Monday, October 13, 2014

Not A Corner Cut

As published in The County Times ( 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. 

I see those traits in Derek Jeter.  Not blessed with any overwhelming physical attribute, Jeter wrung every ounce of performance from his body.  To his critics, those that say he lacked elite defensive range and didn’t amass sufficient statistical superlatives, I would suggest that is part of his appeal.  Playing in the steroid era, suppose he would have sought some pharmaceutical “help” (like so many of his peers), say just enough to hit a few more long balls, to raise his average a bit and to prolong the prime of his career?  Would he then have been comparable to Ruth, Gehrig or DiMaggio?  We’ll never know – Jeter was simply the best he could be.  That deserves unqualified applause.  

Then…A Father Comforts A Downtrodden Sports Fan

As published in The County Times ( in Oct 2014

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.

Aaaaand then… 

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.

It was a necessary conversation, one whose underlying emotion - disappointment – was rekindled by the aforementioned rash of disturbing sports stories.  They’ve left me ashamed to be a sports fan and disheartened as a man.  Part of me wants to suspend my support of pro sports altogether, to find a new hobby and to turn my kids away from the games I love.  But then my own pitch counteracts my overreaction.  Not all sports personalities cheat, harbor racist thoughts, commit domestic violence and beat their children.  Not all athletes are bad - in fact, the preponderance are good.  The occupants of the sports world are a reflection of the occupants of the real world.  That’s the counseling my inner sports fan received from my inner father.  It worked – for now.