As published in The County Times (countytimes.somd.com)
By Ronald N. Guy Jr.
My cousin, a dashing younger chap, is, like me, a sports junkie rooted in the 1980s and 1990s. As NBA fans – a bug easily caught growing up in the Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan and Dream Team era – we absorbed and regularly recount artifacts of that golden age. One personality that is permanently filed in our RAM for quick and frequent access is Marv Albert, a great voice of that period.
If upon hearing that name, spectacular toupees and sexual deviancy come to mind, I understand. But this reference has nothing to do with bad hair or moral failings. No, this is about Marv’s late-game catch phrase. If Magic’s Lakers or Jordan’s Bulls were in a tight affair late in the fourth quarter, Marv would often introduce the decisive possession with a haunting, “And it comes down…TO THIS.” The pacing and pause before the emphatic, “TO THIS”, were classic. It is part of late twentieth century NBA basketball’s soundtrack and signaled that an epic ending to a battle among titans had arrived.
You are likely reading this just before New Year’s. As for the final days of 2020, Marv’s dramatic phrase is in my ear - and I am so thankful. I don’t care if Bird hits a buzzer beater, prompting a Marv “YES!”, or if Jordan delivers a Marv “FACIAL” dunk, two more of Albert’s classics, in 2021 – figuratively speaking, of course. I just want this year to end…like no other year in my life. Be gone 2020. Don’t bother saying goodbye. Pack your things and go. Normally I am a faithful recycler, but everyone has my blessing to burn their 2020 calendars. To my optometrist, I don’t even want 20/20 vision again. Ever. I’ll deal with a little blur in my life.
Of course a descending ball, an expired year and a new calendar can’t cleanse all troubles. Problems aren’t just magically wished away (see the White House’s national COVID “plan”). Only real, concrete solutions will provide deliverance. Fine. But don’t spoil my punch with all that responsible nonsense, okay? I’m going on pure hope, here – a new year, big changes. Period. Don’t debate me. Don’t fog the message with the reality. I am pouring a drink. Then another. Maybe…probably…even more. The 2020 bird in the hand keeps pecking me in the face; I will gladly gamble on the contents of the bush. So give me 2021 - a blind date with a year I’ve never met.
I can’t continue to be desensitized to 3,000 Americans dying every day. Enough of the floods, fires and violent tropical weather. Maybe we can get over the disturbing national compulsion to find or manufacture destructive discord, to take the bait of intentional political divisiveness and use it as faux fuel to hate, fear and threaten our bedrock – a common humanity and American cause. We deserve better than a deranged president, his stream of Twitter madness and his abandonment of job responsibilities for preposterous self-interests. And I’m tired of anxiously viewing Doppler radar as another deluge of rain bears down on Southern Maryland.
Here’s what I’ll be wishing for when 2021 champagne showers rain. I want full sports seasons, no COVID-ravaged rosters and a football team with a name…or at least a new owner. Death to bubble cities. I am dreaming of packed stadiums and authentic crowd noise, not the fake stuff, pumped through television speakers. Live marching bands should be ripping through fight songs and cheerleaders should be tossed in the air after big plays. Most of all, I want youth sports back. The experiences lost at the rec league, high school and college levels – impactful, precious, brief and irreplaceable moments for athletes and families – is painful for this middle-aged sportswriter to ponder.
Sports, of course, is small by comparison to gentler weather, stable leadership and public health, but if our stadiums, fields and courts return to normal, it is a good indication that the more significant aspects of life are in a better place too.
Ah yes, 2020, it indeed does come down to this. I bid you adieu with a relieved smile and a hearty good riddance.