As published in The County Times (countytimes.somd.com)
By Ronald N. Guy Jr.
This column’s title suggests that a perch high in actual or figurative bleachers offers a broader perspective on sports - and life. The wider vantage point sacrifices intricate details, but it reveals a bigger picture and the interaction of forces in simultaneous motion that allows for more predictable and better understood outcomes.
The theory is sound, and it has largely served this column well (I hope) for its nearly 13 years of existence. But now? In this asynchronous, asymmetric and often unrecognizable world?
If any sense is to be made of our confusing recent history, it is fair to question whether a bleacher-view would be any more advantageous than any other seat in the world’s metaphorical stadium. A ticket to the cheap seats, where the acquisition of wisdom once awaited, may now only offer a nosebleed, an oxygen-starved brain and burning quads from the steep, vertical hike.
But here goes something for 2022 – from the bleachers, the mezzanine, field level seats or the parking lot. Yes, the parking lot…that’s it. The total opposite of the bleachers and a place where tailgating friends share drinks, deep thoughts and outrageous nonsense while seated on coolers and foldout chairs encircling a portable grill/heat source. With that fresh perspective, just this once, a few thoughts on these most confounding times…
Short of cryonics actually working or the development of some other sophisticated, multi-century life-extending technology, 2022 is the numerical year with the most “2’s” any of us will see. And given the world’s bizarre stretch leading into this new calendar year, the answer to the Rolling Stones’ question in their song “Tumbling Dice” - “Don’t you know the deuce is still wild?” - is an emphatic yes.
Every day the sports scroll identifies new players being added to COVID-related “health and safety” protocols. Unproven and inexperienced players are called up from practice squads or developmental leagues. Rusty veterans are signed off their couches. Rosters are in complete flux from game to game. I don’t know how Vegas is setting betting lines, but with no clue as to when or if games will be played, or who will actually participate, the smart money stays in your pocket.
This is the COVID sports world, two years into pandemic madness.
To express surprise over these disruptions would be naïve and a bit played out. Such things are simply reality now. How teams are actually coping with the chaos is intriguing. The guess is “as good as they can,” which is likely synonymous with “not very well.” For players, considering the effort required to prepare minds and bodies for games and a long season, being parked on the sidelines due to a positive COVID test must create intense frustration. It is almost certainly worse for coaches, a profession dominated by micro-managing control freaks who sweat every detail and attempt to choreograph every imaginable scenario. Now many don’t know who their quarterback or point guard will be day to day. The competitive balance is decided as much by a virus as it is between the lines.
The real world has its own equivalent of that “health and safety” protocol scroll. Family gatherings, band concerts, youth sporting events, birthday parties, professional meetings and vacations all hang in the balance - all are susceptible to alteration or cancelation with the arrival of an ill-timed sore throat and positive test. What to do? Accept this reality - that deuces are wild in 2022 - and adapt to the fluidity of…everything. Develop contingencies. Be more spontaneous. Cherish anything that executes as planned. Such is life with an ever-present, evolving pathogen that seems destined to linger.
Society will grow from this and emerge with an altered perspective on sports, work and living life. Our adaptation is well underway, economically and socially. Through this process, and on the other side of it, are better bosses and employees, teachers and students, coaches and players – in short, this great disruption is building a society of greater strength, resilience, patience and compassion. Admittedly, that is hard to see right now with the omicron raging, but it is there.
The parking lot: where audacious dreams and optimism thrive.