The year in review

By Randall Poulton | Jan 09, 2020

Doing my Year in Review column is something I usually look forward to. But the prospect of a month by month regurgitation of the rancor and   divisiveness that marked 2019 made me a bit sick. There is an old saying that time heals all wounds, both physical and mental. Accordingly, making fun of the events of the past year will have to wait until my stomach settles!

As my re-cap below illustrates, 1997 had its share of familiar-sounding ugliness and tragedy, but somehow, almost a generation later, the pain is gone. Let the fun begin!

January: After 15 years on the Today show, Bryant Gumbel retires. His replacement is a little-known talking head named Matt Lauer. Apparently, no one at NBC thought it was strange that one of the first things Lauer did at 30 Rock was have a special button installed on his desk. Oddly, that device enabled him to lock people inside his office.

February: People line up in the cold and rain to get tickets to “The Empire Strikes Back.” This film is promoted as the second movie in the “Star Wars” trilogy. However, producers ultimately determine that viewing “Star Wars” permanently changes a person’s brain and they will forever pay big bucks to see any movie that involves good guys in white space suits fighting with bad guys in black space suits. During the ’50s and ’60s, this same formula gave us the TV genre known as Cowboys and Indians!

March: NECCO wafers celebrate their 150th anniversary. Billed as “fat free” and the ideal food for the 1990s, these candy wafers were always one of my favorites. Their demise in 2019 was a real bummer. And, Al Gore, fresh off inventing the internet, pleads guilty to using his government office to do “pay to play” political fundraising. Despite the clear “quid pro quo,” Gore states “I am proud of what I did.”

April: A young golfer named Tiger wins his first Master’s championship. Soon thereafter, the Augusta Country Club decides to stop rejecting new members based solely on the color of their skin. In two months, another little-known athlete, 17-year-old Venus Williams, will make it to the finals of the U.S. Open. TV audiences (and revenues) soar. Once considered second-tier sports, there will soon be a Golf Channel and a Tennis Channel!

May: IBM’s super computer “Big Blue” beats world champion chess player, Gary Kasparov, in just 19 moves. Today, the “chess app” on a cell phone could probably beat Kasporov. Too bad no one asked Big Blue why Lauer had that button on his desk!

June: After years of denial, the major tobacco companies finally agree smoking cigarettes will kill you. The $368 billion settlement ends a class action lawsuit brought by the states. (Maine got $1.5 billion. Any idea where all that money went? Me either.) Meanwhile, the federal government continued to subsidize tobacco farmers for another seven years. No, I am not making that up!

July: Bill Cosby, America’s Dad, wins in court when Autumn Jackson is convicted of trying to extort money from Cosby. Jackson claimed Cosby is her father. Later, in what turns out to be a foreshadowing of future events, Cosby admits to Dan Rather that he had an extramarital affair with Jackson’s mother. Also, in July, in another foreshadowing, a Dallas jury fines the Catholic Church $120 million for tolerating and covering up the 15 years of sexual abuse perpetrated by the Rev. Rudolph Kos.

August: Princess Diana is killed when her chauffeur crashes their Mercedes-Benz into a tunnel support column. This tragic accident begins a never-ending media circus that continues today. Enough said.

September: NBC fires veteran sportscaster Marv Albert after embarrassing details about his sex life are revealed. Shaken by this event: Matt Lauer double checks the special lock on his office door; Bill Cosby double checks his supply of roofies (the date rape drug); and the Catholic Church double checks their plan for covering-up sexual predator priests.

October: George Soros, a major Democratic party power player, pledges to donate $500 million to Russia over the next three years. This, on top of the $260 million he has already donated. Republicans scream collusion! (Not really, I made that up.) In the weather department, Hurricane Pauline devastates Acapulco, killing 230. Meteorologists blame El Nino. In yet another foreshadowing, Al Gore, fresh off inventing the internet and proudly using his office to extort money, sees an opportunity to turn bad weather into cash. Global Warming is born.

November: United States Attorney General Janet Reno refuses to investigate the fund-raising abuses by Bill Clinton and Al Gore. This, despite White House video showing Clinton and Gore hosting 44 separate “teas” in the Oval Office. For those unfamiliar with political “teas,” these are events, typically hosted at the home of a supporter, with the goal of raising cash for the candidate. Later, when the director of the FBI requests Reno appoint Bob Mueller as special counsel, she again says no! Republicans scream collusion! (I made the Mueller part up.)

December: While skiing on New Year’s Eve, Michael Kennedy, son of the late Bobby Kennedy, crashes into a tree and dies. This tragic event is yet another chapter in the long, sad story of the Kennedy family. Earlier in the year, the Boston Globe reported Michael had a five-year extramarital affair with his children’s underage baby sitter. The apple does not fall far from the tree.

As we ring in 2020, we find many of the events of 1997 had “long legs”: Bill Cosby is finally in jail and Matt Lauer should be; slightly deranged people are still lining up to see the latest “Star Wars” movie (actually I think these folks are totally deranged, but, not wanting to be sued, I said “slightly”); the Catholic Church continues to pay out massive sums to atone for the church’s permissive attitude toward sexual abuse ($84 million in Pennsylvania alone!); George Soros has given up on Russia and is now bankrolling illegal immigration, and, after more than 20 years, we are all still waiting for Global Warming. (I know: How dare you!).

Happy New Year and thank you for reading “Patiently Awaiting the Golden Years.”

Randall Poulton is a Republican Journal columnist. He lives in Winterport.


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