As published in The County Times (countytimes.somd.com)
By Ronald N. Guy Jr.
Father Andrew White School, circa early-to-mid 1980s. I was an average student; no academic records were threatened during my navigation of grade school. But there was no reason for my parents to worry that they’d be supporting my lost soul well into adulthood (they might disagree and may have supporting evidence).
Reading was…an effort. Books were overwhelming. Short adventure stories were fine, but if not for required book reports, not a word of those would have been read. What played to my strengths? Sports Illustrated. The Washington Post’s sports page. The Sporting News. Sport magazine.
Notice a trend?
Our class visited the school library weekly. Books were stacked floor-to-ceiling wrapping around the room’s perimeter. Encyclopedias, classics, biographies, adventures, history – everything imaginable was available to our absorbent minds. To my young eyes, it was a room of knowledge waiting to be consumed. The problem was almost none of it interested me - not in an organic, I’m reading this by choice and not obligation kind of way.
There was one alluring spot. It occupied only a few shelves of a single section in this literary labyrinth. Here resided non-fiction sports books – the greatest quarterbacks and running backs, toughest boxers, tennis champions, NFL and MLB history, biographies and historical statistics. It had it all. Angels would sing and the books would glow as I and a few similarly wired buddies approached it. I devoured every selection during my FAW tour, some more than once.
The recent death of soccer icon Pelé brought back memories of these childhood library visits. It was there that I discovered the Brazilian soccer great after checking out a book featuring the game’s best players. With three World Cup titles to his credit and a short but impactful stint with the New York Cosmos late in his career, my young mind quickly concluded that Pelé was the greatest to roam the pitch.
Barbara Walters’s passing last week cued more memories. The news didn’t interest me much as a young lad, but I knew that if Walters was interviewing a person, it mattered. Walters was an absolute giant of journalism for decades and the long-running evening show 20/20 that she co-hosted with Hugh Downs was must-see television in the 1980s.
Pelé, Walters, and Franco Harris and Dave Butz recently – I have reached the bend in life where final farewells to childhood icons, many of whom first appeared in those dusty library books, are too common.
The world acquires information quite differently now. Books are available on-demand. Library trips are optional. Printed sports pages and magazines are virtually obsolete. And getting news via a weekly primetime show seems hopelessly antiquated. But are we better informed? Is our understanding of the past more developed? Is our vision into the future any closer to 20/20?
Three years ago, the answer could have been a defendable “maybe”. Remember New Year’s 2020? There were just whispers about unique virus detected in China. Most earthlings had never experienced a pandemic. Health systems hadn’t been stressed to the breaking point. America had never been shuddered. It was all beyond imagination. Not anymore. Reality has a way of exposing our blind spots or, as George Will noted, “The future has a way of arriving unannounced.”
So, what awaits in 2023? Sports will be dynamic, as always. Locally, the Nats and (if there is a merciful God) the Commanders will have new owners. Lamar Jackson and the Ravens face a contract standoff. Will the Orioles continue to improve? Do the aging and fragile Caps have another Stanley Cup run in them? Tom Brady is set for another free agency tour. The transfer portal will wreak havoc on college sports. The only certainties: there will be magic, incredible feats, and inexplicable endings that produce profound disappointment and unrestrained joy. The details are far from clear, a truth that holds for all aspects of life. And that’s okay. If COVID left us with anything, it is the wisdom to know that the future is something to be encountered and experienced more than predicted with anything approaching 20/20 foresight.
All the best to you and yours in 2023.