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?

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