Besides not going out on New Year’s Eve, there are a couple of other popular traditions I don’t observe. Notably, I don’t make resolutions. A “New Year’s resolution” is, by definition, a promise you make to yourself that you’re destined not to keep.
Like most goal-setting exercises, often it’s a pointless charade.
I also didn’t watch a single second of this season’s college bowl games, not even the highlights. I’m aware of the results, mostly by accident, and that’s it. I just can’t summon the interest anymore.
Over the last 20 years, Americans have forgotten how to be fans — just fans. Everybody’s a fucking analyst. In the wake of forty-some games clustered around the New Year holiday, somehow folks draw irrefutable conclusions, with unshakeable confidence about teams, whole conferences, coaches, players, plays, officiating and the like.
In my life I’ve known only a few people smart enough to do that. I called every one of ’em “coach.”
Once upon a time, I was a fan. I grew up among Heartlanders who loved sports, especially football. No social media, no computer rankings, no corporate sponsors and no instant replay. We didn’t even have slow-motion. And we sure as hell didn’t have ESPN or sports talk radio, which have conspired to ruin American sport.
We hated our rivals, cussed our coach and ranted at the refs, but we were still fans. We always cheered for the local teams, not some faraway franchise ’cause we liked their swagger, their colors or their fight song. Nobody was ashamed to be a homer — that was the whole point. After the games were played and we’d sobered-up, we beat our chests (or licked our wounds, depending) and kept flying the flag we’d fly ’til the day we died.
Those days are gone. Forever. True fans are dinosaurs. Sports have soured, and I’ve soured on sports.
Deb and I leaned across Ernie’s dinette on Saturday afternoon, New Year’s Eve, for a long (and long-overdue) phone conversation with a former gun-shop colleague of mine, joined by his wife. They’d just made a household move of their own, from central Ohio to southeast Pennsylvania, and it had been months since we’d talked.
It was time to catch up. We talked about acclimating to our new surroundings, each of us with very different stories to tell — they landed in a small town west of Philly while we went country in The Ozarks. At one point my friend said something striking.
“Y’know, we’ve been talking over a half-hour now,” he mused. “And in all the time I’ve known you, this is the most excited, the most enthusiastic I’ve heard you — about anything.”
I looked up and caught Deb’s eye. We smiled.
My friend was right, of course. I responded with the confession that I’ve never been happier.
Thinking later about what I’d said, I remembered a pearl of wisdom from another friend, many years ago: Happiness is the booby prize. Happiness is nothing unless it’s right.
This, boys and girls, is right — and apparently it shows.
Once again we have heavy weather coming in. Nothing wintry (in the conventional sense), but between 1pm and midnight today we’re looking at severe thunderstorms with the potential for hail, high winds and a slight risk of tornadoes.
The worst, we think, will be south and east of us. It’s likely, however, that Ernie will get another moat. We’ll wake up to a very soggy Tuesday.
And we have to be on The Mountain in the muddy morning — tomorrow is Septic Tank Day.
(My money’s on that not happening.)
The second day of January is our girl Scout’s “Gotcha Day.” It was 12 years ago today that we brought her home from the shelter, and we bonded the moment we met. She’s one special dog — now getting around on three good legs, yet happier than ever.
Take care of yourselves, Patriots. Stay calm. Stay sharp. Stay free.
‘Twas foggy on The Mountain this morning.