As sports fans, there are few things more gripping than a close sporting event in the final minute of regulation.
Every play, coaching instruction and bounce of a ball suddenly seems so fragile. It is absolute chaos in its unpredictability, and it’s what makes sports outright irresistible.
There is beauty in an unknown final score.
But when all of it is taken away abruptly, and seemingly without warning, it’s jarring.
Growing up, sports were a constant. My mom coined the phrase, “There will always be a game on,” when I stayed up too late to watch the final play of whatever game was on that night. That, for now, is no longer the case.
Last Friday felt like the final minute of a close game. I was informed that my time as a sports reporter for The Durango Herald had come to a shocking close, as COVID-19 continues to rattle local businesses across the country. The journalism industry has not been spared despite being in an age when local reporting has never been more important and yet so equally under threat that one day, there might be none.
But while sports have stopped, communities have come together in these unprecedented times.
I came to understand how passionate the Four Corners is for its local teams and athletes. There is a true sense of place here, and the sense of community in Bayfield, Durango and Ignacio is unmatched.
I’ve been fortunate enough to cover new sports I had previously never reported on such as archery, billiards, BMX, cycling, world-class whitewater canoeing and even rodeo. The stories of local athletes and coaches make it worth reporting on. The readers have a keen eye for the out-of-the-ordinary day-to-day sports reporting, and I have appreciated getting to interact with so many of you.
Durangoans came together in an unprecedented manner in the last month to mourn the untimely death of a talented cyclist from Germany after he, too, fell for the warmth of this place.
From Fort Lewis fans packing one of American soccer’s hidden gems in Dirks Field, to skiing the slopes at Purgatory Resort on a bluebird day, the energy in and around Durango always lifts me up.
Bayfield fans stayed loyal to the Wolverines through a long sports season in the wake of years of unprecedented success, but unwavering pride hit when one of their own, senior wrestler John Foutz, battled his way to a thrilling first state championship for any wrestler from La Plata County since 2012.
Ignacio doesn’t give up, no matter what hurdles may stand in its way. The Southern Ute Indian Reservation has its own unique set of challenges, and basketball has helped put the town on the map. The girls team banded together to support the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women movement in a stunning tribute this season. The boys also battled hard, and in the end, both teams reached the Class 2A state tournament only to have their seasons cut short. The solace, if any, is that Ignacio fans, which help create arguably the most unique atmosphere in the state, will be back out next winter to pack the gym.
So when sports do return, and a game does come down to the final minute, embrace the feeling of nervous anticipation. Everything is on the table, and anything is possible. That’s the beauty of an unknown final score. Your team might just pull it off after all.
Brendan Ploen is a freelance sports writer. Follow him on Twitter @BrendanPloen.