Wednesday, January 11, 2023

As Good As It Gets

As published in The County Times 

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

The most cherished reside in an album or are filed neatly on a digital drive.  Most are randomly saved to a folder or jammed in a box that lurks in dark recesses of a closet. 

Such is the life of the pictures of our lives.

Regardless of the care given their storage or display, pictures represent moments judged worthy of capture.  People, places and special events - vacations, weddings, birthdays and reunions - are common sources of inspiration.  Log a few decades on planet Earth, do a few things, be kind to fellow humans, have some fun and, before you know it, a personal “life in pictures” emerges.

The faces get me - friends, loved ones, one-time acquaintances and the occasional forgotten soul.  Smiles abound – some goofy, some wry, others organic or noticeably reserved.  Wrinkles and gray hairs are undetectable or at least less prominent.  After briefly reminiscing, nostalgia’s warmth fades and I’m left confounded.  What would I say today to the photo’s stars?  The past, present and future – each distinct.  But what if they weren’t?  What if it could all blur?  If not in reality, then at least in my imagination?  What would I offer to those in the image – assuming I could and had the courage to do so?  What wisdom gained from the time beyond that frozen moment and the present reflective pause would I share?  What would I say to cherished loved ones who have since transitioned to another dimension?  Or to an old friend who drifted apart?  And what would I say to that version of myself?  There is so much.  Look out for this.  Watch out for that.  Be more conscious of time; don’t assume the hourglass is large and full of sand. 

The new year had just arrived when news of John Madden’s death broke.  Madden’s five-decades-and-counting influence on the NFL – as a Hall of Fame coach, the voice of professional football and the name on perhaps the greatest video game ever – made him a cross-generational star and one of the most unique personalities in professional sports.  For those of a certain age, nothing was bigger, nothing was better than a rivalry game on a late Sunday afternoon in the fall with Pat Summerall and John Madden on the call.

As for my pictures, mine include many moments with the Washington Football team.  There are stills from the stadium parking lot, training camps, Super Bowl parties, the last game at RFK Stadium and autograph shows with legends like Bobby Mitchell, Sonny Jurgensen and Art Monk.  Smiles abound, beers are raised high and a burgundy and gold hue is unmistakable.  The pride in the team and the significance it held in the DMV area was palatable. 

I would love to share the pictures, relics from the 1980s and 1990s, with Madden now and listen to his stories from that era.  So much has changed in D.C. – and nothing for the better.  Decades of losing, a terrible owner, an organization morally and ethically rotting from the inside out – the losses hardly matter now, embarrassment is the dominant emotion.

If only I could talk to the young, naïve version of myself in those photos.  I would tell him that the feelings you, your family and friends have for this team are fleeting and are unlikely to happen again.  RFK (our beloved dump of a stadium), Jack Kent Cooke, Joe Gibbs, Bobby Beathard, The Hogs, The Posse and personalities like John Riggins and Dexter Manley – this is special.  It’s as good as sports gets.

The tinge of melancholy in my tone is mixed with optimism.  Since that golden era of Washington football, the Terrapins won the 2002 Men’s Basketball National Championship, the Nationals won the 2019 World Series and the Ovechkin era and the 2018 Stanley Cup Championship happened – each magical experiences that generated their own jubilant photographs.  The indication is that as beautiful chapters close, and often without warning, others open.  Such is the scroll of life.  So, when the good times roll your way, soak them in, appreciate the moments and do your future self a favor: pause for pictures. 

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