Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Hangover

As published in The County Times (http://countytimes.somd.com) in Nov 2011

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

At any moment, everyone is dealing with some combination of positive and negative issues in their lives.  Such is life, and the psychological approaches to deal with the variables of human existence are many.  Once such theory suggests that when the opposing forces of good and bad are unbalanced, when life is oddly smooth or nearly unbearable, something will happen to reset our world – a life reboot if you will – to snap us back to the middle. 

I don’t buy it…not completely, anyway.  It dismisses an individual’s ability to chart his or her path, to influence their life’s course.  Karma is real, and we all control far less than we’d like to think, but we’re not simply blowing in the wind and riding it to whatever pleasant or dark destination it takes us.  There’s at least some fraction of this great journey we can influence.

Regardless of what approach you’ve adopted to negotiate life’s fickle ways, this much is universally true: every decision unfurls opportunities and bears the opportunity cost of the path not taken.  There’s the school we attended, the person we married, the children we had, the career we pursued…and those we didn’t.  In that substantial population of un-traveled paths reside great consequences.  Sometimes the consequences can be assessed, but more often they are poorly estimated at decision time, revealing themselves some time later, if at all, and only to those with the tendency to seek an explanation of the present by considering the past.  I’m guilty as charged of such nostalgic wiring.

With that long-winded, marginally comprehensible dribble having run dry, the pathetic state of D.C. sports and its stark and previously unexplainable contrast to the period between 1978 and 1992, makes a lot more sense.  What is there to say about the home teams?  The NBA lockout may be ending, which only means that the Wizards can begin anew their annual quest for a ticket to the NBA Draft Lottery.  The once mighty Terps, with coaches Gary Williams and Ralph Friedgen gone, have barely over a handful of scholarship basketball players (and were trounced by Iona…IONA!) and a football program in complete disarray.  How long ago 2002’s national championship in basketball and ACC championship in football seem now.  The ‘Skins, who are difficult to speak about, are as bad as they’ve been in my lifetime.  The Caps, the one bright spot in recent years, are imploding after a 7-0 start and Coach Bruce Boudreau’s days have to be numbered.  Far more serious than these nauseating on-field escapades is what has befallen the Nationals this off-season.  Wilson Ramos, their starting catcher and member of a bright young core, was kidnapped…kidnapped…in his home country of Venezuela.  Fortunately he was found unharmed.  

It’s hard to remember, but it wasn’t always this bad.  Between 1978 and 1992, D.C. won its lone NBA championship (’78), saw its adopted baseball team – the Orioles – win the World Series (’83), enjoyed the Caps’ annual trips to the NHL playoffs and celebrated three Super Bowl wins.  It all seemed so easy.  Winning was common.  All our teams were good and the ‘Skins were regular title contenders. 

Being an early-70’s baby and member of a sport-crazed clan, I can – thank goodness – remember this success vividly (if you can’t, I’m so very sorry).  Winning is all we knew, though, so making sense of the last 2 decades of nearly exclusive losing has left me perplexed and downtrodden; but I have it figured out now.  At a fork in the road – a decision point - years ago, a horned beast propositioned us.  This wasn’t a fiddle challenge for a golden fiddle or our soul, as the song suggests, but an offer to win - briefly - beyond our wildest dreams followed by an inadequately considered period of abysmal darkness.  We took the deal and it produced a Mardi Gras-like period followed by its apparent consequence: a 20-year and running raging hangover.  Perhaps I’ll subscribe to the aforementioned “natural order” theory – the one that suggests excessively good or bad times will self-correct – and await the goodness.  Just in case I’ll keep the aspirin nearby on game day.  

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