As published in The County Times (countytimes.somd.com), 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.