Looking for stories with endings

This ‘Life In Quarantine’ column originally ran on Sunday, May 10, 2020 in the Gaston Gazette.


A night doesn’t go by where I don’t ask Alexa who won a particular World Series. She knows, and always tells me. And then I go right to sleep. It’s easy to sleep when things are certain.

It’s also easier to sleep when you know how the story ends.

Thanks to this COVID-19 world we find ourselves in, there is a classic baseball game on TV every night. And just like NBC told us about reruns back in 1998, “if you haven’t seen it, it’s new to you.”

There’s something comforting about watching older shows, movies and sporting events. Maybe that’s the subtle power of nostalgia. But throughout this corona madness, I’ve found myself consuming a lot of classic baseball and 80’s movies.

I’m not the only one reveling in the past. Ratings have been very strong as it relates to The Last Dance, ESPN’s ten-part documentary miniseries that’s been airing on Sunday nights. This series focuses on Michael Jordan and his 1997-98 NBA season with the Chicago Bulls.

People have been captivated by this program. We know how this story ends too. Jordan and the Bulls beat the Utah Jazz in six games to win their sixth national title in 8 years.

But’s it the little details of how that ending came to be that is entertaining us. It’s proven to be a great little distraction from the uncertainty of our current lives.

That’s the funny thing – we don’t know how our own personal COVID-19 stories are going to end. That’s the scary part.

Stories with endings we know are comforting in this time. We know that Ferris Bueller gets his day off. And doesn’t get caught by Principal Rooney. We know the Karate Kid, with the help of Mr. Miyagi, ultimately beats the evil school bully and wins the big karate tournament. Oh yeah, and he gets the girl at the end too.

We know that the Carolina Panthers almost beat the New England Patriots in Super Bowl 38, but fall short at the very end. We know that the Boston Red Sox came back from a 3 games to none deficit in 2004 to beat the Yankees in 7 games to advance to the World Series. And yeah, they win the World Series and finally break the Curse of the Bambino too.

I read the other day that musician Ben Folds cancelled all of his concert performances for the remainder of 2020. Not just this month and the next couple of months – he canceled the entire year.

Taylor Swift did the same thing, a cue in which he says he borrowed from her. He said he did this as a way to remove as much of the uncertainty around these current times as he could.

He claims that “what is needed in a time of such uncertainty, when a historic pandemic is killing people, erasing jobs, and disrupting life as we know it, is to shed as much of that uncertainty as possible, and to take stock of that which is certain.”

We all have different ways of dealing with uncertainty. If that works for him, that’s great. But as I always say, there is more than one way to get to Myrtle Beach.

Uncertainty is a part of life. It’s inevitable.

I guess he and I are a tale of two different Bens. Removing uncertainty sounds great, but it’s always there, lingering in the air.

I like the idea of making peace with uncertainty. Removing it or pretending it doesn’t exist doesn’t seem like the way I’d handle it. I don’t know exactly how I’d go about making peace with it, but I like the idea of borrowing from the Alcoholics Anonymous playbook and just take things one day at a time.

I can’t tell you what things will look like three months, three weeks or even three days from now. I just know I’m going to focus on today, as best that I can. Tomorrow will come. And as my friend Jon Shain sings in one of his songs, “tomorrow will be yesterday soon.”

We don’t know how this story ends. And as long as we don’t, there will continue to be uncertainty. I would say that future generations will read about us in history books, but they’ll probably just learn about us by way of a Netflix docuseries or in some major motion picture starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Scarlett Johansson.

After all, they say hindsight is 2020. But in 2020, hindsight seems to be all we have. Oh, and we have right now, or today, which means there’s another classic baseball game coming on later tonight to watch. Which will also be promptly followed by another good night’s sleep.

Columnist Ben Dungan has been writing about his experiences staying at home since the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus.

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