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Dan Haglund, Published July 04 2010

Haglund: One July 4 sent me full circle in sports

For most people, the Fourth of July means family vacations, eating watermelon, watching fireworks, swatting mosquitoes and possibly catching some sports in person or on the tube.

The day also marks the anniversary of our country’s independence, and serves as the half-year point at which to pause and reflect on what has passed and what yet remains.

For me, one Fourth of July changed the course of my sporting life, while opening up myriad avenues in my professional life.

The story goes like this: On July 4, 1986, I was looking forward to my senior year of high school. I was working for the city of Baudette near Minnesota’s Lake of the Woods as an electrical lineman’s assistant/sewer jockey for minimum wage, $3.35 an hour.

I was in peak physical condition – able to run fast, jump high and compete with the best of them.

Until after one fateful leap. I attempted to catch a Frisbee sailing well over my head at Willie Walleye Park.

I leaped high, grabbed the flying disc at its apex, then crumbled into a heap as I initially thought I’d landed on an electric fence with my left knee.

I had landed with my foot in a hole and my knee made a sound similar to a breaking chicken bone. Make that several chicken bones.

A leg that formerly allowed me to dunk a basketball with two hands was now on fire with pain and I truly saw my sporting career flash through my mind.

It was over.

I tore my ACL.

The swelling in my knee throughout the rest of the day increased. I had to work for the city picking garbage at 4 a.m. the next morning, so I got a knee brace at the local clinic and slowly made it through my eight-hour shift on July 5.

The dream of having my best sports year in high school, or even being able to run again was now suspect.

I wanted more than anything to play football that fall, wanting to be a star receiver and catch touchdown after touchdown. I wanted to average double figures for the basketball team. I wanted to go to state in the high jump.

Those dreams didn’t work out.

The following June I had the ligament replacement surgery and began the recovery. The journey through recovery brought me to a new path, one in which I became interested in different outlets and avocations in college – aside from sports.

As I reflect once again on that life-changing leap from 24 years ago, I realize the love of sports eventually called me back and it became my career. Now, many years later, I find reporting on the victories of others has become equally as satisfying as laying down those marks myself.

And much less dangerous.

Readers can reach Forum copy editor Dan Haglund at (701) 241-5557.