Two words that have dominated this year singe my ear hair whenever I hear them: New. Normal.
A new normal is seldom good a thing. Rather than describing some great advance, like gene therapy or the Popeyes’ chicken sandwich, the phrase always is applied to concessions forced upon us by difficult times. It’s a nine-letter coping mechanism, more palatable, one assumes, than just spelling out that “things have turned to hot garbage, so, deal with it.”
You don’t embrace the new normal, you grudgingly adjust to it, as you did when making the transition from progressive to classic rock.
Oh, for the old norms, and we’re not talking Norm Van Brocklin or Norman Rockwell here. A moment, please, to remember and hail the normal of yore.
You know, that golden age when your workout clothes and your work clothes weren’t the same thing.
When only hockey goalies and catchers were required to wear masks.
When we all complained about the sporting seasons being too long rather than how they are now shorter than your kid’s travel-ball schedule.
Back when Bubba Wallace could just concern himself with trying to get to the front of traffic — his average career Cup finish is 23rd — rather than taking the lead in a struggle with no apparent finish line. Back when his ride was not weighed down like Gwyneth Paltrow’s makeup table by the issues of the day.
When spring training was boldly held in the springtime.
When we made fun of the golf clap and how today we’d welcome even polite applause as it rolled over the course like relative thunder.
Here’s to that time before Drew Brees needed a bodyguard and a secret entrance just to get into his own locker room.
Before Roger Goodell began auditioning for the role of Gandhi.
Remember when the bubble was where all the college basketball teams in the state of Georgia lived and died every March rather than where LeBron James will spend his delayed playoff quest?
When if an athlete tested positive it meant he was cheating the system, not spending too much time in a crowded Sun Belt bar?
When it was a hard decision just to look to Korea for your car, and now you’re supposed to go there for your baseball?
When every single athlete wasn’t obliged to craft a social-media treatise on the ills of society. And every television ad didn’t have to encourage us to hang in there while reminding us that times are as hard as a fold-out bed (God, I miss a simple commercial with the message: Doritos good).
Remember autographs? And fans behind the backboard waving giant Will Ferrell heads at the free-throw shooter? And the postgame handshake? Like the milkman, all a quaint memory now.
Ah, in the old normal, ESPN was a network that occasionally aired a prime-time sport that didn’t involve a cage and a stylized bar fight.
Clemson was a place where the football team was always determined to be first in the FBS rankings but now appears determined to be the first to get to “herd immunity.”
“Working from home” used to be a euphemism for not working at all.
Colin Kaepernick could get a job as a columnist for Breitbart before he’d get one again as an NFL quarterback (oh, wait, that’s still the norm).
The Masters wasn’t a Thanksgiving tradition unlike any other. Turkey. Cranberries. Pimento cheese on sticky white bread.
Spitting was an art form, not a Trevi Fountain of disease.
Major leaguers needed long division only to cipher their averages and ERAs, not their salaries.
There was press at press conferences, and sportswriters got close enough to those they covered to establish a connection that wasn’t dependent upon bandwidth.
And normal was a darn sight better than this.
©2020 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Atlanta, Ga.)