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Harrison: Life forces change in sports, perspective

Could it have been only four weeks ago when the No. 1 item on my to-do list was to figure out and eliminate the source of this yucky, sour smell in the interior of my 2003 Toyota Corolla? Perhaps just a combo of an old guy driving an old ride created this naturally unpleasant, lingering stench. But I wasn’t satisfied and kept looking.

Then in a matter of days – even hours, really – the world’s script was flipped, force-feeding me perspective on my tiny spilled-milk annoyance as we collectively face the biggest challenge of our lifetime.

Now for days I’m waking up to our nightmare instead of waking up from one. And for days I’ve been wondering what to write – appropriate for a sports page, importantly – that matters even one lick when people are out there dying by the thousands.

And I’m still wondering.

I’m beyond proud of the Journal’s above-and-beyond work in covering the coronavirus public health crisis and, especially, its role in detailing what we each of us needs to know going forward. To say the Journal serves an absolutely essential role in this community is an understatement.

Meanwhile, it’s weird in the newsroom. Reporters are reporting remotely instead of coming in. Some who have to be in the office are wearing masks. We had an important retirement this past week with Ed Johnson. He was an extremely talented writer and reporter who later and for years served as a much lower profile glue guy on the sports and metro desks. He was a shining example of someone who set aside ego for the betterment of the whole, and not everybody’s like that.

Knowing him, he wouldn’t want the attention, but we should have celebrated anyway with everybody in the whole blasted company congregating to share coffee, cake and years-old stories. And to say thanks.

Alas, could not.

It’s especially weird on the sports side, though I correctly told a concerned somebody that there won’t be any dearth of sports news soon. You’ve seen it recently. Besides the “coronavirus affects this, coronavirus delays/cancels that,” there is continued, discouraging movement within Lobo men’s basketball. Then Jon “Bones” Jones got in trouble again, got off easily again, and again issued a “mea culpa” of sorts. Wash, rinse, repeat.

There are no games, of course. But in this role I’ve always felt that games don’t mean that much anyway. The putting on of the games is what’s important, what impacts lives and creates livelihoods. That’s how sports define a big city’s or a small town’s quality of life.

I needed only a slight course correction on that. Nobody paid to watch Brian Urlacher take an English class or Eddie Nuñez to figure out his athletic budget, of course. Games, however, matter to fans. The happy memories of their favorite teams now can divert them, distract them, help them cope. What else can stoke the flames of enthusiasm without any more logs to add to that fire?

UNM’s athletic communications department gets this. It has begun creating a fan-driven multimedia project series called “Lobo Classics” to celebrate the greater moments in the school’s athletic history. The Journal, when and where doable, will collaborate from time to time by republishing its own work on such events. Today’s section looks back at the thrilling Lobo men’s basketball win over then-No. 3 Utah on Feb. 1, 1998.

Of course, we must acknowledge a history and volume of great sports moments that didn’t involve the Lobos (really!) and might interest some of our readers. We invite you to write in on some meaningful memories you’d like to share in print and online. No time better than now to do so, right?

In the meantime, I repeat what legendary sportscaster Al Michaels said recently to the Los Angeles Times.

“I think we took great solace especially after something like 9/11 in people coming together,” he said. “Families physically hugging, and everybody had that feeling of, ‘Hey, we’ve got to pull together.’

“Now, we have to go through this apart.”

Friends, I wish us all the best success in coming together by staying apart.

Oh, the smell in the car?

It was, in fact, spilled milk.

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