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‘Legend’ was the quintessential homer, and loved for it

Mike Roberts gets a standing ovation after he was introduced prior to the men’s basketball game between New Mexico and Arizona State in the Pit on Nov. 16, 2010. (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)

Mike Roberts gets a standing ovation after he was introduced prior to the men’s basketball game between New Mexico and Arizona State in the Pit on Nov. 16, 2010. (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)

For about the past 20 years of his life, I almost never used his first name when I ran into Mike Roberts at various sporting events.

“Legend.” That’s what I called him.

It was a playful moniker, and he knew it, but he also understood it was a sign of respect, and I hope Mike knew how much New Mexico respected him for what he gave to this state with that distinctive voice of his.

My first exposure to him was on a TV set. He was doing sports for KOAT back then, when I was in Little League, and he introduced a short segment that was speaking about me and a game I had pitched that day.

Later, I met him when I was covering Albuquerque Dukes games for this newspaper, when I was still in my late teens. As the years went on, we got to know each other a little, and I always liked to good-naturedly rib him whenever I had the chance.

At the end of his long and distinguished radio career, he was calling high school games for KQTM-FM, 101.7 “The Team.” We ran into each other often.

Mike died on Wednesday. He was 83. I will miss him. In a way, and like so many, I’ve been missing him since he retired several years ago.

Of course, it is those decades calling University of New Mexico football and men’s basketball games that earned Mike Roberts his fame and endeared him to this community.

My favorite Mike Roberts story goes like this:

I was driving back from Silver City on a Saturday morning after a Friday night basketball assignment. The Lobo men were at Air Force that day, and it was a super early start, and I eventually found the game on KKOB-AM on the road back to Albuquerque.

What I remember most was a spell of about 5 real-time minutes when Mike never once gave the score of the game – I think this also included a short commercial break – but managed to work in the foul count about half a dozen times during that same period.

He was furious, in his own understated way. Air Force, if I recall correctly, had only been called for one or two fouls, while the Lobos already had been whistled for about seven.

It was frustrating to not know who was winning, but I couldn’t help but laugh as I listened to Mike bristle about the disparity in team fouls, over and over. This was a quintessential Mike Roberts moment.

And this was an important reason why Mike was so beloved by Lobo fans, many of whom felt Mike was one of them, a man who managed to convey his displeasure when things were not going well without ever going over the top.

Sure, he was a homer, but Lobo fans cherished that about him. They depended on it, in fact. Mike loved his job, and he loved those Lobos.

So long, Legend.

MASTER CRAFTSMAN: Every so often, Charles Giddings wanders out to the carport in the backyard of his West Side home and begins a new project.

The 67-year-old Giddings does not consider himself an artist, but he has found a niche: making crosses.

Last week, Giddings, whose grandson, Xavier Ortiz, plays football for Valley High School, had one of his iron crosses delivered to the Alamogordo Police Department, which had just lost Officer Clint Corvinus. He was killed in the line of duty earlier this month.

The cross, Giddings said, was to be eventually delivered to Corvinus’ family.

This week, I caught up with Giddings, who told me that he’s been making crosses like that for nearly a decade, and often for fallen police officers, both locally and around the state.

“I’m not an artist,” he said. After one of his two liver transplants, he was looking for a hobby.

“I asked my friends, ‘How do you guys weld?’ And they said, ‘Practice.’ ”

He estimates he’s made about 40 such crosses, including one for fallen Manzano High football player Jayden Chavez-Silver, the victim of a drive-by shooting in June 2015.

Most of the crosses Giddings creates are for deceased people, but not all of them. He said he’s working on four of them currently, for a friend and his three sons. There is no precise method to how he chooses.

“Usually,” Giddings said, “when I make somebody a cross and give it to them out of the clear blue sky, I can make somebody cry without telling them bad things.”