Every year, people love to look back at the year that was, and wonder how it could have been better or worse, different, and in my case, what I took from it. 2012 has been a fascinating experience, perhaps best exemplified by the true costs of polarization the United States has suffered, and the ending optimism that perhaps we can overcome it, after nearly twelve years of it. The following is what I feel we have seen, and possibly learned, from the year of 2012.
1. Politics: Always write a concession speech
If there is one piece of paper (or word document) I would love to read, it is the never-to-be-read concession speech written by President Obama’s speechwriters, in the event that Obama lost his re-election bid. You know they wrote it, and probably destroyed all copies of it once the outcome was certain. Ultimately, it wasn’t necessary, but that they had it, just in case. To their credit, and the President’s, they were able to make his victory speech topical, as well as Presidential.
However, for the Republicans, who had every historical advantage going into the election (with a weak economy being front and center), the stinging loss came as a total surprise (one reason why it was so stinging), to the extent that word started to leak on election night that Mitt Romney, the GOP nominee, had not had a concession speech written out. His delay, officially because they (along with Carl Rove) disagreed that the major networks’ projection that Ohio would go blue, and thus secure Obama’s re-election, was viewed by many as petty and arrogant, may have been for them to write out a quick, eloquent concession speech.
Romney’s concession speech was everything it needed to be for his base; accepting of the reality that was coming, and thanking his supporters. The apparent surprise of his loss, coupled with his post-election loss comments, has lead many, including some strong supporters, to distance themselves from him. However, the real lesson here is that in politics, even with the odds heavily in your favor, you should always have that extra speech ready to go.
2. Sports: long-term contracts are risky
From Albert Pujols to Alex Rodriguez, baseball observers saw plenty of reasons to stop signing players to contracts in excess of five years. Both players had down years, although Pujols picked up in the second half, with many questioning their contracts that went until they were in their forties.
In the NFL, Manning, Brees, and last year Brady, all signed contracts of a few years, four or five; just enough to get them to the twilight of their careers, but with wiggle room for a two to three year extension. In the NHL, it is a contentious issue in the collective bargaining process, and a key factor in the lockout, which as of this writing is not resolved. The NBA has limitations.
However, baseball doesn’t, and it would appear that any restrictions would be self-imposed. While seven to ten year contracts are good for players, it leaves the team stuck with a dud. The Yankees, well aware of this, signed Derek Jeter to a four year deal a few years ago.
I suppose the corollary to this is that if you are writing a long-term deal, at least put in a team opt-out clause, or a buy-out clause, some way to minimize the damage if a player doesn’t work out. A few teams, like the Red Sox this off-season, are actually willing to pay players more to take shorter-term deals, which seems to be the way of the near future.
3. Historical: Can we get off of these doomsday prophecies already?
Despite the fact that few people take any of these doomsday prophecies seriously, and the rest of us generally don’t take those people seriously, it seems like Americans have a fixation on the supposed December 21st doomsday scenario. Whilst some of the internet memes are quite funny, it is annoying that just enough people take it seriously to justify a broader conversation.
National Geographic channel did a special on the Mayan calendar, with an emphasis on the end (which cannot be translated into the Gregorian calendar too well, so even the December 21st date is guesswork; dates range from 2011 to 2050). They discussed how the Mayans viewed their calendar, what every era meant, and if anything could happen when the final era ended.
This annoyed me. There is no historical evidence that anything can happen suddenly that would doom a majority of humanity, and National Geographic is giving it a thought?
The fact of the matter is this: the world can end at any time, from a variety of causes; case in point, the Steven Soderbergh film Contagion gives a great example of a pandemic that comes out of nowhere. I think this obsession with a particular date, as also evidenced by the substantial discussions surrounding Harold Camping’s rapture prophecies, depicts a part of ourselves we don’t want to acknowledge, and we need to get over it.
4. General: Don’t Drink and Drive!
The cost of a total DUI charge is, at minimum, $10,000. However, the massive impact it can have if someone dies as a result of your recklessness far exceeds any financial number. It seems like every year, some high profile athlete or celebrity gets busted for DUI, and they always say the same things about being sorry, and how they made a grave error in judgment.
However, the Dallas Cowboys recent tragedy is a sign that evidently none of these high paid athletes actually get it, and this time there was a human cost. A man who jubilantly was expecting a child died as a result of his friend’s carelessness. Granted, he got in the car, but that doesn’t excuse his friend’s bad behavior.
I’m sorry to end this on a down note, but I must: call a cab, call a friend, waste an hour and sober up (most bars will accommodate you for that); anything is better than the risk you put the rest of society, and yourself, at.