Saturday, January 21, 2017
A Gen-Xer’s Perspective
As published in The County Times (countytimes.somd.com)
By Ronald N. Guy Jr.
Once you’ve been around long enough to develop a generational identity, it’s common (because humans are curious) to ponder living life in a different era. I’ve done it, not because of a desire to escape reality via Doc Brown’s DeLorean, but because it’s fascinating to imagine navigating a past or some futuristic, Jetson’s existence (if my mind can sufficiently expand to consider the possibilities).
With four generations of my family still on earth (two off my stern, me and one off my bow), I’m at the perfect moment for this exercise: I’ve acquired a decent database of personal experiences, am aware of recent history and am cognizant of the speed with which the world is changing. I missed The Roaring 20’s, The Great Depression, Pearl Harbor and the national euphoria that followed the defeat of the Axis Powers in World War II – experiences my grandparents, members of The Greatest Generation, lived. My parents, Baby Boomers born in the late-1940s, dealt with the fear of nuclear war, Vietnam, Watergate and the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. But boy did they get to enjoy the best music – Elvis Presley, James Brown, Bob Dylan, Chuck Berry, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.
Born in 1972, I’m a member of Generation X, a comparatively small mass of humanity experts will tell you is cynical and disaffected. We have been consistently lied to by politicians, lack a great military accomplishment and will witness the erosion of American global dominance (militarily and economically). We won’t do as well as our parents – Boomers – but will be left to bear their financial burden while simultaneously coping with the perceived entitlement of Millennials. It’s enough to feel like “generation screwed”. But I don’t. Generation X, while arguably not overtly special in any discernable way, is incredibly unique. Change my date of birth? Never. Here’s why.
X is a generation of overlappers. We remember televisions with antennas and channel dials but were quick to embrace the digital era and high-definition (HD) technology. Our first calls were on landline telephones attached to cords; now we are masters of smart phones. We’ve seen a bad guy defeated – U.S.S.R. – and become an antagonist again – Russia. We grew up driving stick shifts and are on the cusp of self-driving cars. Segregation was a defeated evil, not a reality. The first high school paper we wrote was generated on a typewriter; our last college paper was drafted in Microsoft Word and emailed to our professors at the completion of an on-line class.
But every generation has its before and afters, its technological and social overlaps. What makes Generation X unique is that it straddles the Information Age and its revolution in human communication. Gen-Xers came of age before the internet and have, unlike most members of preceding generations, embraced its possibilities as adults. We’re fluent in text-speak, social media savants, proficient multi-taskers and capable consumers of today’s limitless data. But we can still hold face-to-face conversations with other humans, survive in a world without instant access to everything and enjoy disconnecting from the grid.
Which leads to the obvious and long-simmering question: What does this dribble have to do with sports? Well, a lot…I think. Gen-Xers…we grew up without ESPN, let alone ESPN2, ESPNews, ESPNU or ESPN Deportes. We mined our stats from newspapers and encyclopedias and learned about players by reading press guides and the backs of baseball cards. Following sports took time and dedication; it takes but a few clicks now. The mystery is mostly gone (not so good) but the growth of sports into a pop culture phenomena is undeniably super-cool.
Millennials and certainly Generation Z sports fans probably feel sorry for my one-time plight. But they should be jealous. I’m about to toggle between The World Series and Sunday Night Football – both in primetime and in HD, of course. For them, this is just how it’s always been; I’m old enough to know it hasn’t and to appreciate the journey to this amazing moment.
The point? These are extraordinary times - and not just for sports fans. Don’t be convinced otherwise.