There are so many things that rattle around in this ancient brain from day to day that only a potpourri column would suffice.

Some might say this mode is lazy and said writer lacks the ability to focus and tackle one hot-button issue or topic. Well, why hit on one subject when one can tackle a handful.

So, this column comes with sadness, joy, historical context and a prediction or two.

• The Medomak Valley High School academic and athletic community lost a beloved member when Elizabeth Bianchi died on Aug. 20 after a long, courageous battle with illness. Bianchi, who was only 39, was well-known and respected as a science teacher and assistant cross-country coach. In fact, despite years of health-related struggles, she never lost her positive, upbeat personality. She lived her life with grace and dignity. She did her best every day and never complained about her situation. The 2001 MVHS graduate was on my mind a lot in recent years. In fact, I had planned to do a story on Bianchi’s difficult journey, but, as usual, life got in the way. Then, to my shock and dismay, her life was over. We had talked about doing a story and I had even emailed her questions, but that story never materialized. I will forever be disappointed in myself for not telling her story when she was alive.

Elizabeth Bianchi. Photo courtesy of Bianchi family

I recently saw George Gould, longtime Panther cross-country coach, and expressed my sadness by the loss of such a loved young person. He said Bianchi meant everything to him, as an assistant coach and person. In fact, Gould gave me comments, in January of 2021, for that story on Bianchi I never wrote, that need to publicized. He said:

“Elizabeth and I go back a long ways. She was my track manager during her high school days at Medomak Valley. This was well before automatic results and scoring … Elizabeth did all of the meet tabulations by hand. She was so good at it that other coaches came to her for advice. When Elizabeth came back to Medomak Valley as a teacher she reached out to me to see if I could use her help as an assistant coach. She became a valued member of the cross-country program from day one. We would not have had so many successful seasons without her help and input. Elizabeth knew exactly what needed to be done, when it needed to be done, and did everything perfectly. What a courageous person … always battling through her medical problems with grace and determination. What an example she has set for all of the runners on a day-to-day basis. Elizabeth always had the ‘award presenter’ at the KVAC, regional and state track meets. No one could do it better than her … all the events, athletes and one through seventh places … she was always on top of her game. It may go unnoticed, but passing out numbers, pins, and shoe tags at the ‘big’ meets is huge task. She would send me off to scout or talk to the other coaches while she did this task to perfection … she knew it wasn’t a task that I enjoyed doing so she just made it her task. Elizabeth, a friend who has been with me to the top of the mountain into the deepest valley. There to celebrate the huge wins and console me when we encountered heartbreaking losses.”

And now Gould, Bianchi’s family and MVHS community must deal with the most significant heartbreaking loss — one of a young woman who had so much of life to live and so much to give life.

• As an adult, the Rockland Golf Club has become my playground, my sandbox (pun intended), of sorts. It is funny that as a teenager it also was a place I hung out, but not for long. Now, most late afternoons and nights from April to October, I jump out of my car, check into the pro shop, throw my clubs over my back and take a swing at perfection (I have never achieved it) while walking nine holes of golf. With my best friends — me, myself and I — along for the ride and camaraderie. It is funny because as I walk around in this beautiful outdoor bliss — trying to hole an occasional birdie instead of just watching them fly around — I remember what the course meant to me as a Rockland District High School senior. I did not play golf for the first time until age 28, but as a teenager, I walked to the course daily in the fall for cross-country practice and meets. Thus, I have covered hundreds of miles on that historic patch of land over the years — walking as a golfer and running as a young athlete. Interestingly, back then, we started our races near the second green and essentially ran the front nine holes backward, staying on the edge of the property, going around the first green, in front of the first tee, in back of the ninth green, around the practice area, around the seventh green, along the woods of the seventh fairway, around the corner near the sixth green and down to the fifth and fourth greens. And then turned around to run back the way we came. We also ran through the woods just off the sixth tee box. It was a skinny trail so one had to be in the proper place before one entered the deep, dark forest. Then we retraced our steps back to the second tee, sprinting down the second fairway to the finish. I did pretty well in my one year of cross country (only did it to get in shape for basketball), but loved every second of each grueling step with my new teammates (40 to 50 runners strong) under the direction of respected and beloved coach Gary Davis. I even ran the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference championship race on the RGC. I was a top-three runner for our team, even finished first for us and among the top few in races many times during that magical lone running season. It was the most physically and mentally demanding sport I have done — but I cherish those memories of aches, pains, suffering, puking at finishes and, most of all, the life-long friendships forged. I won many team championships in my youth in baseball and basketball, but nothing compared to the joy of running cross country — at the venue I still trek around in search of that always-elusive excellence.

• Tough to figure out what is up with the New England Patriots. Will they be good, will they be bad, will they be mediocre, who runs the offense, who runs the defense? Who knows? My prediction: 8-9 and they miss the playoffs. However, I believe the future is bright and they will be back in the playoffs and in Super Bowl contention in a couple of years. They must, in the meantime, get an offensive line to protect Mac Jones at all costs so he can develop into the kind of quarterback we believe he can.

• After giving us so much joy in 2021 (remember the electric atmosphere at Fenway Park in that one-game playoff with the hated, but respected New York Yankees last fall?) and coming within two games of the World Series, the Boston Red Sox have played uninspired and downright horrendous baseball in the summer of 2022 (the recent sweep of the awful Texas Rangers, not withstanding). Where do they go from here? I am not sure, but they do need to make a serious effort to sign Rafael Devers (although I think his future is at first base) and try to come to a fair agreement to extend Xander Bogaerts, and have him move to third, let Story stay at second, move Raffi to first and sign a shortstop until one of their top shortstop prospects is ready. And, it goes without saying, they need lots and lots of pitching (especially for the bullpen), a new designated hitter and productive cornerstone outfielder would be nice.

• Bill Russell transcended sports. What he accomplished on the basketball court is unprecedented — championships in college, Olympics and professionally — was remarkable, but what he represented as a human being, his humbleness, how he carried himself and what he did for social understanding and change is infinitely more important. He was one of the only people worthy of being called a sports hero.

Lucas Brower, left, and Zoey Proctor of Free Press Redwings celebrate the game-ending play in the Camden Adult Coed Softball League championship game. Photo by Mark Haskell

• Shoutout to Lucas Brower, who made the game-ending and championship-deciding play in Free Press Redwings’ flight to the top of the Camden Adult Coed Softball League postseason mountain. Brower is a remarkable young man who gives of himself — especially to children — and always has his heart and head in the right places. He grew up locally before attending Hyde School in Bath and always excelled in sports (boy, can he hit a golf ball and softball a long, long way), but it is his incredible personality that makes him special. He did not always get what he deserved from his hard work in sports in his younger days (I know first-hand because I coached him in baseball), so it was nice to see a wonderful young person make the pivotal play to help his team succeed — and experience the utter joy with his friends and family as the reward. Kudos, Mr. Brower.

• This is a tough one for me. My favorite golfer of all-time is Greg Norman. I loved watching the aggressive Great White Shark attack golf courses. Not many people realize it, but he held the number one spot in golf 331 weeks in the 1980s and 1990s. Norman was an incredibly talented golfer. I wanted to play like him. He was so good, albeit also known as someone who could not seal the deal (remember him losing a six-stroke lead on the final day of the Masters?). But he also lost tournaments because others simply made incredible shots (Larry Mize holed a 140-foot chip at the 11th at Augusta in the 1987 Masters to beat Norman in a playoff). But what to make of Norman and his new Saudi-backed LIV Tour? Competition is good for everyone and the new tour, led by Norman, has a bunch of “innovative” elements, such as team competition, shotgun starts, three-day tournaments and lots (and lots) of guaranteed money. However, there is nothing like the history and tradition of the PGA, so I will take a wait-and-see approach on the new tour. And, of course, it has ties to Saudia Arabia, which has not had, shall we state, the best human rights history (especially for women), among other chronicled dastardly deeds. It will be interesting how it all shakes out, but Norman certainly has not made many friends in the historically-established PGA world. I loved him as a player and respected his adventurous lifestyle and ability to remain so physically fit, even today, but his new venture has me a bit perplexed. It seems gimmicky, loud and over the top. Perhaps that is the future of this stodgy “quiet-please” sport. But it does make me wonder, has the shark beaten off more than he can chew? Or is he simply rocking the boat to tip over the PGA’s longstanding way of doing business? We shall see.

• While difficult to comprehend, I have begun my 40th year of high school fall sports coverage. I understand my career is winding down, but I still appreciate — and am inspired — to still be able to chronicle young Midcoast athletes as they work to achieve their team and personal goals. It has been a privilege and honor to cover generations of student and adult athletes. I am forever grateful for being a small part of their lives.