The blue remains

Robert Hill coordinates petroleum supply by day and freelance writes by night. He can be reached at

Nevada sports fans have been a little spoiled in recent years. Members of the Reno/Sparks community have looked forward to the end of winter every year as the spring equinox brought with it an invitation to the NCAA Tournament.

But the success of our men’s basketball team became about more than a game of hoops. For the few hours spent watching our team take the court, there were countless more treasuring the sense of community they brought us. Pride in their accomplishments, and hoping for just one more win, gave each and every one of us something in common with all our neighbors.

Even those who aren’t sports fans found themselves swept up in the tide. Posters in windows, banners streaming from cars, even the Reno skyline bathing the city in the reflections of the casinos’ Wolf Pack spotlights. Everywhere you looked, you saw blue. It was so much bigger than basketball, bigger than players, coaches or fans. It was about us, a group greater and happier as a sum of our parts than we could ever be alone. It taught us to celebrate and rejoice as one.

This year, however, there is no light. With no invitation to the Big Dance, the banners will remain in closets. With no trip to the NIT, no blue-and-gray flags will unfurl. And after the heartbreaking loss to Houston, our little strip shined its customary neon rainbow, leaving the blue glow in storage and memory until bowl season.

Yet, wherever you go in our community, the blue remains. As you drive across town, flashes of it catch your eye. Anywhere you walk, pieces of sky snap in the wind. Perhaps it is fitting, in this year we have no triumph to unify us, that we have ribbons to remind us of the responsibilities of community.

This winter we learned how to hurt and to mourn as one. A community daughter was taken by a coward in the night, and we all felt the hollow carved by her absence. If any silver lining can be found on the dark cloud of our tragedy, it is a reminder of how tight we really are, or really can be. Thousands volunteered time. Hundred of thousands of dollars were raised. The entire community reached forth with a unified effort to find the missing simply because she was one of our own. We failed, and we weep as one.

The weight of this tragedy weighs upon all of us. And while we can’t forget what makes us so, perhaps Brianna Denison’s sad fate will make us all a little more careful with our lives and a little less careful with our love, a small memorial, certainly, but perhaps one fitting for who we lost. No, under the shadow of this tragedy it is clear; there is no light. But at least the blue remains.