“I ain’t lookin’ for prayers or pity
I ain’t comin’ ’round searchin’ for a crutch
I just want someone to talk to
And a little of that human touch
Just a little of that human touch”

— Bruce Springsteen’s “Human Touch”

We are living in The Upsidedown and the long days play like an episode of “Stranger Things.”

Tony Blasi

This is supposed to be the time of year when I hone my spring driving skills on Route 4 — dodging distracted drivers and glancing at my rearview mirror at a Mad Max wannabe bearing down on me in his souped-up, gas-guzzling, pickup.

Max, who was determined pass me at the speed of light, didn’t know I was cheerfully on my way to take team pictures of Mt. Blue or Spruce Mountain athletes.

It was only a handful of weeks ago that I was barreling down Route 108 to get to Rumford’s Black Mountain to cover skiing. I also had the privilege of watching the UMaine-Farmington men’s basketball team nearly win a North Atlantic Conference title. The virus hadn’t touched down in Maine, yet, but we knew something wicked was coming our way with a vengeance.

I am doing what I hope all of you are doing. I am holed up in my house, hiding from a germ that is wreaking havoc on humanity. I feel like a fugitive from Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch.

My only crime is I am anxious and, yes, fearful of the coronavirus, which is doing a number on my fellow citizens. The isolation thing is not working for me, and I am sure I am in good company when it comes to claustrophobia, but there is a grim alternative if you don’t lay low.

COVID-19 might take you out for walk— if you don’t stay home or keep your distance from your fellow man.

Humans are social animals. A trip to fill your tank or throwing on a hazmat suit (you can buy them on Amazon) to go food shopping are not nights out on the town.

Right now, I should be heading to a high school baseball game with a Nikon camera, tape-recorder and a scorebook.  Instead, I carry hand sanitizer around and have watched “The Irishman” for a third time. 

I miss contact with coaches, athletic directors and the kid who hits the game-winning home run. I want to listen to a Red Sox game and hear a healthy crowd in the background at Fenway. Announcers like Ken Coleman, Ned Martin and Mel Parnell helped me forget the monsters under my bed. The Red Sox and Yaz lulled me to sleep as kid growing up in the Boston area.

I want to organize a roundtable discussion with Dick Meader — it was like talking with my late dad after each UMF game — Chad Brackett, Marc Keller, Troy Norton, Mike McGraw, Darren Allen, and Scott, Chris and Ted Bessey. We would talk about sports and the weather.

I miss coaches with a sense of humor like Mt. Blue track coach Kelley Cullenberg.

“You know, I keep calling you Terri (my wife’s name) and then I realize your name is Tony,” she said during a casual conversation.

“Yeah, only my wife’s name is on the email account,” I said to her.

Several days later, I thanked her for emailing information to me.

As I was walking away, Cullenberg said with a smile, “Thanks Terri, I mean Tony.”

I knew it was going to be a good day.

Recently retired longtime Lewiston boys soccer coach Mike McGraw caught me off guard with his brand-name sarcasm after his Blue Devils beat Mt. Blue at Caldwell Field on a chilly night in Farmington.

“Coach, your team really passes the ball well,” I said to McGraw.

Mike looked up and said, “We pass so well that we pass it to the other team, too.”

I was consumed by laughter before I could continue the interview.

Former Edward Little coach Dave Morin had no problem revealing his sarcasm — especially after a tough loss. As the Red Eddies gathered to listen to Morin’s fireside chat, a player yelled, “Shut up and listen to coach!”

In the abrupt silence, Morin turned and said matter-of-factly: “No, we didn’t do enough of that today.”

We all gripe about being restricted to our homes and feeling helpless, but we must do what the good doctors say and stay put. Lives matter! Overwhelmed first responders are falling ill at an alarming rate as fearful doctors plead for more equipment — and I am betting nobody wants to see the inside of an overcrowded ER.

Who knows if the spring high school season will ever come to fruition, for that matter. My heart goes out to college students who won’t have the opportunity to walk across the stage to receive their diplomas.

UMF senior Keilly Lynch, who scored 100 goals for the Beavers’ women’s lacrosse team, said it stung to be told that classes and athletics were cancelled due to the pandemic.

“I definitely feel like I have been robbed, not only of my last sports spring season, but just the academic experience that I am paying for at UMF,” Lynch said. “However, I understand that our health and safety as students always comes first. I agree with what is being done, but it is unfortunate that this is my last season.”

So we will all hunker down, root for first responders and keep tabs on neighbors and relatives, hoping this nasty pathogen dissipates.

Maybe it is longing for that human touch that keeps us alive and motivates us to remain at home.

The Boss had it right from the get-go.


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