Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Mostly Good

As published in The County Times (

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

A Washington D.C. media luminary fired off a tweet.  That alone isn’t news; it is a routine act occurring hundreds of times daily in this time of supercharged communications.  This one was short, even by tweet standards, but it efficiently cut through the random nonsense, political insanity, self-aggrandizing and mindless star-worship that typically dominates a Twitter scroll by posing this simple question to D.C. sports fans: “When did you know for sure that Snyder was the problem and your favorite team was in deep trouble?”

Kevin Sheehan, veteran voice of D.C. sports radio, was the tweet’s source.  The “Snyder” it referenced is, of course, Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder.  The power of Sheehan’s query was its casual lack of qualification.  There was no “if you believe Snyder is a fatal franchise flaw”; Sheehan asked matter-of-factly “when” fans realized Snyder was an overwhelming force under-cutting any hope of success.  The unspoken (or untweeted) – that there simply is no reasonable doubt about Snyder’s organizational malignancy - speaks loudly about Snyder’s dysfunction and ruinous 23 years of ownership.

The comments to Sheehan’s tweet were validating.  It was a scroll of dubious (and depressing) football decisions and embarrassing headlines across two decades.  Most telling: No one challenged Sheehan’s question or defended Snyder. 

Like all long-time burgundy and gold fans, I have my own answer to Sheehan’s question.  Admittedly, I was late to the party.  Fellow fans as far back as the early 2000s had concluded the impossible coexistence of Snyder and a winning football team.  But I kept nibbling at the cheese, hoping “Dan the fan” and his willingness to spend (frivolously) would yield results.  Things started to break down for me after Mike Shanahan was fired and a talented staff, one that included three future NFL coaches (Kyle Shanahan, Sean McVay and Matt LaFleur), was disassembled.  Full stop came more recently with the embarrassing off-field controversies and the arrogant defiance and vindictiveness of the owner himself.

Now it is all too much.  The rose-colored glasses have been removed, tossed to the ground and stomped under foot.  My stubborn mind has been convinced: Snyder is Washington football’s fait accompli, hope’s great kryptonite.  There is nothing profound in that conclusion.  In some ways, Snyder is just another name on a long and ever-growing list crossing all aspects of life.  It’s a dubious and unfortunate scroll, and we all have our own. 

Live long enough, cobble together numerous diverse experiences, and fellow humans will inevitably deliver a recurring emotion: disappointment.  The church won’t practice the basic morality it preaches.  Politicians will be exposed as more ego-centric, special interest operatives than public servants.  Most social media friends will prove to be otherwise.  Spouses will fall short of vows.  Many fellow Americans will value political identity over shared national origin.  Companies who claim to care about their people will confirm a greater concern for their financial health.  Left to reconcile such irreconcilable hypocrisy and character deficiencies – like a self-proclaimed fan-owner hoodwinking everyone (for various lengths of time) and turning his asset into the embarrassment of professional sports – well, that’s why we grind our teeth at night.

It's enough to drive the most ardent optimist to exclaim, as Buddy Guy crooned, “Damn right I got the blues!”  Enter This American Life podcast episode 775: The Possum Experiment, to save the day.  The episode starts with a story about a woman who posted a few “Lost Cat” flyers around her home.  The catch: The flyers included downloaded pictures of a possum.  She did it as a joke, something of a social experiment.  She bucketed the return calls into three categories: the mean ones that took pleasure in her idiocy, those who knew it was a joke and offered a humorous reply, and kind-hearted people who expressed genuine concern for her and the “cat’s” well-being.

What surprised her was the distribution of calls.  Just 10% were mean.  Another 20% were the fellow pranksters.  And 70% were folks simply trying to help.  Is the world soured by swindlers, dark hearts and Dan Snyders?  Sure - but a “lost” marsupial offered a timely reminder that people are still mostly good. 

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