Looking back, it was a bumpier ride than I care to remember

Jul. 17—Selective amnesia can be your best friend if you let it.

The last year and a half, yeah, lots of that going around in these parts. In scrolling back just through the last 12 months of New Mexico sports clippings, it’s remarkable we even got this far without losing it.

Go back to last July when, in the lockdown months of the pandemic’s early grip, we were entering a proverbial nuclear winter without high school sports. The Isotopes’ season was dead. College sports was limping its way toward purgatory. And youth sports, well — that’s something we weren’t even allowed to talk about.

The United played a season on the road, foreshadowing that proved to be a monthslong theme. With health restrictions at unprecedented levels, we had to go all Cast Away and let Wilson drift off in a different direction knowing it was the only way.

The Lobos and Aggies followed suit, packing their toys and moving to Nevada, Texas and Arizona. We stood by and watched the United make the playoffs without us, the Lobos snap the nation’s longest losing streak in an empty stadium, the Aggies struggle to keep moving a state away, and, of course, the Lobo men’s basketball team sink to the bottom in their failed “Lubble” experiment in the Lubbock, Texas, area that cost a coach his job and the fans a sense of pride.

Reading through the preps timeline is even sadder. It was propped up by hopeless anxiety, of a “We will play again” motto that felt like a politician’s hollow promise. We watched as students’ grades fell apart, as the New Mexico Activities Association repeatedly pushed seasons by days, then weeks, then months.

We planned for an early October return for golf, volleyball and cross-country only to have state officials not give the go ahead. Little did anyone know that the worst of the pandemic was rolling in like the tide, one that prompted the NMAA to announce in early December that

Feb. 1 would be the latest it could go in order to have a fall sports season.

Along the way, we had colleges mothball programs; first Northern New Mexico, followed by Eastern, Western and Highlands, then the big boys at UNM and NMSU. It wasn’t until things seemed at their worst — the first week of January — when something positive finally percolated past the political strife, civil unrest and specter of the coronavirus.

It started small enough when the NMAA expanded its E-sports footprint. Two weeks later, the governor allowed college teams to come home and train assuming they met stringent health standards. A week after, the NMAA said sports would return as early as Feb. 22.

By March, we threw the last shovel of dirt on the dumpster fire that was UNM hoops, we were being introduced to the possibility of the United and Isotopes playing at home and getting our first taste of high school sports in nearly a year.

It didn’t matter that Santa Fe’s first prep football game happened to fall on the same day we were supposed to be watching championship Saturday at the state basketball tournament, or that a few days later fans were finally allowed inside Toby Roybal Memorial Gymnasium to watch Santa Fe High’s amazing volleyball team.

Or, for that matter, the late-March announcement that youth sports could return. By then we were well on our way to a sense of normalcy that, admittedly, is still a ways off. After all, the rodeo feels out of place in September, and everything we went through felt uncomfortably rushed.

The point is, we made it. We got through a prep sports season, finally ditching the masks by starting the summer with the time-honored haunts of Little League, club soccer and camping.

It somehow lessened the slap in the face we felt when we found out one of our pools had been used by the U.K. Olympic team and that we could still be dealing with public health orders for several months.

Don’t worry about any of that. Just keep moving forward and always remember that selective amnesia helps.

Will Webber is The New Mexican’s sports editor. Contact him at wwebber@sfnew mexican.com.

Leave a Comment