Wednesday, March 18, 2020

A Toast to George Harrison

As published in The County Times (

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

In 1970, shortly after the start of another long-ago decade, former Beatle George Harrison released his solo album “All Things Must Pass”.  The title undoubtedly references the end of The Beatles just months earlier, but in classic, unassuming Harrison style, it conveys neither bitterness nor excessive optimism; rather, “All Things Must Pass” is a matter-of-fact statement of the obvious – time moves on, people evolve, situations change, doors close and others open.  The passage of all things isn’t good or bad; it just is.

Now, at another transition between decades, Harrison’s art is worth revisiting.  The changes in Harrison’s life during the 1960s are difficult to imagine, much less understand.  Perhaps that familiarity with upheaval is why he confronted his post-Beatles life with an album carrying such a nonchalant summation.  Ah, but such thinking would further underestimate the most underrated Beatle; more likely, he had a deep understanding of time, life and change.    

Considering the last decade in sports, Harrison’s prediction of fluidity held – mostly but not entirely, at least for now.  When 2010 arrived, the NBA was a very different place.  Kobe Bryant, now long retired, was on the verge of winning his final championship with the Lakers.  The Golden State Warriors were bottom feeders and offered no indication that they would win three championships by the decade’s end.  LeBron James, the best player on the planet, hadn’t yet won a championship 10 years ago; he has three now.

Talking baseball, the Cubs won the World Series in 2016, the team’s first since 1908.  1908!  Keeping it local, the Orioles started and ended the decade among MLB’s worst but did manage a few 90-ish win seasons and playoff berths between the swoons.  As for the Nats circa 2010, Stephen Strasburg was still months from his debut, Bryce Harper was about to be drafted, Anthony Rendon was a sophomore at Rice University and Juan Soto was…11 years old.  Insane.  From 69 wins in 2010, through much playoff heartache and eventually to a World Series championship in 2019, it was an epic decades for Nats nation.

The NFL you ask?  Okay, fine.  Tom Brady and Drew Bees, two 40-somethings, are still slinging it.  Lamar Jackson was 12 in 2010; he’s the NFL MVP now.  Comparing Baltimore and Washington football, the Ravens were 12-4 and ‘Skins 6-10 in 2010.  Those Ravens were coached by John Harbaugh; he’s still Baltimore’s coach.  Washington has had three head coaches in the decade and will soon have a fourth.  So, in other words, nothing much has changed in a decade – Baltimore is a flagship NFL franchise and Washington remains astoundingly incompetent.  Bah humbug. 

After that channeling of Ebenezer Scrooge, let’s end on a bright note: hockey.  In 2010, the Caps won the franchise’s first Presidents’ Trophy – one of three in the decade – but, true to form, lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Canadians.  It was just the latest entry in a multi-decade, seemingly never-ending, playoff horror film.  More excruciating playoff losses followed.  Then 2018 happened.  The Caps won the Stanley Cup (never gets old typing that). 

Who could have written that script?  And as a ball sits perched in Times Square waiting to introduce a new year and a new decade, who could write the next?  George Harrison already did, at least in abstract.    

The title track of Harrison’s classic album includes these lyrics: “Sunrise doesn’t last all morning…sunset doesn’t last all evening; darkness only stays the nighttime…in the morning it will fade away”.  Harrison, at least in song, predicted and found comfort in the permanence of impermanence.  What awaits on the journey to 2030?  Wins and losses, joys and sorrows or, as The Dude might say, “strikes and gutters” - all vague references to change and the unknown.  The specifics?  Stay tuned.  Harrison’s tip is to embrace it and know, good or bad, that all things must pass.  Not could.  Not might.  Must.  But his words are unmistakably hopeful, a feeling that permeates every New Year’s.  A toast then: to George Harrison, timeless advice, this moment, good fortune and quick sunrises to end any darkness.  Happy New Year!      

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