Saturday, January 28, 2017
Ball Games and Togetherness
As published in The County Times (countytimes.somd.com)
By Ronald N. Guy Jr.
This column started as a four-article experiment on the connection between sports and everyday life.
That was nine years ago.
It has been an amazing experience. Humbling. Challenging. Fun. Some of the most enjoyable pieces to write over the years have been those scratched out before New Year’s. Here we are again, loyal Times readers. I’d be lying if I denied feeling the pressure to deliver something special. The blinking cursor…it’s a bit intimidating, even a little sinister.
In prior New Year’s pieces, I’ve spun through expected angles: the rapid passage of time, the preciousness of the moment and the importance of meaningful giving during a season now mostly awash in the frivolous exchange of stuff. The very first New Year’s “View” - at the end of 2009 and on the cusp of a new decade – opened with a melancholy review of the ills that marred the first 10 years of the new millennium: the circus-like 2000 presidential election, Katrina, steroids in sports, the murder of Sean Taylor, a cratered stock market and economy, Enron and, of course, 9/11 and the years of war that followed.
On the cusp of 2017, the underlying gloom of that piece has been rekindled. Why? The post-Presidential election blues? Kinda.
For this piece, though, the winner and the loser of the election is immaterial; it’s the process that matters. Mudslinging between candidates used to be the recurring, accepted low of political campaigns. Not anymore. We just witnessed the president-elect’s venom transcend his opponent and spew all over everyone not belonging to a narrowing segment of society. It was disturbing rhetoric diametrically counter to the basic tenants of this country and Christian fundamentals. Service-academy football even took its lumps.
To many voters, the president elect’s messaging was politically fatal, no matter the flaws – and there were many – of the other candidate. Others made peace with it after broadly considering all issues, the other option(s) and their personal situation.
But here’s the thing: Six weeks after the election, with the dust settled, the political emotions calmed and the healing peacefulness of the holiday season, I suspect an overwhelming majority of Americans are feeling rotten about what went down. Maybe not politically rotten (if your candidate won) but rotten in a human sense. It was a bad look for America and a supposedly decent people.
Another wild and likely popular guess: Washington isn’t going to instantly reinvent itself as a group of elected officials selflessly committed to constructive discord and producing for its customers. If there’s any swamp-draining to be done, it’s up to us and whatever decency and togetherness we can cobble together.
That aforementioned New Year’s 2010 piece didn’t just resonate because of its melancholy. After ripping off a depressing list of 2000-2009 events, that version of this writer eventually countered with an overwhelming menu of feel-good moments courtesy of local sports: the Ravens’ Super Bowl victory, Maryland’s men’s (2002) and women’s (2006) basketball championship, Georgetown’s return to the Final Four (2007), the Expos moving to D.C., the Capitals drafting Alex Ovechkin, Cal Ripken getting enshrined in Cooperstown and Art Monk and Darrell Green being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
I just slammed the clutch to the floor ahead of another dramatic shift in tone, this time without specific examples and in concept only. I needed sports ahead of 2010; I need sports again ahead of 2017. More than the diversion, I need sports’ example of people at their best. Between the lines, backgrounds, race, religion, politics and other “isms” dissolve; judgements are based on effort, attitude and talent. Between the lines, success and failure are shared and a common cause unites every coach and name on the roster. Deceit and indecency are not tolerated.
Sports aren’t always perfect, but if we were to vote on whether to nominate a football team or a presidential campaign as the singular example of human progress, I’m certain the former would win in a landslide. No recount. No hanging chads. No Electoral College shenanigans. There’s no vote in 2017, but there are plenty of games to watch…together. That’s reason for optimism.