Once upon a time, then sports editor of the BDN Bob Haskell said to me, “You ought to write a column once in a while for the paper while you travel around covering sports.”

Seventeen years later with hundreds of columns put to bed, the time has come to say thanks.

This will be the final column, at least for now. One learns never to say never.

The great late jazz pianist Dr. Billy Taylor was asked about his first jazz radio show years later by fellow pianist Marian McPartland. Said Taylor, “That was fun.”

I echo his sentiments regarding the writing of this column.

To the BDN sports staff, my great thanks for your support and help over the years, especially those times when we were filing by fax and I was sitting in some airport trying to find one while the staff in Bangor helped search on the phone.

Worse yet, the columns were often hand-written and that took a few phone calls to decipher.

Obviously, it is a humbling honor for any writer to know someone out there is actually reading what you write. The reader may not like this or that column, but they are reading and at times responding.

To you, the readers, my deepest thanks for having taken time to peruse a column here and there and to have responded.

The attempt was always to bring “home” stories and insights acquired as I traveled covering games.

Maine is home for me and always will be. The chance to stay connected to my beloved Maine was one of the joys of writing this column.

As to the sports themselves, they are like life, loaded with the good and bad, strengths and infirmities, truths and hypocrisies.

Over the years I have come to believe we have elevated sports at every level to a far loftier plateau than it deserves.

Sports are games meant as a form of entertainment. They are no more and no less, no matter how big a business they have become.

Within those games occur astounding athletic feats and miserable failures.

The athletes are human — period. The fact they play sports does not make them heroes.

What they do with their fame and ability to generate publicity may warrant accolades beyond the field of play, but those are individual stories and thank goodness there are some.

The joy of sports is still in the games. Unfortunately, there are fewer and fewer athletes who truly enjoy the games. That is the biggest threat to sports’ place in society.

If the players aren’t having fun competing, the fans will not have fun watching.

Here’s hoping the joy never leaves the game for player or fan.

With that, it’s on to the next event with gratitude and thankfulness that once upon a time I was asked to write a sports letter home. That was fun.