found myself dozing off in Fort Lauderdale.
Around 8 AM I opened my eyes. 5-6 hours of sleep later, I knew I wasn’t really rested. I was more nervous than anything. I grabbed my leather bag and pelican case. While on the media bus heading for Sun Life Stadium, we were escorted by Miami police.
The bus driver hurried through traffic, weaving, swerving, breaking, passing. The jarring juxtaposition of beginning sleep deprivation and the bus driver attempting to reach light speed was bit much.
After a few near death experiences (joking, kind of), the first round of media members stepped off the bus and into the college football media world.
I stood at the tunnel ramp for a few moments — just to soak it in.
Just a few hours before I was sloshing through thawing red mud moving furniture. And then, I was standing at the center of the college football playoffs.
This was a moment I thought about for weeks. Five to be exact. As I look at it now, I guess I waited for the moment ever since I picked up a camera.
I suppose my sentimental heart weakened my knees and softened my gut. I was emotional.
Before the game Airmen parachuted on to the 50-yard-line. I was taken by it. The stadium erupted as they descended. I felt very much like them; inspired even.
Falling. Celebrating. Focusing.
It all came together when Sterling Shepard led the Sooners before entering the field. His eyes were piercing. I could tell this moment was special for him. And for much more significant reasons than my own.
This was the last game he would suit up as a Sooner. In the same bowl his dad won a National Championship.
He played valiantly. And, at the end of it all — it was all he had ever given.
Grass stains covered his grid-iron torn shoulder pads. A towel covered his face. Team mates, coaches, trainers hugged him. The clock expired. He wept.
I can only imagine what that game meant to him. And, what’s in his head at this very moment.
I wrapped up my editing and exporting.
The bus ride back to Fort Lauderdale was slow. A few media members counted down the New Year and laughed at the anticlimactic nature of the ordeal.
Hotel. Bags. Uber.
Two Uber rides later, I discovered Haitians celebrate their independence and the New Year simultaneously and they eat pumpkin soup for the occasion.
The second Uber ride taught me that, “Uber customer service is complete shit.” The driver, a Belgium native, expressed his dissatisfaction with the company. He was ready for a change.
And now, in an old, grungy IHOP across from the airport, Nora Jones sings over the speakers. I am the only white person in the restaurant and its packed. Plates slide across the pass bar. Blue christmas ornaments swing above hanging from ceiling tiles. I grab a golden chrome pitcher and pour a cup of lukewarm coffee.
In just a few moments I’ll be back on a plane headed for OKC.
There are too many emotions. Too many thoughts. Too many experiences. Too many opportunities. Too many dreams.
The last 24 hours have been a year in a day. The triumphs, failures, missed opportunities, new relationships.