Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Moving On

As published in The County Times (http://countytimes.somd.com) in February 2015

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

The other woman, our faithful fall mistress, has disappeared into another cold February night.  Did she even say goodbye?  Leave her number?  Scribble a farewell on a perfume note?

The abrupt exit, after the best of many sultry nights, was typical.  While her reappearance is inevitable, it won’t occur until the coming summer begins to fade and a hint of fall tickles the evening air. 

Locked in the dead of winter, the prospect is a cruelly far-off dream.  The NFL – that “other woman” – won’t return to invigorate its massive and obsessed fan base for months.  For the time being, memories of the season that was will have to do.

Baltimore’s recollections include Ray Rice and a (ahem) deflating defeat to New England.  Washington’s are of a recurring nightmare: an ineffective turnstile at quarterback, an overwhelmed rookie coach and relentless losing. Depressing.

The story is quite different in the Northeast. With the Patriots’ defeat of the Seahawks, QB Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick – with four Super Bowl titles - have earned a place among the NFL’s immortals.  Good for them, ethical excursions aside.  I would have offered Seattle the same had they won.  With their Adderal flirtations and head coach Pete Carroll’s disintegration of USC football, they aren’t choirboys either.  Few are.

My point - transgressions, aside – is that I’ve come to appreciate both Super Bowl teams. Their journeys were different, but they contained a common element: a willingness to move on.

The Rolling Stone’s song Honky Tonk Woman begins with an inconspicuous cowbell, then a drum beat and finally a distinctive guitar riff.  The sinewy Mick Jagger, a man of unique gyrations, slathers the following lines over the funky rhythm:

“I met a gin soaked barroom queen in Memphis,
She tried to take me upstairs for a ride
She had to heave me right across her shoulder
Cause I just can’t seem to drink you off my mind.”

Jagger sings of a man psychologically consumed by a relationship gone awry and requiring physical force to carry on.  The character is at a crossroads between commitment and determination – commendable traits - and stubbornness and blind faith – the folly of those in denial of the truth.  When to remain persistent and when to abort?  It is a thin line - one Seattle and New England have precisely navigated.  

During the 2012 offseason, Seattle inked former Green Bay quarterback Matt Flynn to a lucrative contract but had the nerve to start an unproven third round pick after he out-performed Flynn in the preseason.  Russell Wilson’s pretty good, eh?  In October, the ‘Hawks traded WR Percy Harvin, roughly 18 months after acquiring him for a steep price, to the Jets for pennies on the dollar.  At the time Seattle was 3-3 and Harvin was the most talented receiver on the team.  It seemed to make little sense.

Seattle didn’t lose between mid-November and the Super Bowl.

The Patriots have a long history of divorcing productive veterans; this year Logan Mankins was jettisoned.  Exiting training camp, the Pats dealt the six-time Pro Bowl guard to Tampa Bay for TE Tim Wright.  The early returns were poor.  After four games, New England was 2-2, QB Tom Brady was under constant pressure and the team looked lost. 

New England re-grouped and won 13 of its last 15 games.

There is a tendency in life – one intensified by age - to cling to the familiar.  Change – personal or professional - engenders anxiety.  The unknown incites fear.  The bird in the hand actually becomes more valuable than two in the bush. 

Had Seattle or New England adopted that philosophy, it’s likely neither would have played in last Sunday’s Super Bowl.  Both had the courage to make difficult decisions, to upset the safer status quo and to deal with dubious short-term returns.  They had guts to move on - and are better for it.  

When confronted with an alternative to the functioning norm, consider these Super Bowl combatants.  Are existing circumstances best?  Perhaps.  Or are we mired in the routine, stubbornly affixed to the known…and secretly hoping a gin-soaked barroom dweller will demand a different course?

Opportunity’s Unexpected Knock

As published in The County Times (http://countytimes.somd.com)

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

“One of the jobs of a coach is ‘Let’s worry about today’…down the road, I think we’re going to be a very good team.”

Ohio State University head football coach Urban Meyer spoke those words during an interview on ESPN Radio’s “Mike and Mike In The Morning” show…on August 20, 2014.  It sounded like a bunch of coach speak, obligatory and desperate dribble offered to placate restless fans and to reassure a roster of young men facing a season in peril.  The thing is, only blind homers or those too young to know any better believe it.  Whether Meyer did or not matters little now; he’s officially a prophet, a football psychic. 

A season-ending shoulder injury to Braxton Miller, Ohio State’s all-everything starting quarterback prompted that August interview with Meyer.  Miller had led the Buckeyes to an Orange Bowl victory the prior season and was considered a serious candidate for the Heisman Trophy in what would be his senior year.  That was until an innocuous pass during non-contact drills shredded his surgically repaired right shoulder.  With four new starters on the offensive line and lacking the prior season’s leading rushing and wide receiver – consequences of graduations – Ohio State seemed particularly ill prepared to absorb the loss of its best player.  But the cosmic allocation of poor fortune never considers its victim’s circumstances.  Ohio State would just have to deal with the unfortunate and likely fatal extraction of Miller from its lineup. 

True to his word (as if he had a choice), Meyer penciled in backup QB J.T. Barrett, a redshirt freshman.  True to the reality of the situation, the Buckeyes struggled early, losing their second game by two touchdowns to a mediocre Virginia Tech team.  Surely that was it.  Season over.  Ah, but back to Meyer’s words: “…down the road I think we’re going to be a good team.”  The loss to Virginia Tech proved to be their last; Miller’s injury, however, wasn’t their last brush with adversity.   

As is well known now, Barrett broke his ankle in the season finale against Michigan, necessitating the introduction of Cardale Jones, the third string quarterback, to the nation in the middle of a potential championship run.  Jones led the Buckeyes to a 59-0 drubbing of Wisconsin the conference championship game, a 42-35 victory over top-ranked Alabama in the national semifinal and a 42-20 defeat of Oregon in the national championship game.

Of course he did.  Of course some unknown kid, buried deep on the depth chart in August and thrust into a stressful, seemingly no-win situation, stepped onto the sport’s biggest stage, played out of his mind and rescued Ohio State’s fairytale ending from misfortune’s zealous clutches.

I’m trying to think of a comp (real estate term) – a comparable player.  I got nothing…all blanks.  In all my years of watching sports I cannot recall anyone being given such an improbable opportunity and seizing it so completely.  Jones started the season with little expectation of seeing a snap.  Instead he took the most important snaps of the season with no advanced warning and after being on ice (i.e. holding a clipboard) for months.  He had no learning curve, no chance to fail or to grow into the role.  It was “here, Cardale, it’s yours.  Good luck.  Everyone’s counting on you…the entire season is on the line.”

Jones stepped in, played with a veteran’s poise and delivered the national championship.  You can’t do that without consistent focus and preparation – and uncommon amounts of both for a 20-something college student who had thrown all of two passes prior to this season.  Talent isn’t enough, not on that stage and not against the teams Jones and the Buckeyes faced. 

The thin line between success and failure – in life and in sports – is often as simple as being prepared to capitalize on opportunities…and Jones is the latest supporting evidence.  In a sports world that’s quick to move on – to the next event, player or season – that is what I’ll remember most about Cardale Jones, the third quarterback who remained ready and able to be his team’s savior and make a prophet out of his coach.

The Consequence Of Ego

As published in The County Times (http://countytimes.somd.com)

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

Where were you on March 28, 1994?  I was enjoying spring break – a now long-gone concept in my much too adult life – with the spirit of Jimmy Buffett at the Southernmost Point of these great (continental) United States.  I was nibbling on sponge cake and watching the sun bake.  The effervescence of boiling shrimp was all around.  While sitting on the porch swing an acoustic guitar strummed in my head and I debated getting a brand new tattoo.  I lamented my busted flip-flop and dressed the cut on my heel delivered courtesy of a stray pop-top.  For the life of me, I couldn’t find that lost shaker of salt.  I was in such a good mood that even though my buddy swore a woman was to blame, I freely admitted it was my own damn fault.  The polygraph test has nothing on a few margaritas, I suppose.

I was in Key West on that long ago March day.  My precise memory isn’t because my trip to the little latitudes was unforgettable or the result of my behavior prompting an encounter with local law enforcement; I know of my whereabouts because, while cruising down Route 1 with warm, rejuvenating south Florida air blowing through my window, the radio man announced that Jimmy Johnson, coach of the Super Bowl champion Dallas Cowboys, had stepped down.

It was a good day to be a Cowboys hater.  In late March 1994, Dallas was just two months removed from a second consecutive Super Bowl title and was poised to become the greatest dynasty in the history of pro football.  Nothing could stop them – except themselves. 

Despite the team’s success and opportunity to rewrite history, owner Jerry Jones and Johnson couldn’t find a way to co-exist.  Not even Big D was large enough to house their massive egos.  The struggle for power and acclaim forced a divorce that weakened the Cowboys and nudged Johnson from a coaching perch he would never recapture.  It is one of the great “what if’s” in sports history.

George Santayana once wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  The recent split between the San Francisco 49ers and head coach Jim Harbaugh indicates both parties have poor memories.  While not the equivalent of Johnson’s seismic departure from Dallas, the Harbaugh-San Francisco divorce is similar in this telling respect: it had nothing to do with football. 

Entering this past season, Harbaugh had led the 49ers to three straight NFC Championship Games and one Super Bowl.  Despite that envious record, the 49ers nearly traded Harbaugh in the offseason, a botched move that ultimately undermined the coach and contributed to a substandard 2014 season (San Francisco finished 8-8).  Harbaugh wasn’t unemployed long; the one-time University of Michigan quarterback signed a lucrative deal to coach the Wolverines.  San Francisco’s search for his replacement is ongoing. 

Elite coaches are rare; NFL teams scramble to find them.  Strong organizations and talented rosters are few; coaches long to work in such environments.  Sustained success in the NFL is maddeningly elusive; it is professional nirvana for those in the football business.  Jimmy Johnson and Dallas had found it; so too had Jim Harbaugh and San Francisco.  All of the above had exactly what they wanted and it wasn’t enough - fascinating commentary on all involved. 

An endeavor comprised of competitive, successful, strong and opinionated human beings is going to be combustible.  Discomfort will be frequent.  It will have untenable moments.  But if the desired outcome is achieved, it is incumbent upon the individuals to accept the personally frustrating aspects – organizational authority, credit for the success or the allocation of pay – for prosperity’s sake.  If self-importance rules, if there is no ability for the human components to yield, to listen and to compromise, you get the Cowboys of March 1994 and, it seems, the 49ers of December 2014. 

Jim Harbaugh may find his utopia at Michigan.  The next 49ers coach might do the only thing Harbaugh didn’t - win a Super Bowl.  History, however, indicates that neither party will be as successful apart as they were together.  The consequence of ego is realized…again. 

Monday, January 5, 2015

Washington’s All-Star Giver

As published in The County Times (http://countytimes.somd.com)

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

Years ago a colleague convinced me that sports curses were real.  His trek to Southern Maryland began on a different continent – Africa, his place of birth – and included a long stay in New York City where he became an avid Yankees fan (unfortunate but understandable).  His story was fascinating, particularly as compared to my journey to the land of blue crabs and stuffed ham – a tale that starts and ends with a hearty “born here.”

The improbable intersection of our lives occurred in 2003, a time when the Yankees were perennial contenders and the Boston Red Sox, their sworn enemy, hadn’t won a World Series since 1918, the year they sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees and spawned the “Curse of the Bambino.” 

As fate and a good story would have it, the Yanks and Sox played for the American League pennant in 2003.  The teams split the first six games, but my buddy’s confidence never wavered.  “Ronnie, listen, the Red Sox can’t win…they are cursed”, he would say.  Sure enough, in the bottom of the 11th inning of Game 7, an unlikely hero – Aaron Boone – hit a series-clinching home run for the Yanks.  

It was the final chapter of Ruth’s alleged curse – the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004 - but it opened my mind to the possibility of dark forces enveloping a team or, in the case of D.C. sports, an entire region.  D.C. is cursed.  The evidence - the Nationals’ recent playoff failures, the spring collapses of the Capitals and the ‘Skins’ two-decade-long organizational death spiral - is overwhelming.  I’m spooked.  When optimistic forces – think Robert Griffin III, Stephen Strasburg and Alex Ovechkin – attempt to clear the gloom, I avoid acknowledgement for fear of provoking the gods and accelerating the return of hopeless suffering.  It sounds nuts - unless you’re a fan too.

But I’m going to risk it to talk about John Wall. 

Wall, 24, was drafted first overall by the Wizards – another lovable D.C. loser - in 2010.  He was athletically gifted but lacked a consistent jump shot and often played out-of-control.  Four years later, there isn’t another point guard in the NBA I’d rather have. 

During a period (their early 20s) when Ovechkin was in playboy mode and toured D.C. in exotic sports cars and Griffin was selling athletic shoes and sandwiches and pushing his brand, Wall has, to his immense credit, quietly worked on his game far removed from the headlines and intoxicating distractions.  He’s the rare elite talent with a blue-collar work ethic.  He is a no frills gym rat and the consummate teammate.  For a town mired in Griffin-drama, Wall is the antidote. 

Wall’s dedication and throwback approach is paying dividends.  Through last Saturday, the Wizards are 19-6, second in the Eastern Conference, and Wall is fueling their ascension.  The kid has grown into a bona fide star with an all-around game.  Wall can score the basketball and play lock-down defense.  But what I love most is his unselfishness on the offensive end.  He currently ranks second in the league with 10.8 assists per game.  With Wall, every possession is the season of giving.

But Wall’s play didn’t convince me to acknowledge his greatness; Miyah Telemaque-Nelson did.  Wall - again with no fanfare or grandstanding - befriended Miyah, a pediatric cancer patient last year and facilitated a meeting between her and Nicki Minaj.  He wrote her name on his shoes before every game.  It’s the sort of story that slips through the newsreel these days and, frankly, one I had missed until the heart-wrenching end. 

Miyah died on 8 December.  She was six.  Six.  Later that night, an emotionally drained Wall wept during a post-game interview.  The All-Star athlete exposed an All-Star heart.  It was a side and a depth of Wall I had never seen.  Yet despite Wall’s overwhelming loss, I couldn’t help but think of the joy he had given to a little girl whose time on Earth was far too short.  It was an off-the-court assist of sorts…and his greatest to date.  Giving > Receiving: John Wall the point guard…and the person…gets it.

Before 2012, There Was 1998

As published in The County Times (http://countytimes.somd.com)

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

Not so long ago – April 2012, to be exact - quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III lit up the NFL Draft as the first and second overall picks of Indianapolis and Washington, respectively.  Luck’s star had been on the NFL’s radar for some time and his all football, low profile demeanor seemed a perfect backfill for Peyton Manning.  Griffin, meanwhile, took college football by storm in 2011.  He won the Heisman Trophy and through the draft process displayed an electric confluence of athletic skills that was part Michael Vick, part Aaron Rodgers.  Luck and Griffin were different players and personalities, but their collective talents earmarked them as destiny’s darlings.  Pro Bowls were a lock.  Super Bowls were a distinct possibility.  And a decade-plus of jaw-dropping moments was a virtual certainty.

The brochure was half right.  Luck is a star and, barring injury, is on an arc to the Hall of Fame.  Griffin…yeah.  The gory details are well known and the dumpster fire continues to burn.  Griffin’s precipitous fall from grace would have been implausible two years ago when he won the 2012 NFC Offensive Rookie of the Year award – but it shouldn’t have been.  Highly touted college quarterbacks flop in the NFL all the time and their collapse is often swift and complete.  So while the details are unique to this situation, the fact that Luck has boomed and Griffin has busted is routine.  In fact, the widening divergence between their careers isn’t even close to the greatest chasm of the last twenty years, much less league history.  

Before Luck and Griffin in 2012, there were the top two selections in the 1998 NFL Draft: quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf.  Manning, the NFL’s all-time leader in touchdown passes and one of the league’s classiest players, is concluding his seventeenth season and is poised for another Super Bowl run.  Leaf, his one-time peer and talent equivalent, was just released…from prison. 

Emotional immaturity, injuries and poor play ended Leaf’s career in 2002 at the age of 26.  After the NFL, he earned his degree from Washington State and eventually returned to football as a college coach.  It appeared to be a commendable soft landing from a disastrous NFL tour.  However, prescription drug addiction soon shattered his post-NFL life.  Since 2009, he has been indicted multiple times on various burglary and drug possession charges in the states of Montana and Texas.  He is now out on parole and the next negative headline seems an unfortunate certainty. 

Excuses shouldn’t be made for Leaf.  His story is a human infomercial for the consequences of poor decisions.  He was a complete boob during his NFL tenure - spoiled, arrogant and disrespectful.  If Manning is the poster boy for the link between hard work and dedication to craft and success, then Leaf is the counterpoint, the warning label and the disclaimer. 

The bright lights and visceral criticism of the NFL’s fishbowl revealed fissures in Leaf’s psychological makeup but his biography is now less about a failed quarterback and more about a life in the balance.  He isn’t just a football punch line anymore.  He’s nothing to laugh at or dismiss.  His problems are undoubtedly real, beyond his control and, in a society struggling with the proliferation of prescription drugs and the addictive properties of painkillers, not uncommon. 

The band Hole’s song “Celebrity Skin”, a raw account of fame’s perils, contains the following lyrics: “Oh look at my face; my name is might have been; my name is never was; my name’s forgotten.”  Ryan Leaf is an NFL “might have been” and “never was” but he isn’t forgotten.  He is a famous and sadly recurring example of the destructive powers of addiction and the fragility of success.  He is also a challenge, in this holiday season, to be more sensitive to human struggles and appreciative of our personal successes.  While navigating life, every person strives to emulate Peyton Manning and seeks to avoid troubles like Ryan Leaf’s.  The truth is, a little bit of both quarterbacks – the excellence of Manning and the flaws of Leaf – resides within each of us.  Be well.   

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Evolution, On The Fly

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

I don’t watch network television.  I couldn’t name the most popular shows, much less their broadcast network.  The last episode of “Survivor” that I watched was the finale…of season one.  The next time I watch “Dancing With The Stars”, “The Voice” or “American Idol” will be the first time.

This unintended phenomenon started in the early 2000s, about the time “Taps” played for sitcoms and reality T.V. went viral.  The reason for my network television divorce is, as of yet, undiagnosed.  My wife gets a hoot out of it; her dismissive chuckles scream “weirdo.”  It confounds and frustrates my daughter; I sense a growing concern that her decidedly un-cool father will inevitably cause horrific social embarrassment.  Am I wrong to proudly anticipate that moment?

What I do enjoy watching (besides sports, of course) are shows such as “American Pickers”, “American Restoration” and “Down East Dickering” on The History Channel and “Deadliest Catch” and “Moonshiners” on Discovery Channel.  Why?  Well, I like antiques, resurrecting battered classics, bartering, fishing and homemade adult beverages.  I guess one could interpret it as an ode to my Southern Maryland roots.        

There’s something else about these programs, though, something more appealing than just an alignment with my interests.  They have an element of unpredictable chaos that the cast always overcomes.  The pickers sometimes stumble on dud leads and have to wing it.  The dickerers live week-to-week and creatively manufacture value and cash out of little to nothing.  The guys on American Restoration fix old, dilapidated stuff…enough said.  The “Deadliest Catch’s” crabbers manage unpredictable weather and finicky crustaceans.  And the moonshiners produce product in homemade stills deep in the Appalachian Mountains while evading the law.  Nothing is neat or as it should be - but they all make it work. They expect the unexpected, adapt and press forward.

I love that about those shows – the human resolve.  Which is to say I love the New England Patriots. 

Wait.  What?  I hate the Patriots: smug Tom Brady with his rings and model wife and Bill Belichick with his awful hoodie and curt, mumbling press conferences.  What’s to like?  How about this: in my lifetime, no team has handled adversity, change and chaos as well as the Pats. 

We are now 14 years into the Brady-Belichick era.  From 2001-2013, the Patriots won at least 10 games 12 times, made the playoffs 11 times, appeared in five Super Bowls, advanced to eight AFC Championship Games and won three championships.  Considering the sport, the era (salary cap) and the mercurial nature of modern athletes, that might be the greatest run by any professional sports team - ever. 

The Patriots have maintained their excellence despite “Spygate”, Aaron Hernandez’s murder charges, the loss of coaches like Charlie Weis, Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini, and Bill O’Brien and the various injuries (back, arm and knee) of all-world TE Rob Gronkowski.  They jettisoned stars such as Lawyer Milloy, Brandon Meriweather, Ty Law, Richard Seymour, Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Logan Mankins without identifiable impact and survived the failed acquisitions of Chad Ochocinco and Albert Haynesworth.  They even plugged in Matt Cassell for an injured Brady in 2008 and won 11 games.  The Patriots seem impervious to the NFL’s intense variability, an unstoppable winning machine.

Professional sports haven’t seen a run like this since the 49ers of the 80s and 90s.  How are the peerless Patriots doing it, year after year, challenge after challenge?  They are extremely adaptable and absolutely refuse to make excuses.  Over the years the Patriots have won with a run-based approach (the early years), a pass-happy offense (with Moss), a tight end dominated attack (with Gronkowski and Hernandez) and a hybrid of all of the above (this year). Forget evolving year-to-year, they evolve week-to-week.  It’s simply amazing.  When they’ve faced the inevitable blip, there’s been an organizational refusal – from top to bottom – to complain, blame or make excuses.  That’s the way to handle adversity, in football and in life. So I suppose I do love the Patriots…or at least their modus operandi - and so should you.  But that doesn’t mean we have to root for them.  Deal?

Patience, Worn Thin

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

Quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger might be fans of vinyl records, or at least sworn adversaries of the compact disc (CD). With that introduction…

The CD dealt a serious blow to human civilization.  An overstatement?  Probably. Completely false?  Absolutely not.  Its sin?  The CD, that sleek invention from the depths of the place where dark souls are said to reside, made real-time music surfing possible and, in the process, forever disfigured how we listen to music. 

Prior to the disc, music resided on cassettes, 8-tracks and vinyl records, formats that forced more a deliberate, patient listen. If you wanted to jump around to hit songs, you could, but it involved toggling between four often disjointed programs (8-tracks), an inexact fast-forward or rewind (cassettes) or getting up off the couch and manipulating the needle (records). 

The “consequence”, as I’ll sarcastically call it, was that the listener tended to experience the entire album.  What a concept!  Recognizing the inconvenience of pre-CD media, hit songs were often placed at the beginning of a side, prime territory for a quick find or replay; I appreciated artists that didn’t follow the marketer’s script, the ones that slotted their singles in awkward places, thereby ensuring total album consumption and creating an opportunity to discover hidden gems.  I’m tipping my cap to Kix, the Maryland-based band, who placed the song The Itch at the end of side one of their debut album and the Rolling Stones for tucking Tumbling Dice at the end of the first Exile on Main Street record. 

And then there were the artists who buried great songs in inauspicious places, little rewards of sorts for dedicated listeners. “Rocket Queen”, the last song on Appetite for Destruction by Guns N’ Roses is incredible.  Prince put the fabulously raunchy “Darling Nikki” last on side one of Purple Rain.  Bob Dylan’s ended his iconic Highway 61 Revisited album with the absolutely amazing “Desolation Row”.  

If the CD didn’t completely kill such album experiences, the MP3 and digital media seem certain to choke out its last breaths of life.  The single rules now: three minutes of overproduced, hyper-marketed sound from computers and bedazzled pop stars that can be downloaded for instant satisfaction and played until it promotes nausea.  Who has the patience to spin a record?

The aforementioned Rodgers, age 30, isn’t old enough to remember cassettes, but he has cracked back on society’s impatience.  In response to early-season criticism, Rodgers, one of the coolest and best quarterbacks in the NFL, spelled out a five-letter retort to irritated Packers fans: R-E-L-A-X.  The Packers have done just fine since.  The agitation isn’t confined to the land of cheese.  A few weeks ago, New England and Pittsburgh were struggling.  Brady and Roethlisberger, despite their five Super Bowl titles, allegedly couldn’t play anymore.  Patriots coach Bill Belichick had lost his hoodie-fueled brilliance; Steelers coach Mike Tomlin was on the hot seat.  Well, since the gripes reached a crescendo, no team has been hotter than the Patriots and Roethlisberger tossed six touchdown passes in consecutive games.  Premature panic?  You think?

The death of the album and quick criticism of the NFL’s best quarterbacks is bothersome, but its root cause – pervasive impatience and an intolerance of any frustration or discomfort – has significant reach.  We have to have it all – hit songs or wins on Sunday – right now.  The grass elsewhere is assumed to be greener the minute the blades under our feet discolor.  The bird in the hand, despite its accomplishments, is obsessively critiqued while the unknown two in the bush are romanticized.  Shortcomings and bad moments create labels that cannot be removed.  No one – not even Super Bowl winning quarterbacks – are permitted the latitude to fail, to grow and to overcome.  To heck with the process, the journey, evolution or the opportunity to reveal something – a character trait, a team quality or a great song – that’s not immediately apparent. 

Consider that in the context of a marriage, a job, friendships, parenthood, personal finance…anything.  Warning: it may take awhile to digest completely.  My suggestion: dust off the turntable and set the mood with a spinning record.