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Nostalgia for Less Grouchy Days

In stressful times, we tend to recall fondly the “old days.” Those reminiscences are meant to contrast placid then with troubled now. Sure, those memories are unintentionally vacuumed and otherwise spiffed up for re-consumption, but they do provide temporary refuge. I, too, miss the old days, the ones before propagandized fools invoked their “right” not to get vaccinated and not to wear masks in public. It’s not that some despicable element didn’t exist back then. That group simply was less emboldened to share publicly the detritus of its collective, calcified mind.

In addition, I’m fondly recalling the time when, except for two or three currently admirable exceptions, the term “principled Republican” wasn’t an oxymoron. Pardon this diversion, but it occurs to me that an anti-vaxxer could be considered a moronic ox. Returning apologetically to my theme, I’m even reprising the days when scheduled flights had a reasonable chance of actually taking off, and an immoral hotel magnate contented himself with wallowing in dishonestly accumulated wealth instead of scheming to take control of a dangerously cultish nation.

In my increasingly difficult quest for relaxation, I also long for the occasional Sunday afternoons I spent watching professional football games. I was realistic enough not to invest hope in potential championships. After all, I was Philadelphia-born and bred, a sports fan practical to the core. For me and my comrades, the imperative was to armor ourselves against predictable failure without conceding its inevitability, to delude ourselves into expecting that regular no-show, a better “next year”.

I understand now that, as an English teacher, I found the visual narrative of the game appealing, its unfolding parts blending into finality. An occasional well-executed play by the home team inspired joy, however quickly it was dissolved by the next misplay. In addition, I liked the challenge of matching my projected plays against the quarterback’s actual strategy. Sometimes, I must admit, his was actually better. What gripped me most, though, was the superhuman physical control so stunningly evident during play execution. These feats included abrupt shifts in direction and speed, leaps over fallen bodies, and peripheral awareness of what unfolded beyond the area of immediate concentration. These blends of brain function and body contortion were mesmerizing. In addition, I switched occasionally from watching details of offensive plays to observing fearful collisions of opposing behemoths on the offensive and defensive lines. Largely under-respected, this part of the game was actually prelude to the mini-drama encapsulated in a single play. Linemen essentially were enablers and deserved as much attention as anyone else on the field. So, on those Sunday afternoons, I enjoyed, I admired, and I envied talents as laughably beyond my reach as success was for the teams I stubbornly followed.

I still relish key elements of football, but something has changed, and it’s not for the better. Those memorable days were part of a simpler time, when players reacted to personal achievements--scoring touchdowns, making interceptions, blocking kicks--with becoming modesty. I felt good about the obvious rush of internal pride they must have felt. They were certainly entitled to internal exuberance. Publicly, though, they were restrained. Their strides may have been quicker returning to the bench and their faces may have been beaming, but their public reactions to the uproar of adulation reflected, in my estimation, even more credit on them. I guess I assumed that, considering their astronomical salaries, they felt they were simply justifying the faith and cash their teams had invested in them.

That was then; this is now: in most cases, achievement on the field is prelude to a mardi gras of monomaniacal self-congratulation. Chests are pounded; juvenile dance steps erupt; arms are thrust in the air beseeching even louder cheers; backflips are sometimes executed, ignoring the possibility of an opulent salary going to some doofus out for the season because of a non-game injury. That possibility seems immaterial to the preeners. What matters is the unmistakable message: “I’m great!”

Finally, re-considering the last few paragraphs, I admit that in those old days, I was a less irritable person. My family and friends swear they don’t recall such a time, but I’m almost positive there was a phase when I was more placid and generous in my reactions. If change has happened, I attribute it to constantly dismal news about disease and the acceleration of depressing and irresponsible human behavior. Consider that a plea bargain, an excuse for my becoming the couch grouch I may have morphed into.


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1 Comment

Jan 22, 2022

I share your nostalgia, Mort—and also a little of your grouchiness!

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