By Ronald N. Guy Jr.
This century’s aughts (or whatever we’re calling the last 10 years) weren’t a banner decade for the good old U.S.A. It started with us struggling to identify a President and making a mockery of an election, one of the key components of our democracy. Shortly thereafter, we experienced the tragic and life-altering terrorists attacks of 9/11; and to this day continue to fight the wars that followed. Katrina happened. The stock market slumbered along and eventually went belly up. The housing bubble burst and the economy tanked. Enron redefined corporate corruption and the financial sector proved to have the self-control of an overzealous teenager. We were confronted with the sobering reality of the cost of our children’s college education. Most of us came to realize that global warming probably is “An Inconvenient Truth” and that how we currently interact with our planet isn’t sustainable. Needless to say it was a lot to get your mind around in a short period of time. Fortunately, in those nearly overwhelming moments, there was the familiarity and comfort of a ballgame to get lost in. Like a dutiful spouse, sports kept chugging along through richer or poorer, in sickness and in health. Baseball helped give us a national pulse again after 9/11, the re-opening of the Superdome for Saints football signified some level of recovery for New Orleans, and collectively sports helped us navigate through job uncertainties, plummeting retirement accounts and the rest of the bad news this over-stimulated age of instant, often twisted for effect, communication heaved upon us.
Still, despite the athletic rays of sunlight amidst a decade of storm, sports too had its indiscretions. The aughts will forever be linked with steroid use and the transgressions of countless athletes. At times US Weekly covered “athletes gone wild” as well as ESPN. And when reflecting on our local teams, I wasn’t immediately filled with that warm, easy feeling synonymous with one’s favorite holiday beverage. At the risk of missing someone, my immediate thoughts were of the local icons lost. We said goodbye to broadcasting legend and Maryland resident Jim McKay and D.C. sports anchor George Michael. Sean Taylor was senselessly murdered. And in Johnny Unitas and Sammy Baugh, Baltimore and D.C. football fans lost the best quarterbacks in franchise history and among the greatest in NFL history. It was a lost decade for the Orioles and one of much drama and little substance for the Skins. There were no major sports titles in D.C. and The Preakness isn’t what it used to be.
Yet, perhaps this immediate, glass half empty recollection was a product of the “aught slumber” and not an objective assessment of the decade that was. Indeed, on second thought, from a sports standpoint the aught’s weren’t too bad. This hurts me but yes, the Ravens won a Superbowl. In 2002, everyone feared the turtle as Maryland won the men’s basketball championship and the football team went to the Orange Bowl. The ladies basketball team won a national title in 2006. Georgetown, behind this generation’s John Thompson and Patrick Ewing, went to the final four in 2007. At long last MLB returned to D.C. The Wizards were, dare I say, a perennial playoff team. The Capitals hit the lottery with Alex Ovechkin. Baltimore native Michael Phelps won a gold bar’s worth of medals. Darrell Green and Art Monk (finally!) were inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Cal Ripken Jr. was enshrined in Cooperstown. George Mason made a run to the Final Four in 2006 that epitomized the greatness of March Madness. And Navy football beat Notre Dame twice and Army NINE times.
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