Thursday, November 27, 2014
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.
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.
By Ronald N. Guy Jr.
I have officially become my parents. I laugh at my own futile arguments against the obvious. I don’t know when the transformation happened specifically, but it’s indisputable – fait accompli.
I was warned that this unsettling change would happen. Unconvinced, I fought it - passionately. But then my own kids started navigating their world, one quite different from the one of my childhood, became instant experts (apparently) on all things life presents and emboldened to argue against the often inconvenient and mostly unsolicited advice of their gray-bearded, clueless father.
Regardless of topic – homework, extracurricular activities, Ebola, ISIS, unplugging from the electronics or the social dynamics of middle school – our discussions don’t always go so well…for anyone involved (again, similar to “debates” with my parents). When I am challenged (or ignored completely), my temperature rises, my words become more direct and I usually blurt something completely unproductive like, “this is not a democracy.” I doubt my kids even understand what a democracy is at this point. But it makes me feel better, so...
I try not to preach. Honestly, I do. What I have is wisdom; I don’t portend to have perfect answers for their unique situations. I recognize that my antiquated childhood experiences and Gen-X worldview don’t always produce sound advice today. Of course how could I forget my limitations when two pint-sized critics and their whopping two decades of combined earthly experience are constantly questioning my theories? But here’s an odd twist. I’d be willing to bet a six-pack of fine Maryland craft beer (high stakes for me) that if you wrapped either of my kids in Wonder Woman’s truth lasso, they’d begrudgingly spill this fact: dad is usually right.
Why am I usually on-point? Is it because I’m some oracle of life experiences or all-seeing eye affixed atop the parental mountaintop? Hardly. I’m usually right, and my parents were usually right (ouch that hurt), and their parents were usually right for a very simple reason. And the answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind; for those seeking less abstract, anti-Dylan proof, grab a chair in the sports world’s classroom.
I’m betting even the most casual sports fans noticed that the San Francisco Giants and Kansas City Royals made improbable runs to the World Series and that (this is really going to hurt) the left-for-dead Dallas Cowboys, their leaky defense, embattled quarterback and kooky owner are firmly in the playoff conversation. How did they all do it? The Giants rode the golden left arm of pitching ace Madison Bumgarner and the Royals leaned on a nasty bullpen full of guys throwing 100 MPH and capable of making a baseball move like a wiffle ball. And the Cowboys? The Cowboys, behind a young, talented offensive line and RB DeMarco Murray, are running the football like it’s 1975.
Pitching and running the ball: as much as sports have changed, these fundamental tenets of success in baseball and football, respectively, have not. The same applies to the fundamentals of parenting and life. The basics are timeless: that’s why my parents were almost always right and that’s why I’m usually right. I am a father, validated by sports.
What are those enduring, trans-generational lessons, the pitching and running game of parenthood? Well, here are a few. Work hard. Be reliable and trustworthy. Respect authority but don’t be afraid to question it. Care – about yourself and others. Brush your teeth. Bring a positive, can-do attitude to every situation and challenge. Understand that a broken heart is often an unfortunate part of ultimately finding lasting love. Live below your means. Candy is not a food group (except on Halloween night). Chores and adversity build character. Video games are fine – in moderation. Learn when to speak your mind and when to bite your tongue. And yes, you have to eat your vegetables.
By Ronald N. Guy Jr.
Warning: melodrama lies ahead. Your favorite bleacher-dweller is feeling sorry for himself. Empathy is expected, and darn near assumed, from understanding readers and fellow local sports fans.
As I rehash last week’s offerings from the sports gods on a fall-chilled evening in Southern Maryland, I’m left to conclude that this is a divine test of our devotion. Salvation must lie ahead. Let’s break this mess down by beltway, starting with the 495ers.
The Nationals, after running up the best record in the National League, promptly dropped three of four games and the series to the San Francisco Giants. There goes the season, D.C. baseball fans. At least the neighborhood's still intact. In some sick attempt to deliver a tonic, CNN.com actually featured a recently uncovered video of the 1924 World Series. Guess who won that one? That’s right – the Nats! Am I supposed to feel better? So much for 2014…but at least we have the memories (or grainy silent video) of ’24!
The pain would roll on. The ‘Skins lost to Seattle on Monday Night Football, the Capitals dropped their opener to Montreal and Wizards guard Bradley Beal broke his wrist in a preseason game. He’ll miss 6-8 weeks. Oh…and four Wizards players were suspended for the first regular season game after a pre-season skirmish with the Bulls. Somewhere LeBron is snickering.
Ready for the 695ers? Fresh off a dominating American League Division Series win, the Orioles promptly lost the first two games of the League Championship Series (LCS) to the Royals - at home. But there’s still hope, hon - or is there? As I was hammering out this piece, ESPN’s Buster Olney sent out the following tweet: “ELIAS: No team has ever won a best-of-seven LCS after dropping the first two games at home.” Alrighty then. Thanks, Buster. Apparently solace can only found at the bottom of several Natty Bohs.
Speaking of Bohs, my wife tempered my anguish by reminding me that October is beer month. Yes it is…yes it is indeed. So there’s that my fellow D.C and Baltimore sports fans, and “that” – beer – is a significant elixir. Perhaps Hall of Fame broadcaster Bob Wolff was on to something when he titled his book, “It’s Not Who Won Or Lost The Game – It’s How You Sold The Beer.”
But wait, before getting well with your favorite combination of water, malt, hops and yeast, there’s more gloom. After that aforementioned Monday night loss to Seattle, the Sons of Washington were apparently clowning around in the locker room, almost as if they had won the game. The ‘Skins apparently were thrilled with the moral victory – losing by only 10 - achieved against the Super Bowl champions. The behavior inspired a scathing piece by Jason Reid of The Washington Post and considerable debate nationwide regarding appropriate behavior for losing teams.
Like many, I initially fumed at the thought of a jovial professional locker room after a loss. But time has offered a different perspective, if not an explanation or justification. I think that most people, regardless of profession, have an inclination toward complacency. Fatigue, routine and resignation can be its fuel. We expect athletes to be as emotionally invested as we are as fans, but the grind and mounting losses can sometimes get the best of even the most competitive. In September, every player is fired up. By mid-October, and with a season slipping away, a casual shrug replaces anger after losses and a passionate game is reduced to a routine occupation.
Monday, October 13, 2014
As published in The County Times (http://countytimes.somd.com) in Sept 2014
By Ronald N. Guy Jr.
I was indirectly introduced to New York’s latest alleged baseball phenomena during an autograph and memorabilia show in Baltimore. I was wearing a Joe DiMaggio jersey, a symbol not of Yankee fandom but of a love for baseball history and the iconic players of yesteryear. The misleading attire left a fellow attendee and promoter convinced he had a prospect. Catching a rare glimpse of pinstripes through the sea of humanity – how many Yankees jerseys could have been in the Baltimore-based crowd? – the guy approached me with great energy, pamphlet in hand and, while searching for his breath, explained that the next great Yankee would be signing autographs the following weekend a little farther up I-95.
I was polite. I acted interested, thanked him and said I might see him next weekend. I lied. The fellow was beaming with excitement. I didn’t have the heart to tell him the soul-crushing truth: that I wasn’t a Yankee fan and that I had never heard of this kid he was billing as the next Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle, Munson, Ford, Berra, etc, etc, etc. Besides, only a Yankee fan would have known him. It was early 1995, after all, and Derek Jeter hadn’t yet played his first major league game.
But he would. He would play over 2,700 games for the Bronx Bombers during a 20-year career that saw him collect over 3,400 hits, record a career batting average over .300, win five World Series Championships, secure a ticket to the Baseball Hall of Fame and, yes, earn his place among those Yankee immortals. Mr. Promoter, wherever you are, please accept my apology. You were right.
As Jeter’s final season wound to a close this summer, the accolades showered upon the Yankee great admittedly grew excessive. With gifts being presented at every major league city, it was a victory tour of such proportions that it inspired a few chiding critiques of Jeter’s “forgotten-in-the-revelry” shortcomings. Was he a great player? Absolutely. But, as the Jeter-realists pointed out, he never won a batting title, hit 30 homeruns in a season or was voted league MVP. In short, he wasn’t Ruth, Gehrig or DiMaggio.
Okay, that’s fair - not many players are – but if Ruth, Gehrig and DiMaggio set the qualifying bar for celebratory farewells…we’ll never have one. Further, nitpicking over Jeter’s shortcomings, lamenting what he wasn’t or didn’t do, threatens to complicate all that he was: the best shortstop of his era, humble, incredibly clutch and genuine in a time when many were not.
I love quotes. I enjoy the thoughts posted on Guy Distributing’s sign just off the main drag in Leonardtown. I dig bumper stickers, even if I disagree with the propaganda. The dry erase board outside my professional abode often contains a few scribbled words of wisdom. I’m in constant search of inspiration, a miner of life-fuel, I suppose. But then again, aren’t we all?
Near my desk I have a collection of personal thoughts I’ve compiled over the years. They are quips that keep me grounded, motivated and connected to my personal foundation. One reads, “Son of a bricklayer.” It is an ode to my dad, to hard work and to the trade that helped provide me footing in this world. When I see those words I am reminded of the importance of grinding day after day, of doing things the right way and of not cutting corners.
As published in The County Times (http://countytimes.somd.com) in Oct 2014
By Ronald N. Guy Jr.
By Ronald N. Guy Jr.
It’s been a rough few weeks. I approach my television with trepidation. The Internet, a one-time fountain of fun, has been reduced to a crisis reporter. I avert my eyes from ESPN’s scroll and avoid emails from a TMZ-obsessed friend. I don’t want to know what’s next, but I can’t escape reality. I’ve been shocked, confused and angered. And now? Well, now I am just terribly disappointed.
Best I can tell, this emotional spiral started with Ray Rice; but it’s fuzzy. Pinpointing the moment a long-term relationship began to sour would be easier. This I know for certain: I started feeling rotten after Rice received a token two-game suspension for beating his wife. The public outcry was swift and visceral – and right. In an effort to appease the swelling mob with an ounce of executive flesh, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell admitted fault and increased the penalty for domestic violence. A temporary calm was achieved.
Then, the other half of the Rice video – the half containing the disturbing crime – was released, and with it the willful negligence or indisputable incompetence (it’s a toss up) of the league’s prosecution was on public display. Then, determined to intensify the situation, the Baltimore Ravens fumbled their announcement of Rice’s release. Then the NFL hired a former FBI director to launch an independent investigation. Then Indiana Pacers forward Paul George tweeted (always a dangerous move) a defense of Rice that “argued” a man hitting a woman in retaliation of said woman hitting said man is not domestic violence. Really? Then San Francisco 49ers announcer Ted Robinson was suspended two games for criticizing Rice’s wife, Janay Rice. Then boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr., a dude that’s done time for domestic violence, minimized Rice’s actions by essentially saying far worse occurs in homes. How comforting.
Had enough yet? No? Okay…
Then a tape leaked of Atlanta Hawks General Manager Danny Ferry, son of former Washington Bullets GM Bob Ferry, making disgusting, racist remarks about the African heritage of NBA player Luol Deng. Then Charm City, as if to say “don’t forget about us in this extraordinary professional-sports-dumpster-fire-competition”, veered back into the pathetic pattern when Orioles slugger Chris Davis was suspended 25 games for amphetamine use. Then Adrian Peterson, all-world running back for the Minnesota Vikings, was indicted for child abuse. He was deactivated from last Sunday’s game and faces an uncertain personal and professional future.
Stop. Please. I’m under the covers with my eyes closed, hands over my ears and I’m humming loudly. Don’t make me burn all electronic devices, lock all doors and call in sick to work indefinitely. I will. That’s where I am. I’ve had enough. This has gotten so bad that a sexual assault allegation against Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and Daniel Snyder’s stubborn mishandling of his team’s embattled (slowly dying) moniker barely registered. Great?
My kids have reached ages necessitating the sad exchange of some of nature’s embedded innocence for the harsh realities of our flawed species. The age-appropriate discussion has included stranger danger, sex offenders, criminals and mean people with bad intentions. They are all out there; we all have to pay attention and remain vigilant. But not to worry, I say. Such people are the exception. The world is mostly comprised of good people who consistently do the right thing. Mostly.
Sunday, September 7, 2014
As published in The County Times (www.countytimes.somd.com), September 4, 2014
By Ronald N. Guy Jr.
By Ronald N. Guy Jr.
Before jumping into this week’s piece, here’s a revelation: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell reads The County Times.
When this column last appeared, it condemned Goodell’s paltry two-game suspension of Ray Rice for beating his wife. Well, last week, Goodell acknowledged the error and announced that domestic violence would net a six-game suspension for first time offenders and a lifetime ban for a subsequent offense. Better late than never, Mr. Goodell. And thanks for reading (and heeding) The County Times.
The athleticism, cannon arm and charisma aside, he had me after his 4.4 second, 40-yard dash at the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine. Apparently former Washington head coach Mike Shanahan fell in love too – head over heels in love.
Owing the sixth pick in 2012 NFL Draft, a consequence of a 5-11 season and the uninspiring quarterback duo of John Beck and Rex Grossman, the ‘Skins didn’t just need a quarterback, they needed a reason not to dread the upcoming fall. Instead of waiting in line and selecting a blasé player like Texas A&M QB Ryan Tannehill, the ‘Skins cut a huge trade with the St. Louis Rams for the second overall selection. The price was steep: three first round picks (2012-2014) and a second round pick (2012). The prize was a shot of organizational adrenaline: Robert Griffin III.
My goodness it worked initially. Griffin was sensational in 2012. His run-pass threat had defenses reeling and the pistol formation and the read-option offense became part of the NFL’s staid lexicon. In Griffin’s debut, the ‘Skins scored 40 points in an upset win over the New Orleans Saints. By November, “RGIII, RGIII, RGIII” chants were routine at FedEx Field. And in week 17, a hobbled but heroic Griffin led the ‘Skins to a division-clinching win over the Dallas Cowboys.
It was fool’s gold. A week later in the playoffs, Griffin’s abused right knee, a joint he had injured weeks earlier, collapsed in grotesque fashion. It was a franchise pivot point. Shanahan’s incompetent handling of the injury and of the team’s greatest asset essentially cost the coach his job a year later. As for Griffin, his career derailed; the magic of 2012 vanished. He limped through a moribund 2013 season and has looked, depending on your perspective, either tentative or lost thus far in 2014.
The Rams’ story, despite the Griffin bounty, is even worse. They are better, but the team representing the gateway city has posted two inconsequential seven-win seasons since the trade. Further, QB Sam Bradford, the guy who justified them passing on Griffin, tore his left ACL last season and again this preseason. He won’t play again until 2015; his future in St. Louis – and the NFL - is in serious doubt.
I’m not suggesting that Griffin and Bradford would have been better off in St. Louis and anywhere but St. Louis, respectively. What I am saying is that the ‘Skins-Rams trade hasn’t worked. It still could, but the prospects are dim. At this point it looks like a forced action between an anxious, quarterback-desperate team and another with such a talent void that quantity was more alluring than quality. Instead of letting the draft come to them, the ‘Skins decided to tamper with nature and make the Rams an offer they couldn’t refuse. Both teams secured the prize they wanted – a quarterback for Washington and a slew of players-to-be-named-later for St. Louis – but are still seeking a foundation for consistent success.