With virtually no live sports to watch or read about, with an uncertain sports future to look forward to, what does the American sports fan do?
Yes, of course. Celebrating yesteryear has always been a major item on our sports menu, but the coronavirus outbreak has made yesteryear the appetizer, entree and dessert.
Tune in to virtually any TV sports channel, log into virtually any sports website, and you’ll find re-runs of classic games, anthology shows like ESPN’s “30 for 30” series, etc., etc.
The University of New Mexico athletic department has taken note and followed suit.
A week ago, as athletic department employees were preparing to abandon the south complex and work from their homes, the sports-information staff huddled with marketing director Joe Thuente.
“Before we scattered to the winds,” Thuente said in a phone interview, “we wanted to look for ways to keep Lobo fans engaged.”
Two of those ways: “Lobo Classics” and “Best of the 2000s.”
Lobo Classics is the brainchild of assistant sports information director Daniel Gallegos.
Before the corona virus outbreak scuttled the remainder of UNM’s 2020 baseball season, Gallegos had been working on advance material for the Lobos’ scheduled three-game series at the University of Texas.
In his research, he came across a 2010 series at Texas, then ranked No. 1 in the nation, in which the Lobos took two of three games. That success helped propel the 2010 team to the program’s first NCAA Regional appearance since 1962.
Mindful of the conversation with Thuente, Gallegos reacted accordingly.
“We were all just thinking about ways we could deal with the situation, because obviously when you work in athletics it’s a part of our lives,” he said. “But Lobo athletics is even more a part of our fans’ lives.”
Gallegos presented his story on the Lobos’ 2010 success at Texas as the first installment of Lobo Classics. He’s reached out on golobos.com and on Twitter (@UNMLOBOS) for more ideas, with the intention of presenting the series on a weekly basis for as long as circumstances dictate.
“I thought, why not make it a weekly series,” he said, “something that our fans can kind of look forward to every week?”
Lobo fans have responded with several ideas. Among them:
The Royce Olney-led men’s basketball victory over coach Rick Majerus’ third-ranked Utah Utes in 1998.
The Stoney Case-led football upset of eighth-ranked Utah in 1994.
Kendall Williams’ 46-point outburst in a men’s basketball victory at Colorado State in 2013.
The Williams 3-pointer that iced a victory over San Diego State in the 2014 Mountain West Tournament championship game.
The Lobos’ football victory over Brigham Young at University Stadium in 1997, just UNM’s second triumph over the Cougars in a span of 25 years.
A football victory at Missouri in 2005, the program’s first road victory over a power-conference team since 1983.
Jaisa Nunn’s school-record 39 points and her game-winning three-point play in an 88-87 women’s basketball victory over 16th-ranked Marquette in 2017.
The unforgettable football victory at Boise State in 2015.
Not all of the suggestions, though, came from the so-called revenue-producing sports. The UNM men’s tennis team’s 2009 Mountain West championship was mentioned, and Gallegos said the women’s cross country team’s two NCAA championships (2015, 2017) will not be forgotten.
“It’s really exciting for me, that some of them I wasn’t here for because I haven’t been working here for very long,” Gallegos said. “… I’m really excited to be able to break down a story, or just bring it back and do it justice.”
Meanwhile, Frank Mercogliano, UNM’s assistant athletic director for communications, has been working on Lobo football’s Best of the 2000s. He’s conducting a position-by-position poll.
“This whole (coronavirus) situation is something that no one’s ever gone through before, so we’d all gotten together and talked about how we could keep people engaged, how do we do something that would help people take their minds off the situation for a little bit,” Mercogliano said.
“In the grand scheme of things, it’s really small, but I think it’s been fun for our fans to talk about guys (the fans) all know.”
Mercogliano began the poll with quarterbacks, with Casey Kelly, Kole McKamey, Donovan Porterie and Lamar Jordan emerging as the nominees.
After a considerable amount of back-and-forth on @UNMLoboFB, Jordan (2014-17) was voted the winner.
Mercogliano then moved to linebacker. Thus far, Artesia product Dallas Bollema (2010-13) has claimed one spot. Billy Strother, Dakota Cox, Fola Fashola and Gary Davis are “competing” for the others.
(Update: Cox (2013-16) has been voted into the second linebacker spot next to Bollema, his former teammate.)
“It’s fun,” Mercogliano said. “It’s cool to see people react to it.
“It has nothing to do with us (at UNM), and it’s all based on the fans and what they want.”