Joanne Harrigan, inspirational and tough, overlaid with a sense of humor

Darby is not a leader dog, but he has a following
July 27, 2021

I started a joke - I saw the woman with the walking stick make a left turn behind the race pack following the start of the race and I knew she was going the full 5K distance. “There’s another half hour added to my morning life,” I joked to friends nearby. “I will wait for her until the cows come home. I’m still waiting for everyone. The best stories are often at the back of the race.” Joanne Harrigan, 63, completed her first 5K July 25 at the Harry K Foundation race in 1:00:23. Joanne was born with rheumatoid arthritis and had her first hip replacement when she was 7 years old. She's had a total of 10 – or maybe it was 12 – her brother Tom Firestone was telling her improbable story to all gathered around the finish line. There was also Joanne’s support crew of Pete and Susan and Viviane. I spoke with Joanne afterward and said, “Your motivation was the banana at the finish line, wasn’t it?” She laughed, then I traveled with her back through a lifetime of arthritic pain and surgeries. It's hard to be happy when your bones and joints hurt, but Joanne and her support clan were just fun and inspirational to be around. 

We all fall down - I’d rather watch soccer players fall down after phantom collisions than basketball players shoot free throws between strategic timeouts. I watched Team USA lose to France on delayed replay. I just wanted to see how it happened. I had a career as a teacher, so I know the look of disinterest and lack of motivation. And I don’t blame those NBA players going through the motions up and down the court in an empty Tokyo gym. They are not only suffering jet lag, they are just spent after a long NBA season. Any athlete who denies ever experiencing psychological exhaustion is either not telling you the truth or too lazy to tell you anything. 

Beyond the pain barrier - I know runners and racers and regardless of ability level, there is a pain barrier the athlete pushes during a race. To go beyond that barrier too early most times results in disastrous results. Norway’s Kristian Blummenfelt broke away from a fleet of faster runners with a kilometer remaining to win the gold medal in the Olympic triathlon. The Olympic distance is a 1,500-meter swim followed by a 40-kilometer bike and ending with a 10-kilometer run. Blummenfelt is 27 but looks older and looks bigger and clunkier than his whippet body rivals, but he ran close to 30 minutes on the final 10K leg in sweltering heat, so that is just crazy. 

Trade deadline - Major League Baseball continues to slam fans over the head with the reality that loyalty is just a three-syllable word in a one-syllable world – buy or sell – at the trade deadline. There is more discussion of NBA players banding together to form a super team, but it’s baseball that has the most movement of marquee players. Personally, I care if the Phillies win or lose, but I’m working on becoming a free agent fan and going right to the top of the division, which means the New York Mets. I still remember the great quote from Mets manager Casey Stengel of his 1962 Mets: “Can’t anybody here play this game?” Also the title of a book by Jimmy Breslin, it’s a must-read for sports fans who can actually read. 

Retired retriever - Darby Dog doesn’t chase sticks, balls or rabbits or even his shadow at night. He will just stand stationary until startled by a voice: “Yo, dude, you got to move!” A lyric from the Phil Ochs song, “Rehearsals for Retirement:” “The days grow longer for smaller prizes/I feel a stranger to all surprises.” Darby is Agent Double O Soul. You can never touch your own. Petting a dog's head is as close as you can get.    

Snippets - Jim Callis at reported on July 24 that Zack Gelof signed with the Oakland Athletics with a signing bonus of $1,157,400. Zack over three seasons at Virginia posted numbers of .316/.396/.478 in 137 games. All alumni of girls’ lacrosse are invited/encouraged to show up at 6 p.m, Thursday, July 29,  at Champions Stadium for the annual alumni game. Go on now, git!


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