An American Tragedy: A Fallen Star is Dead

Former NFL player Aaron Hernandez listens during his murder trial at the Bristol County Superior Court in Fall River, Mass., Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015. Hernandez is accused in the June 17, 2013, killing of Odin Lloyd, who was dating his fiancée’s sister. (AP Photo/Dominick Reuter, Pool)

Like every other New England Patriots fan — well, let’s make that NFL fan, why don’t we – I woke up to the news this morning that Aaron Hernandez was dead.

Hanged in his prison cell.

Just like that a former star is gone.

He was just 27.

I knew what was coming next. As I bounced around social media and the World Wide Web this morning, I would find a lot of hatred pointed in his direction.

After all, he blew an opportunity 99 percent of us can only dream about – success, money, adoration – and was found guilty of blowing it all by killing a man.

Me?

To be honest, I don’t feel any hatred.

I feel sadness.

Aaron Hernandez was a convicted murderer, yes, and he also killed his golden goose.

But he was also a son, a brother, a father.

As much as people hated him, he was also loved.

So I’m sad to hear this news this morning. For his family. For this whole damn story.

When I moved to Connecticut nearly 10 years ago, Aaron Hernandez was a senior in high school.

I was never a fan. He was a helluva football player, though. The colleges were calling. The NFL scouts was watching. The girls were flocking.

The world was his oyster.

His world was his downfall.

The word I’ve heard a lot today – just heard it on ESPN, in fact – was that Aaron Hernandez wanted to be a gangster more than he wanted to be a football star.

As such, his posse of hangers on weren’t ideal choices and trouble also seemed to follow the talented tight end at many turns.

His father died when he was 16 and things changed, people say.

Instead of going to play football at Connecticut, he opted to go to Florida, a national power.

Warning signals were fired almost immediately.

In 2007, Hernandez was in a restaurant drinking – despite being just 17 – and tried to leave without paying. He threw a punch that landed on a restaurant employee, rupturing the employee’s eardrum.

Later that fall, Hernandez was linked to a shooting of three people in Gainesville.

It was a sign of things to come.

Despite being drafted by the New England Patriots, Hernandez couldn’t escape his darker side.

In 2012 and 13, Hernandez was linked to three more shootings.

One of them – the murder of a man named Odin Lloyd – would begin Hernandez’s downfall.

He would be found guilty and sentenced to live in prison without parole.

Just days ago, he was found not guilty in another shooting.

And now he’s gone.

His story is over, but this story, for now, is just beginning.

People are offering up their opinions – some just flat-out emotional, others with some thought and conviction, others just spouting off at the mouth because they have their own hatred built into their own lives.

Today, the New England Patriots visit the White House to celebrate their latest Super Bowl championship.

A day of joy has been tinged with some mourning, some anger, some hatred.

Me?

Well, to me the whole story is just sad.

My thoughts and prayers go out to the Hernandez family today. Same to Lloyd’s family and the families of any other victims would might have been wronged by the poor choices of a man who made some mistakes.

It’s the end of another American tragedy.

The Unwritten Bucket List Loses Another Item

The view from left field at Charlotte Sports Park, spring training home of the Tampa Bay Rays. (Photo by John Nash)

Before I ever loved basketball – before I even truly knew what love was, in fact – I loved baseball.

It was 1975. I was 9. And it was beautiful, even after it broke my heart.

The Boston Red Sox went to the World Series that summer and captured my heart my heart while doing so.

My first favorite player was Doug Griffin, a little-known second baseman who played on a team that included a host of quick-hitting one-namers — Yaz. Rico. Pudge. Rooster. Louis.

The team featured two pitchers that season – one who gave me my first autograph (Jim Willoughby) and one who gave me my first double-entendre schoolboy giggle (Dick Pole).

As the 1970s rolled by players like Fred Lynn, Jim Rice, Bill Lee, and Butch Hobson would just continue to grow in stature to a young boy growing up in Maine, which was as much Red Sox country as downtown Boston.

I loved just two sports in my life … baseball and basketball. Basketball would be the girl with the great body and all the right moves and we were connected by affection for one another … but baseball, that first love, is something you never forget.

All these years since 1975 – and that’s 41 and counting – I’ve seen baseball games played far and wide at all kinds of different levels.

I’ve seen a 10-year-old national championship game in Florida. I’ve seen a college no-hitter in a conference championship game. I’ve been to dozens of Minor League Baseball games. And, I’ve sat in the nosebleeds at a World Series in New York City in 2015.

But I had never been to a spring training game.

Until Monday.

That’s when I trekked to Port Charlotte, Fla., to the Charlotte Sports Park – home of the Tampa Bay Rays’ Single-A farm team and site of the parent squad’s annual spring training pilgrimage.

I joined an old friend of mine and we watched the Pittsburgh Pirates hold off the Rays by a 5-4 count.

We saw players we knew – Evan Longoria of Rays and David Freese of the Pirates – both stood at third base not more than 10 yards from us when the game began.

By the time it was over we had seen a plethora of players take the field, grab a bat and throw off the mound.

We drank beer, ate a steak and cheese, circled the stadium and watched baseball at a leisurely pace under a gorgeous Florida sunshine.

Like baseball itself, it was almost perfect.

If I’m going to watch a sport on television, I’d pick basketball. College basketball to be specific.

But if you’re going to give me a ticket to go to a game, I’m likely to pick baseball.

I’m old school that way.

I like to sit back, relax, let the game unfold, while people watching and eaves dropping and talking to the people around me. (One of my Facebook friends is a woman I met when I trekked to Pittsburgh to watch the Red Sox play the Pirates in a three-game series a few summers ago at PNC Park).

To this day, baseball is pretty much the same it was when I was nine.

Nine innings. Four balls. Three strikes. No clock ticking down.

You throw the ball. The ball is hit. You field the ball.

Watching from the stands with 5,000 people was just what I needed on my first Monday in Florida, this latest work-ation that I find myself undertaking in the spring of 2017.

Would a Red Sox game have been better? Not necessarily. If the scheduled had fit better, I would have tried, but it didn’t, so that’s OK, too.

I don’t have a bucket list of things I want to do before I die. But I do have a mental list and I’d say attending a spring training game was on there somewhere.

Not anymore.

The played baseball on Monday in Port Charlotte and I was there to see it.

Mentally, she’s checked off.

Sometimes You Just Want To Feel Close To Home

Patrick Stewart of Bangor, Maine, was a senior at Colby College this winter (Photo courtesy of centralmaine.com)

Patrick Stewart of Bangor, Maine, was a senior at Colby College this winter (Photo courtesy of centralmaine.com)

Walking through the under belly of Wesleyan University’s Freeman Athletic Center in Middletown, Connecticut, I came across the Colby College hockey team.

I was there for the 2017 National High School Squash Championships. The Mules were there to play hockey.

One by one, earphones plugged in to drown out the outside, they were lugging their gear from the bus, heading to their locker room, their eyes focused on what was to come.

Suddenly, I was focusing on what once was.

Colby College. Waterville. Maine.

Home.

Well, almost home.

Waterville is located about a 50-minute drive from my hometown, but it’s a place I’ve been to too many times to count.

As an athlete. As a sports writer. As a coach. As a fan.

Colby College was a place I knew well.

One of the highlights of my life occurred at Colby College way back during my sophomore year in high school.

The school was playing host to the Maine State Cross Country Championship meet and that day I happened to have the race of my life, finishing 27th … right on the heels of our No. 2 runner who was usually more than a minute in front of me.

From start to finish, I felt great. It was a hilly course and I loved it. It’s one of the highlights of my athletic career (27th? Shows you how pathetic my overall talent level was, I suppose).

The Waterville-campus continued to play a role in my life after I started working at the Bangor Daily News. I was covering a lot of Husson College basketball games back then and it was a pretty intense in-state rivalry with Colby that made those sojourns down I-95 so worth it.

I saw countless good Division 3 college basketball games inside the Wadsworth Gymnasium, and many good players.

For a few summers, when I was in my 30s, I got to work on the basketball courts that Colby College offered up. I was coaching basketball in those days and working basketball camps in the summer.

We stayed in the dorms, ate in the dining commons, and, like kids revisiting our college days, drank a little too much at night.

So, yeah … Colby … great memories.

It wasn’t long after the hockey team walked past me that Colby’s men’s basketball team entered the facility, as well. It too was facing Wesleyan that day.

“Any Mainers on the team,” I asked a random player, recalling the program’s love for in-state players. “I grew up in Bangor.”

“Bangor? Patrick Stewart is from Bangor,” a player replied, pointing up the hallway at the 6-foot-6 Colby senior walking well in front of us.

I left Bangor 19 years ago and never looked back.

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Patrick Stewart, Colby College basketball player.

That meant Patrick Stewart, if he had been born in Bangor, was likely just three years old when I left.

I knew nothing about him short of the fact of what I just learned. He was from Bangor and played for Bangor High School before going off to college.

Suddenly, I wanted to see him play. I wanted to see Colby play. I guess, for even a few moments, I just wanted to feel close to home again.

Where I live in lower Connecticut, about an hour from the Wesleyan campus, it’s a six-hour drive home — Short enough to be able to make the trip in case of an emergency, long enough to be just enough of a pain-in-the-ass to make it home regularly.

There are times when I miss Maine a lot. My family. My friends. The chosen few who have never left my heart and I think of every day.

Things trigger those memories. A song. A smell. A word.

Colby.

Those Colby College athletes walking past me did just that.

So, after my squash duties were done, I made the walk back through the Freeman Center and I slipped into a side door of Wesleyan’s gym. I found myself a seat in the back row of the Wesleyan stands.

It was a close game at halftime, the two teams knotted up at 33-33.

Over the course of the second half, Wesleyan proved to be more athletic and the cold-shooting Colby team was no match for the home team.

The final score was 82-67.

Stewart, who finished with 11 points, two rebounds and an assist, came out of the game in the closing seconds. He walked down the bench, hugging each and every teammate, one by one.

It didn’t take me long to realize I just witnessed the last game of his college career.

Representing Bangor and supporting Bangor: I found myself applauding him as he reached the end of his bench.

Stewart played and started in all 24 of Colby’s game this season. He averaged 16.1 points per game.

Over the course of his five-year career — he missed his junior season with an injury and earned a medical redshirt — he had scored more than 1,000 career points.

And, I’ve since discovered that Patrick has a sense of humor.

While doing some research to write this, I discovered a Q&A with Stewart on the Colby athletics website. When asked by the school why he picked Colby, his opened his reply with, “Well besides the appeal of coming south for the warm weather …”

Bangor humor. My humor.

A second-team All-Maine player at Bangor High, Stewart plans on becoming a teacher. If I had to guess, that means he’ll become a coach, too. He’s following in a long line of many great Bangor High athletes if he does that.

Had I stayed in Bangor, and had life gone differently, I might have watched him grow up as a Bangor High player and appreciated him all the more.

Instead, it was a one-shot deal.

One game; one-half of one game, to be more accurate.

But for nearly an hour watching Patrick Stewart represent his parents, his hometown and Colby College, I got to feel a little bit closer to home.

It’s Simple New England Math: 51+12=5

New England Patriots' Tom Brady raises the Vince Lombardi Trophy after defeating the Atlanta Falcons in overtime at the NFL Super Bowl 51 football game Sunday, Feb. 5, 2017, in Houston. The Patriots defeated the Falcons 34-28. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

New England Patriots’ Tom Brady raises the Vince Lombardi Trophy after defeating the Atlanta Falcons in overtime at the NFL Super Bowl 51 football game Sunday, Feb. 5, 2017, in Houston. The Patriots defeated the Falcons 34-28. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

I woke up at four in the morning and my bladder, on automatic pilot, told me what it was time to do.

On the journey back to my bed, though, it dawned on me.

It wasn’t a dream. Last night really happened.

Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Jr., son of Gaylynn and Tom Sr., husband of Gisele, father of John, Vivian and Benjamin, and beloved quarterback of the New England Patriots had done the impossible in Super Bowl 51.

Trailing the Atlanta Falcons by a 28-3 score late in the third quarter, Brady once again led the Patriots to victory.

It was amazing. It was stunning. It was beautiful.

But, really, it was almost beyond description.

How many people must Superman save before it becomes mundane? It doesn’t. After all, he’s Superman.

When you see the greatest of all time perform precision surgery, you don’t go out for popcorn. You sit back. You watch. You enjoy.

And when you’re in The October Weekend of your life you might even let a tear escape down your cheek, knowing you may never witness such a moment again.

Brady is both one of the most beloved and most hated figures in football history. So is Bill Belichick. So is Robert Kraft. So are the New England Patriots.

People will claim the Patriots cheat. People will call Brady a cheater.

Those of us in New England, though, know every single professional team out there is working an angle, trying to gain an edge.

Deflated balls? Brady gets suspended for four games two years after it happens. Carolina and Minnesota had similar situations and nothing happened. Nothing.

Tape-gate? The St. Louis Cardinals baseball club used computer hackers to gain entry into another team’s computer system. (Russia? Election? Sound familiar?) Where was the country-wide outrage there?

People love a winner.

Winners? People detest them with a passion.

And that’s what Brady and the New England Patriots are.

The Patriots have played in nine of the 51 Super Bowls. They have won five Super Bowl titles — with Brady quarterbacking all five.

New York Giants fans hang their hat on the fact that Eli Manning and their team have beaten the Pats twice in Super Bowl games. Of course, all the rungs are filled with New England’s championship rings, so what else are they going to do?

Lose two in order to win five? I’d take that any day of the week. Most fans would.

So we are champions once again. Save for Belichick and Brady, it’s a whole new cast of characters kissing the trophy.

That’s the magic of New England, its coach, its quarterback.

So when they’re down 28-3 and you know it’s over, it’s really not.

I thought it was.

I was ready to congratulate Matt Ryan, the former Boston College quarterback who married a Maine girl and went to Atlanta, on his well-deserved Super Bowl championship.

Then Brady hit James White to the left for 5 yard touchdown. (28-9).

The defense stood tall and Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 33-yard field goal (28-12) early in the fourth quarter.

I kept watching and suddenly Brady connected with Danny Amendola for a 6-yard touchdown. The Patriots then converted the two-point conversion (28-20) and suddenly it was a ball game.

As you watched Atlanta’s defense, it was tired. The Falcons had lost their legs.

If you looked in their eyes, they looked a little bit shell-shocked.

Brady? His eyes told a different story. He had been here before.

He got the ball back and led the Patriots to the game-tying drive. White for the touchdown, Amendola on the two-point conversion.

The game was tied 28-28 and for the first time in 51 games the Super Bowl was headed to overtime.

“Heads,” was the Patriots’ coin-flip call by Matt Slater.

“I always call heads,” said Slater, the son of Hall of Fame lineman Jackie Slater. “It’s a Slater family tradition.”

Winning is a Patriots tradition.

Heads it was.

Game over — 34-28.

It was one of the greatest Super Bowl games in history. And Brady (43-for-62, Super Bowl record 466 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT) was as good as he’s ever been in the second half.

No, it wasn’t a dream. Yet it was.

It was a nightmare first half.

We watched Lady Gaga shine, went to the bathroom and returned for the second half.

And all our dreams came true.

Tom Brady, No. 1 with five Super Bowl titles to his credit.

Tom Brady, No. 1 with five Super Bowl titles to his credit.

My life if Donald Trump was Coach Trump

If Donald Trump were a basketball coach ... (Photo courtesy of SI.com)

If Donald Trump were a basketball coach … (Photo courtesy of SI.com)

If Donald Trump and his people were in my world …

Reporter: Hey Coach Trump, tough loss tonight, what do you think happened?

Coach Trump: Loss? What loss? We won. Season-opening win. Go team. Make Team Great Again.

Reporter: Coach, the other team scored 65 points. Your team only scored 62. You lost by three points.

Coach Trump: No, that’s not right, we won the first, third and fourth quarters. We won 3-1. Victory is ours.

Reporter: Coach, you’re one preseason scrimmage was against a team of Russian players. How do you think that helped you prepare for this game?

Coach Trump: Russians? There was no Russian help whatsoever. Coach Putin and I saw each other at a basketball camp once, but there was no Russian help. They’re hackers. They foul a lot. Not that I would know that because we didn’t play them. Who told you all this? Somebody intelligent? Anybody with intelligence is worthless and horrible and not worth my time as Coach. Next question.

Reporter: Umm, uh… Well, on the 3-point shot at the buzzer, the one that gave the other team the, umm, uh, 65-62 score … It was launched from 50 feet away. Was there a breakdown?

Coach Trump: Launches from far away? It’ll never happen. Not on my watch. And how you can say you this team has broken down? It’s the first game. That’s it, no more questions from you … Next question, Doug Love Donald’s Basketball Blog … where are you?

Reporter looks around and sees assistant coach Kellyanne Conway gathering her things by the bench.

Reporter: Coach Conway … Can you comment on how much the crowd might have bothered the team the down the stretch?

Coach Conway: Crowd? Why are you talking about the crowd? Eight years ago when a game was played here, the crowd wasn’t bigger. It was just you people in the press who said this crowd wasn’t as big.

Reporter: Umm, that game was a first-ever meeting of rivals from the same city. Of course, people came out to support their teams. Your team are outsiders. A bigger crowd wasn’t expected.

Coach Conway: It was the rain. They said it was going to rain and with all the acid rain falling from the sky, people know acid burns the skin and we need skin to survive, because how many people survive without skin, except for those patients who have had skin grafts and it’s important for us to raise doctors to help these people while making sure car manufacturers stay in America, and before the start of the next game we’re going to build a wall that other team won’t be able to come on our side of the court and …

Reporter: Coach … You’re not answering the question. I’m asking if the crowd …

Coach Conway: I am answering the question. I can’t believe your laughing at me. You can’t make that comment. That’s not your job. This crowd wants us to build that wall so doctors who help people will stay and not get paid by Obama-care because on our team nobody is insured until we come up with something better, and once we do that, we’ll come out with a point guard who can push us further to the right and then we’ll be ready to …

Reporter: Coach, answer the question, please?

Team spokesman Sean Spicer then stepped into the press gathering. He takes no questions and just starts to speak.

Spicer: This was the largest audience to ever witness a basketball game – period – both in person and around the globe. This game was on the internet and billions of people have the internet. These attempts to lessen the enthusiasm of the game are shameful and wrong. There’s been a lot of talk in the media about the responsibility to hold Coach Trump accountable. And I’m here to tell you it goes two ways. We’re going to hold the press accountable, as well.

Spicer storms off leaving the reporters stunned and looking at each other. They know how to do their jobs, but if they report the final score as 65-62, they know Trump’s people will counter with a 3-1 victory. There are no winners in the world of sports anymore. That is obvious.

Reporter: That’s it. I’m done. I think I’m going to go cover girls field hockey.

Reporter 2: Yeah? I hear there are going to be a bunch of players walking to the National Mall to play some pick-up games tomorrow.

As the reporters walk out, they pass Coach Trump talking with a recruit he hopes to join the team.

Coach Trump: Say, you’re pretty intelligent. I love intelligent people. I’m behind them 1,000 percent. Come play with us. You won’t regret it.

And, scene. Or, as they in my business … 

— 30 —

EPILOGUE: Sports writing never felt so good, even in this day and age of newspapers dying a slow and painful death.

2016: The Year Our World Grew Darker

Arnold Palmer, left, and Jose Fernandez (inset) were both lost to the world on Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016.

Arnold Palmer, left, and Jose Fernandez (inset) were both lost to the world on Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016.

Sunday was, perhaps, the roughest day of all.

The future was taken from us in the waters off Miami. The past faded away inside the cold, sterile confines of a hospital in Pittsburgh.

Jose Fernandez, 24, a Major League Baseball baseball player whose story of his escape from Cuba, and success at such a young age, caught the eye of sports fans young and old was killed in a boat crash in the wee hours of the morning.

Later that day, the great Arnold Palmer, 87, the man credited with changing how the general public looked at the sport of golf, succumbed while waiting for heart surgery.

The kid and the king.

Gone.

The year of our Lord — or 2016, as the calendar calls it — has been a tough one.

In a time where the world needs hope, we have people being taken away from us at an alarming rate. What stuns as much as their deaths, though, is the realization of what we’ve lost with each passing.

In the spotlight of our stages, Prince and David Bowie and their artistry could lift us up from the lowest of lows. Our hearts broke when we heard the news — two more days when the music died.

Muhammed Ali was the greatest not just because of what he did in the boxing ring, but the effect he had outside of it, through the rest of the world — a place that has grown especially dark in 2016.

Death after death has rocked the year the 2016, but it is not just those losses that have created darker and sadder times.

Every day, we are seeing innocent people dying by the never-ending wave of culture-created violence in our country.

We claim we’ve had enough, and we step out on the streets to protest. But, when those whose hearts are true and pure and care enough to try to fight back the right way, when they go home, we leave ourselves vulnerable to our lesser side who destroy not just the physical objects in front of them, but the hope of all of us who think somebody we’ll find a better way for us all.

Black lives matter. Blue lives matter. All lives matter.

We are living in a society where nobody matters and, sadly, we prove it every single day in our actions as a society.

We walk down the street staring at our cell phones. Instead of talking to one another, we text. Sit down and visit? Why bother when we can just e-mail and stay home to Netflix and chill.

Until somebody else is loss and then we are shocked.

So, yes, we weep for our losses – for Prince and Bowie and Ali … and even Jose and Arnie … but we must soon start to weep for ourselves.

Once we mourn what we have truly lost, only then can we begin to heal.

And we need to heal.

Fast.

We have no true leader before us to step up and follow, so we wander, aimlessly, and as the world gets darker it grows harder for us to see our way.

Will it become so dark that we can no longer see our way back? Or the way forward?

There are still three months left in 2016 — one quarter of the year.

Anything is possible.

More people will die — famous, infamous, strangers, friends, family. When we think we can’t be shocked anymore, something will stun us into complete silence.

The world, I fear, will grow darker still.

I do try to find the light and sometimes there it is … in the smile of a child whose life is full of hope … in the embrace of friends and family … in that glimpse of something magical that is there for just a minute and then gone with the next waft of wind.

But that’s not enough.

I need more.

We need more.

Jose Fernandez came to this country full of hope. Arnold Palmer once raised an army and changed an entire sport.

Right now, we need an army of hope to light a path to tomorrow before its too late.

A Tip of the Hatt to Another Ghost From the Past

Joanna Hatt Dalton, left, and her little sister, Aimee, sit in this photo I blatantly borrowed from Aimee's Facebook Page.

Joanna Hatt Dalton, left, and her little sister, Aimee, sit in this photo I blatantly borrowed from Aimee’s Facebook Page.

It’s funny how the spark of a memory can come from out of nowhere, and how quickly it snowballs into a full-blown rush of yesteryear.

One minute you’re sitting there looking through your Facebook feed; next thing you know you’re dancing with ghost after ghost … and, more often than not, smiling.

Joanna Hatt is a name I haven’t thought of in a long time. A long, long, long time.

But on Saturday afternoon while bouncing down through random Facebook posts, I noticed one of my Facebook Friends had shared a post from “Aimee Beth Hatt.”

And so it started.

Joanna Hatt had a little sister named, Aimee, didn’t she?  Could this be the same one?

As I searched through Facebook streams and Google’s search engine, the memories came pouring back, one by one.

Joanna was three years my senior and from what I recall I was probably 17 or 18 when I met her, putting her in college while I was still in high school.

She worked at the Athletic Attic, a sporting goods store which was must-stop for any area athlete in the Bangor Mall, back in the early 1980s.

My best friend, Jody, would later work at the Athletic Attic, too, but from what I remember that was a year or two away.

But both of us became smitten with Joanna and every time we stopped by the Attic and she was working it was a journey made complete.

I guess you could say we were smitten with Joanna, a former track athlete at Bangor High School. She was the older woman we pined for, yet deep down, we both knew was unreachable … maybe not in a Mrs. Robinson sense, but definitely in a college girl vs. high school boys sense.

But she did become our friend. She was able to put aside our foolish immaturity and see us for who we really were. And, as far as we were concerned, that was pretty special in its own right.

Jody and I both connected with Joanna in different ways.

He, after all, was the great distance runner, who would later run in college and recently made it into our high school’s Hall of Fame. (Finally). She was a  pretty good track athlete herself back in the day.

Me? I was a run-of-the-mill high school runner who could never use my times and distances to impress a  member of the fairer sex. But I did have the written word on my side … and when I found out Joanna liked to write, as well, we had our connection.

Writing is a very personal thing and you have to be pretty damned confident in it to want to share it with others. And the moment I realized I might have meant a little something to Joanna was when she shared with me some of the words she had written.

I photocopied many of her writings and kept them in a folder which I entitled, “Jo’s Best.” I want to say I still have that folder somewhere, tucked away in my box of memories, but I’d have to go digging to confirm that it still exists.

Right now, I’m still dancing.

I can’t remember how many times we’d make the journey to Athletic Attic to see Joanna, but it numbered a lot … today, it’d probably be considered stalking.

But I do remember all of us hanging out every so often, and we cherished those times more than anything.

Whether it was grabbing a pizza after work, or making the long trek to my home in Orrington to swim at my pool in the moonlight on a hot summer’s night, when we got to hang out with Joanna Hatt, it was a special time.

I want to say we even met Aimee once at Joanna’s family home. But that’s a recollection still in the fog of a land far away.

Joanna moved from Bangor to Portland shortly thereafter and I do remember making a road trip to visit her.

It was a night than ended up with Jody, myself and his brother, Rob, breaking into Fitzpatrick Stadium, at the bottom of the hill from downtown Portland, and timing ourselves in the dark in 100-meter dashes.

Over the 30-plus years since, the flickers of memories of Joanna were few and far between.

Bangor and Portland sat about two hours apart from one another, so over that distance and over the passing of time, our own futures started swallowing us up. Slowly, Joanna became a fading part of our pasts.

Until she was all but gone.

One Facebook post on a Saturday afternoon changed all that, though.

Just like that, Joanna — who is married now and lives in Massachusetts, from what I discovered — was back front and center in my life, even if for only a few moments in my head.

So, of course, I had to write about it. I think she would appreciate that.