Sunday, February 25, 2018

A Holiday Wish With A Dash Of Sports

As published in The County Times (

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

There are these weird, explanation defying moments in life when, considering all facts and circumstances – the place, the company and how it and they make you feel – you conclude that you are, somehow and some way, in exactly the place where the governing cosmic forces have determined you should be. 

Such occasions can be powerful, pivot points in life – the day you met your spouse or the employment tip that led to a fulfilling career; others are more modest and simply fascinating for the sheer, unimaginable coincidence (or is it just that?).  Regardless, when pondering the series of predecessor events that put you there, with these fine people, at that precise instant, it baffles the mind. 

Consider a few famous intersections of people and places. 

Paul McCartney and John Lennon met through Ivan Vaughan, McCartney’s classmate.  Vaughan invited McCartney to check out a summer gig of The Quarrymen, a local Liverpool band with Lennon on guitar.  That was July 1957.  Seven years later Lennon, McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr – The Beatles - were performing on The Ed Sullivan Show.  Pity those other Quarrymen…

Four years after Lennon and McCartney’s introduction, two teenage acquaintances randomly met while waiting for a train.  One happened to have Chuck Berry and Muddy Waters records under his arm.  This led to a conversation about American blues – for which they had separately developed an affinity – and prompted the other to invite the owner of the rare vinyl gold over for a joint listen.  And that’s how Mick Jagger’s records landed on Keith Richards’ turntable in 1961.  The Rolling Stones are still going strong.

There are endless, mind-blowing examples like these.  Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were introduced through a mutual friend, Bill Fernandez.  And how about a few from the sports world (since sports is why you started reading this drivel)?  How did Tom Brady, California native, end up attending the University of Michigan, falling to the sixth round of the NFL Draft and landing in New England with Bill Belichick?  Tell me karmic forces didn’t influence the absolutely perfect marriage of player, style and team when Larry Bird and Magic Johnson were drafted by the Celtics and Lakers, respectively. 

Keeping it local, consider the truth-is-stranger-than-fiction stories of Cal Ripken and John Riggins.  The former grows up in Aberdeen, is drafted by the Orioles, plays for his dad and with his brother and eventually becomes the greatest player in Orioles’ history.  The latter skips the 1980 season, is coaxed back in 1981 by rookie head coach Joe Gibbs and ends up winning a Super Bowl and in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.     

Those are all massive, planet-tilting collisions of spectacular forces.  But we all have our own life-altering moments or more subtle experiences that land us in ideal situations with just the right people in just the right circumstance at just the right time.

Here’s one of my own.  My wife and I were in New Orleans recently.  While touring the New Orleans Jazz Museum, we happened upon a picture of Mahalia Jackson and Duke Ellington.  Several years ago she bought me a beautiful copy of Duke Ellington’s 1958 album Black, Brown and Beige featuring Mahalia Jackson.  As we admired the picture, I reminded her of that treasured Christmas gift and, wouldn’t you know, as we turned to leave that record was proudly displayed in the case centered in the room.  Of all the jazz artists and albums…my lady and I stumble on Duke, Mahalia and that specific record.  Cool stuff.

In these examples of wonderful coincidence and its alignment of people, places and time resides the essence of the holiday season: that we all find ourselves in the company of those we care about most.  And that, despite a tumultuous and divisive year and all of life’s typical chaos, we are here, together…right where we’re supposed to be during this very special season.  It’s my sincere wish that you enjoy such special moments with those you cherish most; and let us not forget those who, because of duty or other challenging circumstance, do not.

Happy Holidays.

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