Friday, September 4, 2020


As published in The County Times (, August 2020

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

One of my favorite modern albums is Ray LaMontagne’s “God Willin’ & the Creek Don’t Rise.”  The music – soothing, deep…almost meditative - is phenomenal.  The title is a psychological grabber too – a reminder to be in the moment and enjoy life, as beauty is often fragile and fleeting.

Many in Southern Maryland recently realized that fragility.  I don’t know if God wasn’t willing, but creek certainly did rise - to levels I’ve never seen in my lifetime - courtesy of Isaias, Mother Nature’s latest angry tropical spawn.  It was difficult to see large swaths of my hometown – Leonardtown – turned into a water world.  The awful swells inundated roads, vehicles, businesses and homes and broke many hearts under a flood of painful emotion.  Now the processing of this disaster and rebuild is underway, the latter likely happening more quickly than the former.  For all those impacted, be steadfast and get well soon.  And for all those tirelessly assisting family and friends back to their feet, thank you.


This has been a difficult year to say the least – school closures, virus anxiety, sports cancellations at all levels, missed vacations and family events, unemployment and business upheaval.  And now a natural disaster.  Because why not?  It’s 20…bleeping…20. 

It has been several weeks now since three of four major sports restarted play.  The NBA’s product while on its Disney World lockdown has been quite good.  Same for the NHL, even if men on ice in the blistering August heat makes no sense.  MLB has been choppy with several COVID outbreaks causing schedule chaos.  Still, live sports are back to offer some normalcy and a welcomed distraction from, well, damn near everything these days.

As a life-long, rabid sports fan, I should love this.  The empty stadiums are odd, the cardboard cutouts of fans are cheesy and the piped in fake game noises feel like an unfortunate extension of society’s manufactured, manipulated and inorganic social media living.  But with a frenetic 60-game MLB regular-season sprint and overlapping NBA and NHL playoffs in three North American bubble cities that necessitate daily games stacked from mid-afternoon to midnight, such oddities are easily overlooked.  After being forced to go off sports cold turkey and for four long months, this bizarre and intense sports calendar should have me feeling completely bubblicious and begging The County Times to let me write at least two articles every week.

But I have no juice.  I watch, but the games cycle through the evening as little more than background noise.  The Caps blew early leads and dropped the first two games of their playoff series against the New York Islanders.  This normally would have prompted a volley of foul language hurled at an innocent T.V. and people far, far away from earshot.  This year, I responded to the 0-2 hole with a listless shrug.  As for Nats’ defense of their World Series title, I find myself more concerned about the team’s ace pitchers maintaining their health and the growth of a few young talents than I am about chasing another beer shower and championship parade. 

It just feels like a mulligan.  All of it.  Thanks for playing, fellas.  I appreciate the effort.  The distraction is valuable.  But really, what does it mean?  Certainly not as much as a traditional season would have.  If fans can’t manage the same fervor, it is difficult to believe players have complete emotional and physical investment while playing under quarantine and/or in empty, cavernous arenas.  There’s no escaping the gimmicky nature of these seasons.  Essentially a bunch of professional athletes were sent to a months-long summer camp. 

At this point, I just want the year to end without any more severe weather, with a normal school year for our kids, with a vaccine and a better, more inclusive, tolerant and decent future for our country.  If, along the journey to that place where big wishes are granted, the Caps or Nats manage more playoff magic and my nameless NFL team actually plays a full season, I’ll manage a smile, if not a primal, guttural cheer.  The guess, in these most troubling times, is many share that sentiment.

United Front

 As published in The County Times (

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

We are now 148 days past the NBA’s sudden COVID shutdown, but a week into its unprecedented bubble city reboot.  Baseball’s back too, but after playing briefly outside of a tightly controlled environment, COVID cases with the Miami Marlins, Philadelphia Phillies and St. Louis Cardinals have caused postponements and tattooed a big question mark on the rest of the season.  If this is any indication of how sports will fare while operating where pathogens roam, the chances of football this fall are slim (at least football with any acceptable level of competitive integrity).  And let’s hope MLB’s bubble-less experience isn’t a prelude for school re-openings. 

Rumors are swirling that poor choices by some Marlins players caused the outbreak.  Bad choices by unsupervised humans?  Get out of here.  You mean like how the nation shut down in March and April, made progress against the viral enemy, then rushed to re-open around Memorial Day with no uniform strategy other than the hope that 300 million people would put the country’s interests ahead of their own hankering for a mask-less life featuring massive pool parties, nights at the club and political rallies?  Just this past weekend I watched a mask-less couple enter a local restaurant without seemingly a care in the world.  Maybe they just missed the massive sign on the door requiring masks upon entry.  I figured once they got inside and saw all the employees and patrons dutifully wearing masks, they would do the right thing and extend the same courtesy.  Or not…

You know who has been doing the right thing?  Washington Football Team (love how that sounds) QB Alex Smith.

It was the afternoon of Sunday, November 18, 2018.  I was leaving Miami International Airport in a rental car and looking for the fastest trip out of the city and toward a unique world where roosters and the ghosts of pirates, writers and former presidents roam – Key West.  I flipped on the radio to get an update on NFL action and, specifically Washington’s pivotal game against the Houston Texans.  It was late in the second half, Washington was trailing and backup QB Colt McCoy was in the game.

That’s where I was when I learned that Alex Smith had suffered a gruesome compound fracture of his lower right leg, an injury that immediately threatened his career, then the viability of his limb and, ultimately, his life. 

Where were you?

Smith’s recovery since was chronicled in the documentary “Project 11”.  It is equally inspirational and disturbing.  The 17 surgeries aside, there are clips of Smith’s leg in the film that leave the cringing viewer marveling at modern medicine and the quarterback’s resolve.  For those that haven’t seen it, I won’t attempt a detailed description.  Just know this: A dangerous infection necessitated significant tissue removal. 

With that context, it is a miracle that Smith just has his leg, much less that he’s moving around without restriction and living a normal life – but he is.  Admission: This is where I thought the story would end.  After seeing that injury and learning of the complications that threatened his life, I figured happily ever after was Smith being able to run around in the backyard with his kids.

Smith, however, is flirting with a different conclusion.  Last week he was cleared by his medical team to resume football activities.  The Washington Football Team officially placed Smith on the Physically Unable to Perform list and his availability during the upcoming training camp is uncertain, but even the hint of Smith on a football field for anything more than polite applause to acknowledge his journey is a comeback of biblical proportions.  That he has made it this far is a testament to the alignment of his mind, body and spirit.  It is also stands witness to the shared commitment that he, his wife and family and his tending medical professionals had in defeating the bacteria that threatened his life and avoiding an amputation. 

Now, to scale that gritty team effort nationally in order to disintegrate political divides, divisive rhetoric and false claims and create a united front against a novel virus…

This Feels Different

 As published in The County Times (, August 2020

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

Bi-weekly status check: it has been 92 days since the NBA suspended its season and 36 days since schools closed.  The NBA is targeting a late July return in an Orlando bubble; hopefully everyone stays healthy and a season is salvaged. If schools reopen on schedule later this summer, and families feel confident in this return to normalcy (as much as one can living with COVID-19), then we will be in a much better place.

We are not in a good place at present. 

In the 12 years this column has appeared in this fine paper, no entries have generated as many responses as those covering Colin Kaepernick’s protest of racial injustice during the national anthem.  Some feedback was positive.  Most was flippant defiance.  All was welcomed.

The disagreements with expressed opinions were rooted in the common interpretation of Kaepernick’s protest as anti-American and anti-military.  Kaepernick denied his act was either, even switching from sitting on the bench during the anthem to kneeling, after thoughtful conversations with Nate Boyer, a former Green Beret.  But the die was cast for certain cross-sections of America – Kaepernick was ungrateful, didn’t appreciate his country, its military or his afforded opportunities. 

Power-brokers enforced this narrative.  In 2016, then presidential candidate Donald Trump suggested Kaepernick, “…try another country” and has gleefully criticized the former quarterback in the years since.  The NFL first condemned Kaepernick’s actions, then eventually banned kneeling during the anthem.  But it’s what the league did quietly – blackballing Kaepernick and ending his career (an objective analysis of employed NFL quarterbacks from 2017-2019 supports no other conclusion) – that spoke the loudest.   

The most frustrating part of the bastardization of Kaepernick’s message was that the original, real and critically important issue he sought to combat – systemic racism and police mistreatment of minorities – was lost in the static.  The anti-American, anti-military angle was his critics’ primary fuel, but it would be naïve to think that that argument wasn’t, at least to some extent, a convenient cover for the heart of the matter - a fundamental disbelief in the validity of Kaepernick’s beef with white America and police authority. 

Almost four years after Kaepernick first took a knee, and after more minority lives have been lost while in police custody or at the hands of racist vigilantes, here we are again.  But this time, aside from now President Trump’s callous rhetoric, much has changed.  The issue isn’t being clouded by tangential debates over the merits and motivations of a genuflecting quarterback.  No, there is tragic, undeniable evidence in 2020 of the injustice Kaepernick tried to illuminate in 2016 – a disturbing nine minute video of George Floyd, handcuffed, held face down in the street under a white police officer’s knee, desperately voicing his distress, while his life is slowly taken. 

Now protests rage in urban and rural America and around the globe.  Sadly, it took Freddie Gray, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and many other victims to realize the pressing truth Kaepernick was conveying in his silent but powerful act four years ago.  America is in crisis again over an old, recurring and disgraceful flaw – systemic racism. 

Still, somewhere in all this death and unrest is an opportunity.  This feels different from Ferguson, Charlottesville and Baltimore.  It is bigger and the push to “fix this” is coming from black and white America.  There are more voices screaming “enough” than ones snickering, waiting for the chaos to subside and planning a return to status quo.  Drew Brees issued an apology after regurgitating tired old criticisms of Kaepernick; he then sent a note challenging Trump to deeper reflection.  Even Roger Goodell, the kingpin of Kaepernick’s silencing and a political operative for the White House, admitted “We were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier.”  It was an unfashionably late course-correction, failed to mention Kaepernick by name and will be proven authentic only by action, but the NFL’s advocacy is significant.  

What must Kaepernick be feeling now?  Frustrated, no doubt, that more – especially his employer - didn’t understand four years ago.  But mostly hopeful, I think, that the movement he envisioned and the change he desired might finally be underway. 

Lights Please

 As published in The County Times (, July 2020

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

Bi-weekly status check: it has been 134 days since the NBA shut down, but its Orlando bubble re-start begins July 30.  MLB’s opening day is a week early earlier – July 23, the day this screed goes to press.  The NFL is charging along, business as usual, toward a full season in the fall.  Meanwhile, college football is gradually scaling back its pending season.  I suppose it is harder on the conscience to expose amateur athletes lacking union representation to a potentially vicious pathogen than it is to nudge well-compensated professional athletes into the viral playground of close contact and heavy breathing.  Our dual realities continue to coexist.  Nevertheless, let us hope – with prayers, rabbit feet, crossed fingers, horseshoes, four-leaf clovers and whatever other good luck sorcery you subscribed to - that this all goes well. 

No amount of luck can overcome the organizational buffoonery of D.C.’s now nameless football team.  As if a begrudging re-brand wasn’t embarrassing enough, The Washington Post came off the top rope with a lethal finishing move last week: a shocking piece by Will Hobson and Liz Clarke alleging long-term and uncontrolled sexual and verbal harassment of female employees by male co-workers.  The timeline for the allegations was lengthy – 2006 to 2019 – the number of sources citing misconduct was startling – 15 former female staff members – and several high-ranking members of the organization were involved, including Larry Michael, the team’s suddenly retired radio voice, and Alex Santos, the now former director of pro personnel.

The Post’s piece reads like something from 1960s corporate America or a documentary on outrageous fraternity behavior.  The women reported salacious texts, inappropriate touching, men on lower floors looking up glass staircases as women descended, requests that female employees wear tighter clothes and office pools over whether female colleagues had had breast augmentation. 

How is this possible???  What kind of clown show is Dan Snyder running?  I thought this team was just awful on the field; it is worse off of it.  If the world of professional sports was a municipality, the Washington football club would be the sewer.  I applaud Sean McVay, Kirk Cousins, Kyle Shanahan, Trent Williams and every other player or coach who escaped this awful institution with their dignity and careers intact. 

Three questions – ones that often apply in life’s ethical and moral crises – will decide Snyder’s future as owner: what did he know, when did he know it and what did he do about it?  At best he truly didn’t have a clue.  If that’s the case, he is stunningly incompetent.  If he had even a hint something was up, then he’s complicit and should be forced to sell the team and live with the stain of this sordid episode on his already dreadful reputation.  So which is it?  The King of Incompetence or The Complicit CEO.  Place your bets.  I know where I’m laying my chips.

In addition to the women who courageously shared their stories, the other power-player in this is The Washington Post.  Hobson and Clarke gave 15 women the outlet they never had within Snyder’s perverse organization.  Dogged, relentless journalism exposed this story.  The recently mocked, maligned and vilified free press – an “enemy of the state” some have said - put the spotlight on a corrupt boys club that had existed in darkness for over a decade. 

If you doubt the importance of a free press, watch the movie “Spotlight” or “All the President’s Men”.  Or consider these words from late Senator John McCain, “Journalists play a major role in the promotion and protection of democracy and our unalienable rights, and they must be able to do their jobs freely.”  Or these from then outgoing President Barack Obama when urged the press to maintain its tenacity, “ do the hard work of getting to the bottom of stories…and to push those of us in power to be the best version of ourselves and to push this country to be the best version of itself.”  Or better yet, just pull up The Washington Post’s online addition and read the heading: “Democracy Dies in Darkness.” 

Today Dan Snyder is staring into a blinding light.

Last Chance

 As published in The County Times (, July 2020

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

Bi-weekly status check: it has been 120 days since the NBA suspended its season and the corona monster shut down sports and, largely, our lives.  Happy four-month anniversary!  Our fling with the coronavirus has lasted longer than most high school relationships…and some marriages!

As the calendar trickles past the July 4, baseball should be preparing for the All-Star Game.  Instead, MLB hasn’t even started and the Midsummer classic was canceled for the first time since World War II.  Meanwhile, the NBA’s attempt at bubble cities is floundering after several positive COVID-19 tests and numerous cases with LSU and Clemson football players makes any football this fall feel unlikely. 

As for the rest of life and the sports world, much is changing.  In the wake of George Floyd’s murder, America is having a passionate debate with itself.  How will law enforcement and citizens, particularly those of color, interact in the future?  How will society’s cancerous racism be overcome?  What are acceptable displays of American history?  Obvious example: should we continue honoring vestiges of the Confederacy – a nation that existed only because of its secession from our union and largely to perpetuate the subjugation of African Americans - with elaborate statues around the country? 

The trend indicates America is undergoing a rebranding and will re-emerge as a nation closer to the one documented long ago.  This transition has spread to sports, where the NFL did a curious but commendable about-face on Colin Kaepernick and player protests, and debates have reignited over the use of Native American names and imagery.

"We'll never change the name. It's that simple. NEVER — you can use caps."

Washington owner Dan Snyder spoke those words to USA Today Sports in 2013.  It’s rarely wise, in all things life, to use absolutes - just ask Rafael “I never used steroids” Palmeiro, George H.W. “Read my lips: No new taxes” Bush and Nick “I’m not going to be the Alabama coach” Saban, among many others. 

Now seven years later, Snyder is navigating a different world and is reportedly embracing what has always seemed inevitable - a name and, presumably, a logo change.  There should be no struggle this time.  No foolish defiance.  No misleading pride.  No prioritization of profit over morality.  This must happen.

As an ardent, lifelong supporter of the franchise, I understand fans’ consternation.  To many, the current branding represents pride, Super Bowls and special times with loved ones.  But it is wrong to use a name for a football team that would otherwise only be used to denigrate.  It is wrong to profit off people whose land was systematically taken and whose culture was willfully disregarded.  The shameful treatment of native people by European settlers on this continent and individual associations with a football team cannot be conveniently separated.  Similarly, a Confederate flag cannot represent “southern pride” and not the Civil War and slavery.  The positive doesn’t cancel out the negative - each coexist.

Moreover, the name’s source is long-time owner George Preston Marshall – a segregationist who fought against NFL integration and whose worldview resulted in Washington being the last NFL team to employ a minority player (Bobby Mitchell).  Is that a legacy to perpetuate?     

Snyder’s answer is now, apparently, an overdue “no”.  Is a change of heart behind his shift in opinion?  Doubtful.  It is more likely an acknowledgment of the inevitable and a play to long-term profitability.  After all, Snyder deflected the heat seven years ago with a cross-country tour of native reservations and the establishment of the Original Americans Foundation.  If you doubt that was a charade, search for the OAF.  There are dated fragments on the team’s website but the foundation has no website, Facebook page or Twitter account (at least that I could find). 

Still, this is a unique moment in history and offers Snyder another chance to set a new course for the franchise (even if its impetus is more financial than moral).  This is Snyder’s last chance to at least create the illusion of a voluntary act and a desire to do the right thing.  His next “all caps” declaration better be to announce the team’s new name.

Going Though Something

 As published in The County Times (, June 2020

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

Bi-weekly status check: it has been 106 long and bizarre days since the NBA suspended its season.  We should be celebrating recently crowned NHL (maybe the Caps?) and NBA champions (definitely not the Wizards) and enjoying Serena Williams’s attempts at the French Open and Wimbledon to tie Margaret Court’s record 24 major tennis championships.  Instead, the NHL and NBA are planning frantic championship sprints in bubble cities, MLB is struggling to salvage a season and the NFL is pondering helmets retrofitted with anti-COVID face shields.  Meanwhile, the viral culprit of all of this is re-energizing in new hot spots around the country.

In the immortal words of Vince Lombardi, “What the hell’s going on out here?”  Good question, sir.  I saw a dude wearing an “Occupy Mars” shirt the other day.  It feels like we already have. 

On, then, to good and rather important news.  In some ways this article is long overdue; in others - as we battle a pandemic and social injustice - discussing psychological health feels timely.  Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love started talking about “it”, specifically anxiety and depression, in 2017.  And he didn’t address either generically, as part of his foundation or in the context of loved ones struggling with mental health.  No, Kevin Wesley Love - a big, strong and classically masculine professional athlete, and one whose middle name is an homage to former Bullet Wes Unseld, another rugged man among men - talked to the world about his personal struggles and the panic attack he had…on the court…during an NBA game. 

The psychological freight train arrived, unannounced, in November 2017.  He couldn’t catch his breath.  His heart was racing.  Death seemed imminent.  The game went on, coaches drew up plays during timeouts, but Love, lost in the death spiral of his mind, was disconnected from this familiar basketball reality.  Ultimately he couldn’t physically bring himself to re-enter the game and fled to the locker room in an attempt to escape the inferno raging inside him.

Love survived and even returned to play in the Cavaliers’ next game, but the episode left him confused and searching to determine what happened and why.

Love had had a panic attack.  Why it happened was - as it often is for anyone with such experiences - a complex trip into his mental make-up, scars acquired through his life and a series of recent triggers.  Instead of shrugging off the episode and moving on, Love took the difficult journey into understanding and controlling the beast within him.  More courageously even than facing it for himself, he did so publicly.  In March 2018, he penned a raw, personal account of the attack and his recovery in The Players Tribune (a highly recommended read) and has continued his mental health advocacy in the years since.

ESPN gives the Arthur Ashe Award at the ESPYS each year to the athlete reflecting “the spirit of Arthur Ashe, possessing strength in the face of adversity, courage in the face of peril and the willingness to stand up for their beliefs no matter what the cost” (as an aside, Ashe’s memoir "Days of Grace”, a gripping farewell to life and his family, is another suggested read).  Last Sunday, Love received the award for his bravery in discussing his struggles and on-going efforts to raise awareness of mental health.  Since 2018, Love has turned a spotlight on a pervasive and invisible affliction that, due to lingering social stigmas, is still misunderstood and for which proactive treatment remains inconsistent – especially for prideful men. 

While physically just a trophy, the Arthur Ashe Award represents an official “thank you” from Love’s peers in the world of sports; unofficially, it expresses gratitude from anyone struggling directly or indirectly with mental health.  As Love said in his Player’s Tribune piece, “Everyone is going through something we can’t see” – encouraging words as we tote around our burdens and a reminder when encountering others carrying theirs.  Elvis Costello once sang, “What’s so funny about peace, love and understanding?”  Nothing.  The truth is everyone needs more of each as we seek to find and maintain health of mind, body and spirit.   

Jordan's the GOAT, but...

 As published in The County Times (, May 2020

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

Bi-weekly status check: it has been 78 days since the NBA suspended its season and 22 days since schools shuttered for the year.  March 26 was supposed to MLB’s opening day.  Last May, the Nationals had a brutal-turned-famous 19-31 record; now, we long for them play again, win or lose.  Graduations have gone virtual and workplaces are increasingly remote.  We are masked (mostly) and distanced, frustrated yet hopeful, divided yet together.  This experience has brought out the best in some and the worst in others.  COVID-19 has claimed over 100,000 American lives; too many more will die.  This moves many to tears; others are disturbingly numb and defiant (or is ignorant and selfish?).  Regardless, this truth is shared: we face many more months living with this virus in a skewed reality.

In the meantime, sports limp on, as do the “Views”.  And being of sufficient vintage to recall both the disco era and the arrival of the NBA’s Greatest of all Time (GOAT), I have had the fabulous Donna Summer and the indomitable Michael Jordan on my mind.

You caught the connection, right?  “Last Dance” – both a 10-part docuseries on Jordan’s Chicago Bulls and Summer’s iconic disco song?  Anyway, director Jason Hehir’s masterpiece on the 1998 Bulls, with fabulous, chronological storytelling of Jordan’s career, was a welcomed nostalgia trip and a perfect respite from the COVID-induced sports desert. 

My personal ties to Jordan are deep.  My first vivid NCAA Championship game memory is North Carolina’s defeat of Georgetown in 1982.  Jordan, a freshman, hit the winning shot.  I remember his games against Len Bias’s Terrapins, the first generation of Air Jordan shoes, his 1988 NBA Slam Dunk Contest victory over Dominique Wilkins, his brutal playoff battles with the Bad Boy Detroit Pistons and all…those…championships.

The NBA has changed considerably since 1998.  The competition is gentler, effort is inconsistent, offensive approaches are increasingly about isolation and either a three-point shot or a dunk, trophy-hunting stars form superteams and “load management” (taking games off) is an accepted practice. 

With that grumpy backdrop, I wanted two things from “Last Dance”: first, to accurately portray Jordan as the insane, rip-your-heart-out competitor that he was and, second, settle the GOAT debate once and for all.  “Last Dance” delivered on both accounts.  Jordan didn’t take games off, he was as passionate about defense as his jump shot, the early-career losses to the Celtics and Pistons didn’t prompt him to tuck tail, run from Chicago and join forces with other stars, and unlike anyone I’ve ever seen, he rose to deliver the greatness demanded by the biggest, championship-winning moments.

He’s the greatest basketball player ever.

With that settled, an omission: “Last Dance” delivered two “buts” I didn’t expect.  Jordan’s approach taught many life-lessons: the value of determination, hard work, clear focus, staying the course against adversity, not taking the easy way out (superteams), turning slights into motivation, maintaining confidence and an unwavering belief in yourself.  

In the moment, Jordan’s competitive madness made sense and its effectiveness is unquestioned – six championships.  But has it aged well?  In a basketball sense, yes; in a human sense, no.  Jordan permanently fractured many relationships – with peers of his era and some teammates – in the name of winning.  He is now, in many ways, alone at the top. 

Jordan seems at peace with this.  In his words, “winning has a price…and leadership has a price.”  True.  However that prompts the second “but” from “Last Dance”: why was Jordan only willing to pay that price as a basketball player?  With the exception of perhaps Tiger Woods, no athlete has held more global significance than Michael Jordan.  He sold a lot of shoes, Gatorade and Happy Meals with that influence.  Where was the great courage, determination and competitiveness to adopt an off-the-court cause and advance the world, kicking and screaming, into some better version of itself?  As did Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.  And Jim Brown.  And Muhammad Ali.  And, even, LeBron James.

As Spider-Man knew, with great power comes great responsibility.  It is fair to have expected more from Jordan.  “Last Dance” confirmed that he’s the GOAT, but only on the basketball court.

Magic Forkball

 As published in The County Times (, May 2020

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

You know the drill by now, fellow bleacher bums.  The first order of business is a quarantine check. 

It has been 64 days since the NBA suspended its season, 63 days since schools closed temporarily and eight days since they shuttered for the year.  Got Zoom?  We should be sitting in these cheap seats to together, just inches much less six feet apart, discussing the start of the NFL’s minicamps and getting increasingly amped for the Capitals’ push to another Stanley Cup.  Instead we are lamenting the recent cancellation of the Little League World Series, an event where kids from around the world teach us how a common love and a shared experience can trivialize divides in nationality, language, race, religion and any other barrier cooked up by the simple-minded, cynical and generally flawed adult world. 

This all stinks, of course, but isolation, facemasks, social distancing and cancelled sporting events save lives and lighten the load on health care workers – so it’s a small price to pay.  A very small price.  For the patriot readers, if George Washington or Patrick Henry were alive today, they would be sacrificing for their fellow Americans.  For the Christian readers, Jesus would be masked up and all about touch-free takeout, at least when not giving virtual sermons.  For everyone, included in those groups or not, just be a good human.  Our wellness is now very much intertwined.   

Roy Face and Washington baseball are also connected.  Face pitched 16 seasons in the major leagues from 1953-1969, with all but one being with the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Face was traded during the 1968 season to Detroit, where he stayed long enough to have a cup of coffee.  He finished his career the next season with the newly established Montreal Expos, the franchise that ultimately moved south some 35 years later and are now our WORLD CHAMPION Washington Nationals (nope, never gets old). 

Embarrassing admission: Despite owning a version of “Total Baseball: The Ultimate Baseball Encyclopedia” for over 25 years, I had never heard of Face until a recent ESPN article by David Schoenfield chronicled his 18-1 record in 1959 – a major-league record .947 winning percentage.  Further research revealed Face was far from a one-season wonder.  From 1958-1962, Face led the majors in saves four times and saved three World Series games in 1960, a feat since tied several times and bested only by John Wetteland’s four saves in 1996.  But neither Wetteland nor the five other pitchers with three saves pitched more than the 10.1 innings Face did in the Pirates’ 1960 Fall Classic victory over the New York Yankees.

Face wasn’t done setting records or with Washington sports.  Over all those seasons in Pittsburgh, Face took the mound 807 times for the Pirates, tying the then record for most appearances by a pitcher with a single club.  Whose record did he equal?  Washington Senators pitchers and all-time baseball legend Walter Johnson, of course.  You can’t make this stuff up.

Roy Face, who was all of 5’8” and 155lbs, managed this long, notable major league career because he found his magic trick.  See, Face threw a forkball, something of a split-fingered fastball and quite the novelty for his era.  How fabulous.  Isn’t that what we’re all doing in life – hunting for what makes us unique?  Foraging for a sustaining force?  Scrambling for something that sets us apart?  Searching for our version of a magic forkball?  It could be a skill that starts a career, a calling that provides lifelong inspiration, a friendship that develops into a business partnership or an innocent spark that leads to a relationship, love, a family and contentment.  More broadly, it could be a magic elixir that solves one of society’s “isms” or “phobias”, the recent rise in divisive tribalism, wealth inequality or an existential threat like climate change.  Or it could even be a pertinent discovery that overcomes an incredible challenge faced in a specific moment in history – something like a vaccine for an evil, pervasive virus sweeping the globe, suspending personal liberties and creating uncertainty, fear and heartache.  Yeah, give me…give us all…a magic forkball like that.

Twelve Years Ago

 As published in The County Times (, April 2020

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

Say it with me: “#$!% COVID-19.”  Ah, that feels better.

Quarantine check: it has been 50 days since the NBA suspended its season and 49 days since schools closed.  We should be checking baseball standings and following the Capitals’ playoff charge to another possible Stanley Cup.  Instead we are watching re-runs of old baseball games, encore broadcasts of the Capitals’ march to the 2018 Stanley Cup and “The Last Dance”, that so far so sweet docuseries on the 1998 Chicago Bulls. 

Thank God for the memories, I suppose.

Last Thursday, the NFL Draft mercifully stepped into this barren wasteland of cancelled athletic events and nostalgia grabs to offer the fix we craved: a live sporting event, minus actual blood and sweat, but with all the uncertainty, intrigue, excitement and even the occasional tears.  Like interactions with family, work and schooling these days, it was virtual, which isn’t familiar or ideal, but with candid shots into the homes of coaches and general managers - lavish spreads, elite landscaping, kids and pets! - it was curiously different.  What stood out most though, was that everyone – ESPN, the league, teams and prospective draftees – adapted and made it work.  And isn’t that what we’re all doing right now: making “it”, whatever “it” is, work?

Moments into the broadcast, Ravens defensive linemen Calais Campbell, the current Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year, made a brief cameo.  I hadn’t even gotten my head wrapped around Commissioner Roger Goodell announcing picks from his man cave, Bill Belichick’s “war room”/kitchen table or Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury’s palatial spread before the NFL opened up this old wound. 

Campbell has haunted me for a dozen years.  See, back before the 2008 NFL Draft, he was a top prospect from the University of Miami and seemed a good fit for my struggling, Jim Zorn/Vinny Cerrato era ‘Skins of Washington.  I am going to extend some benevolence to myself and those with similar rooting interests by cutting this long, sordid story short.  So here’s the gist: the ‘Skins traded out of the first round and ended up with three second round picks.  Campbell was available for the first two of those picks but the ‘Skins chose WR Devin Thomas and TE Fred Davis instead.  Thomas lasted just over two years in D.C. and managed only 40 receptions.  Despite showing promise, Davis’s career was over by 2013 after a series of drug suspensions and a DUI charge.      

Meanwhile Campbell has been to five Pro Bowls, is a three-time All-Pro, was Defensive Player of the Year in 2017, is a member of the NFL 2010’s All-Decade Team and won the Bart Starr Award and Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year in 2019.  But wait, there’s more!  My favorite stat: Campbell, a DEFENSIVE LINEMAN, has three career touchdowns…matching the total touchdown catches Thomas managed in his “illustrious” career!

Ugh.  Like I said, haunted…for…twelve…years.

I watched the 2008 NFL Draft at my sister’s house where our family had gathered to celebrate my nephew’s birthday.  Not virtually.  We were there live and in person.  No one wore masks or practiced social distancing.  Kids ran around like wild animals, a culinary spread filled the kitchen, candles were perfectly placed on the cake, presents covered the table, smoke billowed from the grill and adults mingle on the deck around a cooler of beer.  Aside from the whiff on Campbell, it was a perfect day.

This year I wished my nephew a happy birthday via text.  My dad and I talked on the phone before the draft about the ‘Skins’ prospects.  After Philadelphia shocked the world by taking QB Jalen Hurts in the second round, I poked my bother-in-law and diehard Philly Goon with a text.  It was okay, I guess – a sign of the times for football fans…a sign of the times for the world.  Truth is, I’d trade it all in a second for another combined in-person draft day and birthday party, even it if meant the ‘Skins choosing two duds instead of this year’s version of Calais Campbell.      

No doubt that’s a draft day trade we would all make.

Stay safe.  Be well.

Corona the Genie

 As published in The County Times (, April 2020

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

It has been 36 days since the NBA suspended its season and 34 days since schools closed.  This week we woulda, coulda been wondering how Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods missed the cut at The Masters and why the golf gods ruined our sacred spring event and “A tradition unlike any other.” 

Oh to have such problems. 

Instead we, all of us – not blues or reds, black or white, Christian or Jew, gay or straight, etcetera and so forth – are dealing with, well, you know – the microorganism that hatched from Hell, spawned in Wuhan, China and silently proliferated the globe. 

But that’s not why you started reading.  It was the intriguing title, wasn’t it?  No?  What then?  Sheer boredom?  Understandable and since you’re here - on to the story.

While strolling down my lane, properly masked and remaining at least six feet from other humans (which isn’t all bad depending on those encountered), I find what appears to be a genie’s lamp in the grass.  Skeptical but old enough to remember re-runs of “I Dream of Jeannie”, I rub it with no expectation of magic.  But sure enough, a groggy genie (or was he drunk?) appeared and reluctantly offered to grant three wishes.  

There’s a catch, though.  My initial doubt that this lamp was little more than a hollow trinket severely limited the apparition’s offer.  The genie, we’ll call him Corona, knew I was a sports writer in a time of no sports.  Corona, wanting to help my plight but also penalize for my doubt, said he would grant three interviews with any sports luminaries of my choice, but one had to be an active player, one retired and one deceased. 

I chose Nationals pitcher Sean Doolittle, former New Orleans Saint Steve Gleason and ‘Skins Hall of Famer Bobby Mitchell, who passed away on April 5.  At least that’s how the bizarre dream went.  Social distancing has activated my subconscious - and arguably a wicked psychosis. 

The choice of Doolittle defies explanation; maybe his love of Star Wars piqued my interest.  Gleason, I get – his story is inspirational.  Watch the documentary “Gleason” if you haven’t…just have tissues near.  Picking Mitchell was obvious too; he is the most important person in the history of Washington professional football.

Whoa.  What?  Most important? 

It’s fair to take umbrage.  Sammy Baugh, Sonny Jurgensen, John Riggins or Joe Gibbs would all be reasonable candidates.  Baugh was a superior player.  Jurgensen and Riggins are more popular.  Gibbs is more accomplished.  But Mitchell, who played for the ‘Skins from 1962 to 1968 and served in the front office from 1969 through 2003, likely had the longest tenure with the team (setting aside Jurgensen’s broadcasting career).  And like the others, his bust resides at the Pro Football Hall of Fame and his name appears in the ‘Skins Ring of Fame.  

Tenure, touchdowns and shrewd personnel moves aren’t what separate Mitchell’s resume in the annals of franchise history, though.  When Bobby Mitchell took the field for Washington in 1962, he became the first African American to play for the last NFL team to integrate.  This happened a shameful 15 years after Jackie Robinson first played for the Brooklyn Dodgers, 16 years after African Americans first played in the NFL - and it happened in the capital of a nation that was supposedly founded on freedom and equality.  Mitchell’s donning of the burgundy and gold didn’t solve racism, but it promoted its continued confrontation.  And his first appearance on the ‘Skins roster maintains a dubious relevance today as the organization, nearly 50 years later, is still struggling with racial awareness (the nickname). 

Mitchell was vastly under-appreciated by the fan base and the organization at large.  Fact is, a statue of Bobby Mitchell should reside outside of FedEx Field and his number 49 should join Baugh’s as the second in franchise history to be retired.  That’s how you honor your most important player.

As for having an opportunity to interview him, that would have been a genie-in-a-bottle wish.  I didn’t get the chance in this life, but there’s always the next…unless that DeLorean/flux capacitor/time travel thing becomes reality.

The Thinks I Think

 As published in The County Times ( March 2020

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

It has been just over three weeks – three very slow weeks - since the NBA cancelled a game between the Utah Jazz and Houston Rockets, a decision that triggered the rapid shuddering of the sports world.

Baseball’s opening day was scheduled for March 26; it was to be the first since 1925 with the Washington D.C. team as the reigning World Series champions.

April 4 was the Capitals’ scheduled regular season finale. Was another Stanley Cup possible had the season not been put on…errr…ice?

The Final Four for the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments would have been played this weekend.  Would both Terrapins teams have been participants?

Questions that will forever lack answers. 

Instead of March Madness buzzer-beaters, welcoming back baseball and preparing for the Stanley Cup playoffs, sports fans have been left with various retro-programming and riveting social media posts of athletes doing golf trick shots, hitting merciless backyard home runs off their kids using Little Tikes gear and claiming to be staying in shape – yeah…aren’t we all - with questionable workout videos. 

It’s cute. Funny at times. And yet so inadequate. 

The NFL is oddly continuing to operate largely as if COVID-19 is, in fact, a hoax or something a miracle will sweep away at any moment, as some have suggested.  The football news is welcomed but the optic of multi-million dollar free agent contracts being handed out while millions file for unemployment and worry about complete economic upheaval is…interesting.  It gets weirder.  Commissioner Roger Goodell recently affirmed that the April 23-25 NFL Draft, a time when the difficult realities of COVID-19 spread will almost certainly be far worse than today, will proceed (in some alternate form) as scheduled.  Goodell followed up with teams – many of whom had expressed their displeasure to the league office – by issuing a memo that warned them to refrain from discussing (read: criticizing) the decision or risk disciplinary action.  I’ll stop there, lest Goodell extend his tyranny to neighborhood sportswriters. 

Needless to say, these are unprecedented times.  Many things are missed.  Many things will be experienced with far greater gratitude when this ends - whenever we arrive in that seemingly far off realm.  For the foreseeable future, life will march on without athletic competition.  That makes me want to direct very vulgar language that my mom would be ashamed of at this damn virus.  What I wouldn’t give to resume watching Alexander Ovechkin’s assault on the NHL’s goals scored list. Or to stand and applaud – and probably cry…again – as our World Series champion Nats took to the diamond.  Or to lament my busted March Madness bracket and await the crowning of the 2020 champs.  Or to wonder if Tiger Woods could make magic again at The Masters.  Or…

I can almost develop a bit of a victim complex.  But then I watch the news or follow Twitter or just reset my brain and sit in quiet reflection like Pooh Bear in his thoughtful – or thotful, per his sign - spot with a jar full of honey.  Oh the thinks you can think when you think about Seuss…and the real victims and the real tragedy and the enormity of this shared crisis.

Those more thoughtful thinks go immediately to those around the world who have lost their lives to this sinister virus and those fighting it – both the ill and the heroic medical professionals who bravely stare down this enemy daily, often without adequate equipment for biological war.  After that, my thinks go to those whose jobs have been lost or whose livelihoods are threatened.  Then my thinks consider those in high risk categories and the anxiety sowed by the consequences of contracting an invisible threat that could hide anywhere.

Somewhere way down the list of thinks, I eventually get to sports and lament the absence of the games we love.  But it hardly matters at that point, not with a raw, sobering social perspective.  I just want to turn on the television and see a game again, not because I miss sports, but because it will mean we have started to heal and life is returning to something near normal.  

Epitaph on Humanity

 As published in The County Times (

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

The texts and emails arrived in mass last week.  Daniel Snyder, overlord of the Washington Football Team, was back in the news – always a bad thing – and a volley of ill-intended friends of other NFL persuasions wanted to ensure that I, longtime fan of the team, was aware.  I was easy prey; it was a familiar wound to peck.      

Twenty years into Snyder’s abysmal ownership, such occurrences have become cliché.  The ribbings from opposing fans have ceased to cause irritation.  After all, how could they resist?  Snyder’s been a treasure trove of botched coaching hires, obnoxious free agent signings, odd front office structures and disgraceful on-field performances.  The incompetence is just too tempting to ignore. 

But Snyder has gone next-level embarrassing this offseason.  First, after receiving pressure from big corporate sponsors (threats to his precious bottom line), he had to move on, kicking and screaming, from the team’s racially insensitive (being kind here) nickname.  Snyder’s years of foolish defiance of the inevitable left him so ill-prepared that his team will now play nameless this season.

After this debacle, a raging feud between Snyder and his minority owners was exposed - the tiff has one in a legal wrangle with Snyder and others so fed up with him that they are seeking to sell their stakes. 

Worst of all, though, are the growing reports of a deep, systemic organizational culture that permitted rampant incidents of sexual harassment and sowed a hostile, demeaning work environment for female employees.  The Washington Post first exposed the moral rot within Snyder’s franchise in a July expose.  It has proven to be the tip of an ugly iceberg, as last week, The Post published an expansive follow-up chronicling more boorish, disgusting behavior.  In all, 40 woman have made various allegations – propositions, verbal abuse and salacious outtake videos from a swimsuit calendar shoot - against some of the highest ranking men in the organization, including Snyder himself.   

It would be easy to lay this all at the feet of Snyder, slap him with the Scarlet letter and feel good that justice was served to society’s great amoral villain.  The uncomfortable reality is that what happened in Snyder’s organization is too common, and with creeps like Larry Nassar and Harvey Weinstein, among many others, this feels like just the latest chapter in human indecency.  And these are just examples of how women are treated; what about our on-going struggles with racism or the disgusting predation of children by the likes of Jerry Sandusky and evil doers in the Catholic Church?

If humans suddenly vanished and the epitaph on our species was written today, it would be “They had so much potential.”  When the next advanced Earth inhabitants or aliens sift through our artifacts, they will be puzzled by humans’ demise.  They will discover our amazing technological advances - including the ability to live sustainably within the planet’s resources, our great works of arts, the music of Louis Armstrong, Chuck Berry and the Rolling Stones, the deep thoughts of Eleanor Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr., the courage of Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman, the imagination of Dr. Seuss and Steve Jobs and a widely documented moral code – various “good books”, the seven deadly sins or Dangers to Human Virtue and the 10 Commandments (even reduced to two…and one adder…by the brilliant George Carlin), among many others.  It will all leave the beings analyzing human history asking, “How did they fail?” 

Not as evident in the relics will be our susceptibility to tribalism and fear-based propaganda, our failure to address inconvenient existential threats, our obsession with differences and our inability to embrace our common humanity.  There will be evidence of war but it will inadequately convey the depth of our compulsion to fight over territory, ethnic or racial dominance or whose god was cooler.  Despite our brilliance and accelerating technological arc, humanity’s legacy is its inability to tolerate, achieve equality, share vast resources and recognize our intertwined destiny – fatal flaws so illogical that it will shroud our ruin in mystery. 

Hypothetically speaking, of course…for we are still here and our ending remains mercifully unwritten.