Saturday, November 4, 2017

Toasting Tomorrow

As published in The County Times (

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

It is 12:46am on Friday, October 13, 2017.  The last Green Line Metro train leaves from the Navy Yard in 14 minutes. 

It is also just moments after Nationals OF Bryce Harper struck out to end Game 5 of the NLDS and to leave D.C. sports fans to digest yet another unimaginable, if predictable, playoff defeat.

I am…despondent.  Jason, make me your next victim.  I won’t put up a fight.  I won’t even run through the woods and trip in classic corny horror flick style.  I simply can’t take this anymore.

As my exhausted mind unwinds and my broken D.C. sports fan’s heart starts to heal, again, I ponder the greater sports landscape for something to ease the suffering.  There isn’t much; in fact, the two NFL Hall of Famers who come to mind make me feel worse. 

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, a man who has employed and defended some of the NFL’s most dubious characters, is threatening the employment of any Cowboys players who continues to demonstrate during the national anthem.  So that’s productive.  I hope his bluff is called. 

But there’s more. 

Rarely outdueled for ultimate villain status, Jones’s insulated billionaire owner muscle-flex was one-upped by another NFL legend: Mike Ditka.  During a recent radio interview with Jim Gray, Ditka, the one-time hard-nosed player and coach turned lovable NFL icon, said “There has been no racial oppression in the last 100 years that I know of.”  Wait.  What?

Ditka quickly apologized for the remark.  Fair enough…I guess.  Filed under “Forgiven, not forgotten.”

This was not the tonic I sought in the aftermath of another D.C. team being consumed by “The Darkness” – the evil sports curse enveloping the District.  No, that isn’t’ melodramatic.  Consider the resumes of the ‘Skins, Wizards, Capitals and Nats since the days of grunge: no championships since 1992; no playoff “final four” appearances since 1998; and a combined 4-14 record in the last 18 deciding playoff games. 

The Darkness is so powerful that the Chicago Cubs - the one-time poster franchise for curses and perpetual heartache – felt destined to be touched by game-winning good fortune.  What the billy goat and Bartman once were, The Darkness now is.

How did this happen?  The first twenty years of my life were a fan’s joyride: three Super Bowl wins by the ‘Skins, an Orioles’ World Series title in 1983, an always good if not great Capitals team and even a faint memory of the Bullets’ 1978 Championship. 

But since the ‘Skins’ 1992 championship, since becoming an adult, sports have brought me, in the immortal words of a growling Clubber Lang, “paaaaaaaaain”.  Like a spouse in a dysfunctional marriage, I watch knowing something bad will happen, but I can’t look away out of some unhealthy duty.   

I should have been prepared for this; the self-loathing is unjustified and a bit pathetic.  How many times did my parents tell me childhood and adolescence encompass the best years of your life?  That a rising personal odometer coincides with more aches and pains, responsibility and worry…and less resilience to deal with it all.  That with each year a layer of your youth-onion is peeled away, leaving you a little less carefree and little more cynical.  That time exposes you to the truth about our flawed (maybe fatally) species and the world’s very serious ills. 

In this way, we live in reverse.  Life starts and, for the fortunate, ends in diapers, but much of the goodness – at least the sustained, unbounded joy - is front-loaded.  I knew this already; it was unnecessary for my sports teams to so perfectly embody it.  But since I’m self-soothing with sports-life parallels, here’s another: both offer recurring opportunities to renew the pursuit of happiness.  In sports, it’s the rejuvenating and recurring hope of a new season; in life, it’s the promise accompanying each new day.   

I suppose I’ll find comfort in that and attempt to overlook the depressing site that’s now on my television screen: the Cubs enjoying a locker room champagne shower at my expense. 

A toast then, to getting older and to next season.  If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.  Cheers.

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