Is history history?


historyIt’s been a fun ride recently.  My Florida hometown college hoops team made it to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament, my Florida alma mater also made it to the Sweet 16 and my Florida hometown NBA team just completed a 27-game winning streak, which marks it as 2nd longest among the four major professional sports (NBA, NFL, NHL, MLB).  It’s the latter team’s pursuit of the record that inspires me for today’s blog.

During the course of their quest to reach or surpass the previous record streak (33 games by the Lakers in 1972), the drama and exposure increased, especially after passing 20 games.  Nothing surprising there, since the team already had some notoriety from their formation several years earlier.  What set my mind to wandering (and thus my fingers to rambling), was the way the streak was so often referred to as “chasing history” or “historic streak”.

Let me share my pondering with you.  As a child of the 60’s and 70’s, I lived in some historic times.  Right in my backyard, there was the face-down known as the Cuban Missile Crisis.  In the same decade, for the first time, a man set foot on ground not of this earth.  We had a president resign rather than face certain impeachment.  Computers first appeared in homes (along with video games).

As we grow more mature (read: old) as a country, we have turned more towards leisure as a way of amusing and engulfing ourselves.  It’s no surprise, then, the hyperbole associated with celebrities and sports stars.  These consume us and since there is little “history” being made around us, history is “manufactured” for us.

It’s been 213 years since the first electric light was created by Humphry Davy (134 if you want to go with Edison’s bulb).  It’s been 128 years since Karl Benz created the gas automobile.  Only 85 years ago, Alexander Fleming produced penicillin.  World War II ended 65 years ago.  Just 22 years ago, the Soviet Union dissolved.  To have lived in those times is to have witnessed history.  Society-changing history.

As I watched and listened to reports about the Miami Heat’s “history making” run, it seemed to me that this is the best we seem to do for history now.  I have witnessed plenty of sports history first-hand.  I sat in the stands at “one of the greatest games in NFL history” as a battered Kellen Winslow stole the heart of the Miami Dolphins fans.  I watched with ecstasy as the (then) Florida Marlins won the first ever World Series Championship in the state of Florida.  And there were other games and events.  They are historic, within the context of sports, but history?

I went 40 years oblivious to the fact the Lakers held the longest winning streak in professional sports.  No societal changes were engendered by the streak, no inventions or advancements in the human condition resulted.  It was an amazing and possibly unmatchable achievement, but not “history”, at least not without a qualifier (“sports” or “basketball”).

All this is to the side, though.  I enjoy sports immensely and revel in my teams’ successes and marvel at individual achievements.  But I still wonder, is that all there is?  Has the world been reduced to wondering what new apps can be created for the next “smart” phone?  Is human achievement now measured by how effective the next pair of 3D glasses are?

Who is making history now?

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