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Following are some of my thoughts and recollections about Jack Harnden.
Softball: Jack was one of the better athletes on the team, a mainstay in left field who could cover a lot of ground, make the long-running catch and throw well. He always used the oldest softball bat in the bag, which I think had been there since he had joined the team. He played in athletic jogging shorts, regardless of what month it was, and he would slide if he needed to.
He was a great competitor, but his competition was always with himself. He never antagonized the other team, he didn’t trash talk (he may have argued with an umpire once) but his competition was within. His desire to perform at a high level for the good of the team was his only concern, and if he failed to come through, he would walk back to the bench, shaking his head and wondering aloud about why he had done whatever he had done. In 10 seconds, it was forgotten and he was on to the next thing, which was usually picking up his teammates and encouraging them to do better than he had. After the game, win or lose, Jack was the first to jump in for the pizza and beer. For Jack, the only thing better than playing the game, was talking about it and a lot of other things afterward.
Poker: In every poker game I remember, Jack was there from the first hand to the last. Pre-cancer, per-cancer, post-cancer, he was unflaggable. What I liked the most was that Jack rarely won, but the more he lost, the happier he seemed to be. It was like an anti-competition, maybe he was playing with found money, who knows?
When he won, he acted like it had been in spite of himself. When he folded early, he talked more, which was always enjoyable, as he had countless great stories, all presented in the trademark Harden growl.
Politics: Jack was my favorite kind of political animal — socially moderate, fiscally conservative and kept his own counsel.