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POWELL: Nax valued the little things, but made big ripples - Odessa American: Gene Powell

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POWELL: Nax valued the little things, but made big ripples

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Posted: Friday, February 25, 2011 6:39 am

I reckon a lot of kids growing up in Odessa between the late ’70s and now did what I did growing up — read Ken Brodnax.

I remember him first for sports writing, then later as a columnist. It wouldn’t be overstating it to say Nax was a big part of the reason I grew up wanting to be a writer. I count myself both fortunate and lucky to have worked alongside Nax for more than a decade (that’s counting internships, part-time sports stints, a tour on copy desk in the late ’80s and from 2002 through 2010).

While my stories of Nax would pale in comparison to those of his closest friends, I will always cherish the little things. That’s the legacy Nax left for me — the knowledge that we should take note of small victories.

We’d be like kids in a candy store with an open line of credit anytime one of us could twist a phrase in a column that would make ourselves giggle. And Nax was really the only guy I could share my quips with who could understand why I was so happy with a wordplay and share that joy without it ever becoming braggadocios.

Not that the actual word “braggadocios” would ever show up in a Nax column. Doubt Bubba could wrap his mouth around that word, though Nax certainly could.

If Nax was anything in his life, he was a wordsmith. He liked to talk as much as he liked to write, and he could tell fascinatingly interesting stories in either format. He could make nothing at all seem interesting. We must have played a million poker hands together and never dealt a card. All because of his gift of words.

I also had the privilege of knowing Nax outside of work. He and I joined in the fantasy sports craze at the same time in the late 1980s with a fantasy baseball league that still exists, though the players … er, team owners … have changed over the years.

And every time we talked about Hunter Pence, he’d get a gleam in his eye. See Nax drafted Pence when nobody else knew who the kid was. Stole him with a late round draft pick. I could claim similar smarts for picking Ryan Howard a few years before. But Nax’s pick of Brett Favre in a fantasy football keeper league will always be the best pick of all.

It’s the little things.

When Nax got sick last year, he didn’t want to change things. He still came to work. He still helped young reporters. He still kept up with his sports propositions (what Bubba would call bets). Still fired off one-liners that would make you groan, be it with envy or an eyeroll.

Nax was just Nax. But he was also everyman. As mutual friend Kim Kirkham said, Nax could “Bubbify” anything.

Nax made big ripples in my life. And he made little ripples in the lives of countless Odessans both with his words of wisdom and his editorials that helped shaped public opinion and public policy here in West Texas. He made ripples many saw and never thought about where they came from. And that was always just fine with Nax.

He knew the value of cherishing the little things.

Odessa, TX

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