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6 Miles

While channel surfing last Sunday looking for a live sporting event, the only thing on was a college football game on Fox Sports 1. New Mexico State (NMSU) versus a smaller school that I had only a slight recollection of – Tarleton State. But hey, it was live football right? We had the game on in the background while we prepared a family BBQ. Then it hit me…..

They were playing at the home field of the University of Texas at El Paso (aka UTEP). It so happens I know a bit about this area of the country and the rivalry that exists between the 42 miles between Las Cruces (home to NMSU) and El Paso (home to UTEP). In college sports, there couldn’t be a wider divide spanning those 42 miles other than maybe “Tobacco Road” and the UNC/Duke/NC State rivalry triangle. Yet here we are in a COVID world and the Aggies of NMSU are playing homes games on rival turf in Texas. But here is what got me…..

42 miles between campuses yes, but the real difference is that only a few of those miles (six) are the actual distance that the UTEP stadium is inside the Texas border. So we are to believe that by putting the NMSU football team those 6 miles “over there” will help keep those student athletes safe from COVID?

What are we doing?

My family went to a spring training game last Monday in Scottsdale. The venue was at 25% capacity with seats only sold in certain areas with social distancing built in (the seats that were not sold were literally zip locked shut). The venue is outside. We were required to wear masks at all times. When people didn’t wear masks in their seats, ushers walked by with signs to “mask up” to try and enforce the mask policy 24/7. Yet at restaurants in Arizona, we need only wear our masks until we get to our table (inside) and then we can take them off. But outside in a 15,000-seat stadium there is a “mask force” walking the isles.

What are we doing?

The Men’s and Women’s NCAA basketball tournaments are this week, and both will be in singular sites, micro-bubbles if you will. Yet this past week we saw 50+ tournaments played each crowning champions at various sites, some with fans, some without. They all had protocols in place, yet Duke had to withdraw after two wins in their run through the ACC tournament due to a positive test (see no bubble control). Three more schools would follow suit including two recent NCAA Tournament Champions in Virginia and Kansas. It’s inevitable that a team (or 10) in the NCAA tournament will have to stand down, giving their opponent a walkover (tennis term for forfeit).

What are we doing?

In our community here in Arizona, our largest soccer complex was shut down by the City of Phoenix for 2-plus months to all outside tournament play. Yet the restaurants, bars, and gyms in Phoenix were open under somewhat loose guidelines. In addition, many of the surrounding suburbs here kept their youth sports focused venues open for tournament play.

What are we doing?

Okay, so today’s Huddle Up seems like a bit of a rant. But there is a point…

During this whole process of recovery, we as a nation (or state, county, city) have been very misaligned. What can we learn from this pandemic that can help us with future crises? While nobody wants to relive anything the scale of COVID, what can we extract from this past year that will provide opportunity for us to use this experience for the greater good in our communities?

We offer three potential takeaways…

  • Think Creatively – Tomorrow may never look the same again. Today is an opportunity to change the game and the way we play it.

  • Think Collaboratively – Today’s enemies are likely tomorrow’s allies. To paraphrase a Rascal Flatts lyric, building bridges is more important than building walls.

  • Think Community – If you put community first at all times, every day, you build support to weather times like these. Suddenly, pick-up reports and economic impact estimates have become much smaller focus areas.

This week, ask yourselves about the greater good. What are we doing to make a difference in our communities, whatever those communities may be? The answer isn’t likely in your key performance indicators that determines your annual bonus.

Great opportunity awaits. Carpe diem.

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