It wasn’t supposed to happen. In fact, ESPN gave ODU a 1.8% of winning. Since coming back from suffering my near-fatal heart attack, this was the biggest thing that’s been on my plate. I was excited to shoot the game, but I was dreading it as well since I’m still not quite 100%, but I’ll admit, I kept reminding myself that this game shouldn’t be any big deal and that ODU will be blown away by halftime. Man, was I wrong. In the closing minutes of the game, the voice in my head kept reminding me “You’re working for the AP and this is going to be a national story.” From there I kind of went into panic mode and just hoped for the best. All in all, it was good to be back and wow, what a night.
Friday, November 30, 2017 is the day my life changed. It started out as any other normal day. I had gotten the kid's off to school and come back home to get dressed and set out on my day. A few minutes into my bathroom process, I collapsed. There were no signs, no nothing. My wife was home as well, thank God, because I collapsed from what would be a massive heart attack. She heard a vase fall over. She investigated and there she discovered me, "blue" and "unresponsive". Not exactly words you want associated with your well being.
And so began near eight weeks of a hospital stay.
The first three weeks were the scariest for everyone except me because I was unconscious, so I just slept. Over the course of the those first three weeks, I was on a ventilator for 15 days, I had Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome, a staph infection, pneumonia and if that wasn't enough, I started to go into multi-system organ failure. After the EKG's and EEG's didn't show any brain activity, my family was told, on more than one occasion, that it was time to start saying goodbye. Thankfully, my wife knew something the doctor's didn't. She simply wanted more time.
After I originally collapsed, my brain was without oxygen for an estimated 20 minutes. After I woke up and stabilized after three weeks in the hospital, then came the four weeks of physical, occupational and speech therapy. I had to relearn how to walk and talk all over again. After my family was told that even if I did survive, I'd be a vegetable because of the elapsed time.
Thankfully, and miraculously, I'm well ahead of schedule with my recovery. Thank you to everyone who prayed, etc. for me. I'm a lucky one and trust me, I'll never forget it or take it for granted.
Go hug a loved one.
Some favorite recent assignments include ODU Men's Soccer winning the Conference USA championship and sealing an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, some Norfolk State football, ODU basketball, High School volleyball playoffs and ODU's last-minute 24-21 win to keep their Bowl hopes alive.
As always, thanks for looking!
(All pics ©Jason Hirschfeld and The Virginian-Pilot)
A few turtles were released by the Virginia Aquarium after they'd been rehabilitated with various injuries dating back to last year and on Sunday, Oct. 28, the Stranding Response Team affiliated with the aquarium released them back into the ocean. On Friday, Nov. 3rd, at the National Training Center, Norfolk Academy defeated Cape Henry 5-0 to claim the TCIS championship. After that, First colonial bested Cox 2-1 to win the Group 6 Region A title. Thanks for looking!
(All photos ©Jason Hirschfeld and The Virginian-Pilot)
The Twitter account I've had for the past few years was hacked and ultimately deactivated. Long story short, one day I was logged out automatically and by the time I logged back in, Twitter themselves suspended the account. After talking at length with their Support team, they re-activated an old account from back in 2008. So there's that. Sometimes starting over can be cathartic. If you don't already and if you're inclined, you can simply follow me here.
The photos below are of some recent assignments. As always, thanks for looking!
(All photos ©Jason Hirschfeld and The Virginian-Pilot)
Saturday saw the return of football in the Hampton Roads area with a game featuring national powerhouse Bishop Sullivan and American Heritage (from Orlando). For the second year in a row, Bishop Sullivan fell to a nationally-ranked opponent. Thanks for looking!
On paper, it was supposed to be a good year for the 2017 Norfolk Tides. While the roster may boast prospects and a handful of former Major Leaguer's, it hasn't quite lived up to its billing. On the bright side, there's no where to go but up.
As always, thanks for looking!
Being primarily a sports shooter, I jump at the chance to shoot an assignment like this one. "Sadie" the horse towed fallen soldiers' carriages at Arlington National Cemetery, was a member of the Virginia Beach Police force and for the last decade, she's been a therapy horse at the EquiKids Therapeutic Riding Program in Pungo. You can read more about Sadie here.
As always, thanks for looking!
Another high school football season has come and gone, and with it came a few memorable frames as well as some new memories. One of which was witnessing Norview's Kavon Lawson catch the game-winning touchdown and on the very next play, secure the win with a game-ending, last second heave interception seen here. I've seen countless kids go on to play in the NFL and I'm sure in a few short years, you'll see some of these guys there too. As always, thanks for looking.
Just catching up on some recent work. Thanks for looking!
The season is here and like I predicted, it's hot. OK, predicting hot weather in the area in early September isn't exactly going out on a limb. This I do know: it's always a blast working the games. Below is a Week 1 recap as well as Harry's look ahead. Thanks for looking.
It's almost here. So in the meantime, get to know your 2016 Monarchs (per Harry Minium)
Five questions as ODU kicks off summer practice on Monday
Mercilessly for Old Dominion football followers, the scoreboard at Foreman Field shut down minutes after the regular-season finale last season.
Florida Atlantic had just kicked two fourth-quarter field goals to come away with a victory that knocked ODU out of a bowl game and added a bitter punctuation mark to the Monarchs' first losing season .
The score has been on the minds of the ODU players ever since. Coach Bobby Wilder made sure by having staff members place a poster on a wall that faces players as they enter the locker room.
It says, simply: FAU 33, ODU 31.
"That loss was heartbreaking," said redshirt senior TJ Ricks, who was Conference USA's leading tackler last season. "Our seniors, I came in here with them, and I felt so bad for them. No one wants to have that feeling again.
"It's so important that we go to a bowl game this season. It's the most important thing."
ODU would become bowl eligible with six victories, and a year ago, that would have been good enough. But C-USA's bowl line-up decreases from seven bowls to six, meaning seven victories might be necessary.
Prognosticators aren't optimistic . The C-USA media picked the Monarchs sixth in the seven-team East Division and USA Today picked ODU fourth. The Orlando Sentinel ranks ODU 95th nationally, and there are 84 bowl bids.
As the Monarchs begin fall workouts on Monday, here are five key questions they face:
Will the offensive line struggle again as it did last year?
New offensive line coach Chris Malone, a former Virginia Tech standout, has brought a more demanding work ethic .
Offensive coordinator Brian Scott installed a pass-option attack that should lessen pressure on the line. ODU also will employ a tight end, which should provide some additional blocking up front.
But two starters and four backups are gone from a line that often could not open holes for running backs or ODU's quarterbacks consistently.
Four players have starting experience, including redshirt seniors Troy Butler and Tyler Compton. Yet, three redshirt freshmen will play key roles, including Devin Hannan. He is slated to start at left tackle, where he will protect quarterbacks' blind side.
"We're going to be fine," Malone says. If so, that bodes well for ODU.
How is depth elsewhere on offense?
It's outstanding. ODU ended last season with just two able-bodied quarterbacks, but has six as practice begins. David Washington, who is coming off knee surgery, and Shuler Bentley split time at quarterback in 2015, and they should give Scott plenty of options.
There are nine running backs, led by Ray Lawry, the league's leading rusher last season. Backup Jeremy Cox ran well as a freshman. Josh Marriner, a transfer from UConn, will find a place on the field somewhere.
ODU has 22 receivers, including three returning starters and Melvin Vaughn, a 6-foot-3, 259-pound senior who is set to start at tight end.
Injuries to Vaughn and Adam Swann forced ODU to abandon plans to employ a tight end last season. But ODU goes eight deep in tight ends this fall, including four freshmen or redshirt freshmen.
Will the defense be better?
Yes. ODU has made gradual improvement the last two seasons under defensive coordinator Rich Nagy, who has patiently rebuilt with younger players.
There is more depth this season , with 12 safeties and 10 cornerbacks on the roster. "We've never had that kind of depth," Wilder said.
Justice Davila, a preseason all-conference pick at safety, is battling for his starting job with Rob Thompson and Denzel Williams.
Rashaad Coward, a 6-6, 310-pound senior from Brooklyn who has star potential, anchors a good defensive line. ODU will start three seniors at linebacker.
The special teams were poor last season. Will they be improved?
They need to be. ODU was last in C- USA in kickoff and punt return coverage and ninth in punting.
Wilder hired former Vanderbilt special teams coach Charles Bankins, and the Monarchs focused on specials teams much of the spring. It helps that ODU returns 42 players with significant playing time, which should give Bankins more options on punt and kickoff teams.
Freshman Bailey Cate, who averaged 44 yards per kick at Orange Park (Fla.) High last season, will be the punter. Chris Kirtley, another Floridian, is coming off a solid freshman season as placekicker.
Is the schedule more favorable than last season?
Not really. Ten opponents are the same, with Hampton and Massachusetts as the newcomers replacing Norfolk State and Eastern Michigan. ODU also plays six home games instead of seven.
The road to six victories is passable but will be difficult to traverse. ODU likely will be favored in four of its first six games, but the last six come against very good conference teams.
Early road games against Appalachian State and North Carolina State, which defeated ODU in Norfolk by a combined score of 87-14 last season, will be difficult challenges, too.
Victories in the first three home games – Hampton, Texas-San Antonio and UMass – likely are musts for the Monarchs to go bowling.
Harry Minium, 757-446-2371, firstname.lastname@example.org
I'm re-posting my first-person Ali tribute here because I realize some folks couldn't get past The Virginian-Pilot's paywall. Thanks for looking. -JH
I had no idea who Muhammad Ali was, no idea why enormous crowds gathered as I tagged along with my dad and Ali to various events.
To me, he was my dad’s friend. He was a back-seat passenger as I learned to drive. He was a guest at our farm who slept on a couch in the den. He was a guy who joined us for family dinner.
Ignorance was bliss on my part because Ali and I had many fun moments. Had I known of his legend, our relationship may not have been as organic.
My dad was Muhammad Ali’s attorney, agent and confidant for nearly three decades. My father died 11 years ago, so over time, our families’ communication waned. He’d call on some holidays and the kids would occasionally Skype him, but for the most part, my memories come from a time when I didn’t know who he actually was.
Ali’s death brought back a rush of those memories.
We have a family farm in Afton, just outside Charlottesville, and Ali visited often. The farm is where I learned to drive. My dad had an old Jeep Wagoneer with the type of wood paneling that would make Clark Griswold smile.
I remember, like it was yesterday, driving that hideous hunk of steel all over the wide-open farm landscape, gunning the accelerator like any reasonable kid would do. In the back seat was The Greatest, bobbing back and forth like a rag doll but giggling all the while.
While flopping around the back seat as we traversed the bumpy ground and to my dad’s exclamation of “we’re going to die!”, I vividly remember Ali calmly saying in his soft but raspy voice: “Not today. Not today. Keep going, Jason!” The Champ loved to have a good time.
A few years before, at that very farm, Ali was once again spending the night. It’s a modest place, and the accommodations aren’t becoming of a global icon. Ali decided to sleep on the couch in the den because he had phone calls to make and didn’t want to disturb anyone. I remember retreating upstairs for the night.
At some point, Ali had become uncomfortable on the couch. When I woke up the next morning, there he was next to me in the queen-size bed. As I opened my eyes, he too opened his. I’ll never forget waking up with him eye to eye.
In true Ali fashion, even at first light, he looked right at me while both of our heads were still on their respective pillows and said, “What’s for breakfast?”
I finally realized the level of his celebrity when we had a big family dinner at the Omni Hotel downtown – it’s now the Sheraton Waterside Hotel. Ali was battling a sore throat and when it came time to order, I remember the nervous waiter trembling ever so slightly. Ali being Ali decided to write down on the tablecloth what he wanted.
As we were walking out after dinner, my dad, my brothers, Ali and I all looked back to see what the loud commotion was about. It was the entire restaurant wait staff playing tug of war with the tablecloth. Ali had also autographed it.
What can you say about an icon that hasn’t already been said? The last few days have been an emotional roller coaster, not just because of Ali’s death, but because it’s also brought back a lot of memories of my dad. I’m just thankful that I was too young to realize how famous my dad’s friend was.
It's been a while. Here you'll just find some clips from over the past couple weeks. Thanks for looking!
My kids go to Norfolk Collegiate, so I have kind of a personal connection to both the school and this team. Speaking of this team, they had one hell of a ride this season. Led by their big three seniors, this was really a do-or-die year for them. They peaked at #2, not just in the TCIS private school conference, but rather #2 in the entire Hampton Roads region. Virginia Episcopal, led by Kentucky commit Sacha Killeya-Jones, came calling for the VISAA state quarterfinal. It was neck-and-neck the whole way, but a key missed free throw with 1.4 seconds left sealed the deal for the visiting team. Norfolk Collegiate lost 52-51. Wow. Upward and onward, gentlemen.