Friday, December 29, 2023

Same As Ever

As published in The County Times (

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

Podcast-land is a vast landscape of diverse interests and budding obsessions.  Every media member, former athlete, B-list celebrity or grasping-for-fame influencer has one.  And much like a tour through any team roster, this massive ocean of multi-media content contains some standouts, a host of solid contributors and some unfortunate (that they exist) filler, sans any trace of killer. 

Avoiding the regrettable and finding quality topics of interest takes some effort.  I wouldn’t say it is an exercise that makes me long for the pre-digital days of five television channels and three radio stations, but there are certainly moments when the appreciation those far off, simpler times rises.  When lacking the opportunity to proactively pod-surf, say when life suddenly bequeaths you a rare hour to kill, finding an instant treasure in the podcast hinterland is daunting.  Channeling Dirty Harry, the obvious question is, “Do I feel lucky?” 

When faced with such a dilemma last week, the universe was kind to me.  The dumb-luck discovered podcast was “Plan English”, hosted by Derek Thompson.  The selected episode was titled “What Most People Get Wrong About Wealth, Fame and Happiness” and featured author Morgan Housel and his new book, “Same as Ever”.  It was fantastic. 

The title introduces the content.  Housel’s book, which features stories illustrating historical patterns and habitual human flaws, accentuated the conversation with proof of our repetitive “wrongs” and the hope that awareness produces wisdom, which leads to better choices, which leads to greater wealth, and a better understanding of fame and happiness.

This, curiously, got me thinking about sports and the holidays.  My brain: when you figure out yours, help me with mine.

Let me try to connect the dots.  You may want to grab a beer.  Nothing in sports is the “same as ever.”  Some things stick for a long time – Andy Reid coaching winning NFL teams, LeBron James dominating basketball, the Houston Astros in the MLB playoffs, and the Washington Commanders playing losing football, for example.  But nothing lasts forever.  That counterpoint’s examples: the Bill Belichick-Tom Brady Patriots dynasty, the Nicklas Backstrom-Alexander Ovechkin connection, and the Capitals and Wizards leaving D.C. (probably). 

For those of adequate vintage, this fluid dynamic creates a coexistence of nostalgia for the past, appreciation for the present and excitement for the future.  Two good examples are the Orioles and Nationals.  For the O’s, it’s impossible for anyone over 40 to see the warehouse at Camden Yards and forget the numbers counting down Cal Ripken Jr.’s march to the consecutive games played record, while also being jacked about the youngsters that arrived this season and the promise they offer for the future.  Similarly, for Nats fans, the yearning for Juan Soto, Trea Turner and that magical 2019 team is palatable; but the rebuild is underway and 2024 should mark the arrival of more future stars.

In my scrambled mind, this seamlessly transitions to the holiday season.  Whatever you celebrate, this time of year is often – and hopefully - synonymous with family gatherings and reconnections with good friends and loved ones.  It is that rare opportunity to dismount the hamster wheel, wrestle control over the pace of life and invest in cherished relationships. 

Of course, for those who have lapped the sun a few dozen times, the emotions of the holidays, like those of longtime sports fans, cover the gamut – the togetherness is special and the promise of the years to come is alluring, but these feeling share headspace with a hint of nostalgia for yesteryears and an ache for loved ones lost. 

The popular saying is life throws a lot of curveballs.  But curveballs are predictable.  No, life is more like a knuckleball – fascinating, beautiful and unpredictable.  As Hunter S. Thompson quipped about life’s complexities, “Hope rises and dreams flicker and die; love plans for tomorrow and loneliness thinks of yesterday; life is beautiful and living is pain.”  Recognizing the personal emotional complexities of the season, I supposed the holidays are simply a time to seek joy in moments, to find hope in a future waiting to be revealed, and to feel gratitude for memories now locked in the past. 

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