10 years on: Tiger finds religion, Harvard goes under, and all human knowledge disappears - temporarily

By Alex Beam
Globe Staff / December 31, 2009

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Dec 31, 2019 Dear Alex,

Here is your future - welcome to it! Can you imagine? You are 65 years old, but a very lean and fit 65, I hasten to add. You were smart to ditch running, and take up rowing at age 48. All your pals are lumbering around on titanium hips, but not you. If only they had listened . . . but they never do.

Where to begin, with the fate of the earth, or with the Red Sox? That’s a no-brainer. The news from the Fens is grim, let me warn you. John Henry’s clever trading algorithms couldn’t survive The Big Outage of ’14 - I’ll explain that in a second - and what he didn’t lose in the Droid cloud got taken in his most recent divorce. Even 10 years ago, you could feel the pendulum swinging Gotham-ward, and it still hasn’t swung back.

Habla español? Just before he got chased out of office in 2012, President Obama accepted Cuba’s desperation request to become the 51st state. It had run out of sugar, its proletarian resorts had gone belly-up, but it had a mother lode of pitchers, shortstops, and center fielders. Manager Luis Tiant runs a (semi) tight ship, and it’s great to smell cigar smoke in the clubhouse again.

Baseball and football both went global; you could see that coming. So the World Series takes place in Japan or San Juan as often as in New York. Interleague play means the Sox traveling to Caracas (we fixed Chavez’s wagon, don’t worry), and the Patriots go to Birmingham (the one in England, not Alabama). As a result, all professional athletes are permanently jet-lagged. They sleepwalk through their assignments like Randy Moss did on an off-day.

Oh, yes, the fate of the earth. Are you sitting down? We’re still here! Remember those newspaper stories, “Boston under water’’? All in good fun, I suppose. As predicted by the United Nations, sea levels have risen a bit over an inch, which makes it a tad easier for me to carry my rowing shell down the ramp from the Cygnet boathouse. Global warming? You probably remember the decadelong temperature stabilization that began in 2001? That continued until a few years ago, and now the temps have actually declined a degree or two, which explains why the newspaper stories these days have headlines like “Hub on ice!’’ It’s all statistics, my friend. Don’t pretend to understand it.

Your pal Obama? I don’t want to disappoint you too much. He fought the good fight, more Americans have medical insurance thanks to him, and more Americans died in pointless foreign wars, too. Here’s an outcome you might not have predicted: 43 and 44 chumming it up on the links and elsewhere. OK, they’re not singing “Ebony and Ivory’’ duets on AppleTube quite yet, but George W. Bush and Barack Obama have become pals. Sometimes they’ll play 18 with the Rev. Tiger Woods. Yes, Tiger found his way to Jesus, as you knew he would.

Actually, the Bush-Obama lovefest isn’t so hard to fathom. Being president is an impossible, thankless job, and as I write this, there are only three men alive who have sat in the Oval Office and made those decisions. President _____ is just finishing up her second term, getting things ready for Senator ______ to move in.

What? You thought I was going to tell you everything!?

As for The Big Outage. Al Qaeda never attacked American citizens on our soil during the past 10 years; that was something to be thankful for. But it did engineer a synchronized attack on every major computer server farm, which brought the economy to a crashing halt. The corporations, the banks, and the accounting firms had a measure of backup, so after about a month of total chaos, people started getting paid again, credit cards would work, and so on.

But reconstituting knowledge proved a bit thornier. Google had digitized every library in the industrialized world, and of course the terrorists hit them hardest of all. No one thought to back up data as trivial as books. For 10 days or so, it seemed as if all human knowledge had disappeared, like the destruction of the Library of Alexandria, times 4 billion giga-flops. Then someone remembered that Gordon College in Wenham, a small Christian school, had decided not to turn its library into an espresso bar. It had dictionaries, encyclopedias, history books, and novels. Wenham as the New Rome? Don’t laugh. Thank heavens someone didn’t drink the Kool-Aid!

Of course, The Big Outage gave the Chinese the excuse they needed to move in. Thirty-year Treasuries were like Confederate bonds, and Ben Bernanke’s signature was worth as much as Jeff Davis’s. Quietly, yes, inscrutably, they took control of the Federal Reserve system. The Boys From Beijing are very low-key managers, they run the entire US economy out of a small brownstone on Manhattan’s East Side.

The top guy, Lin Piao-Nin, is scrupulously polite, knew Tiger at Stanford, of course. The United States hasn’t run a budget deficit since he took over. It’s amazing how streamlined our government has become, without the Departments of Defense, Energy, and Health and Human Services.

I have some difficult personal news for you: Not only is your pervy, nervy favorite television show, “Dexter,’’ off the air, but so are the “Law & Order’’ reruns! Even “Jeopardy!’’ ran out of gas. No more questions - I mean answers. Jenna Bush is a judge on “American Idol’’ and Regis Philbin is broadcasting from his wheelchair. Elisabeth Hasselbeck took Katie Couric’s place on the “CBS Evening News.’’ But you saw that coming.

Oh, and Boston University closed those squash courts you liked so much. After Harvard went under - it could never unwind those risky, un-collaterized debt swaps you-know-who put it in around 2005 - BU snapped up its athletic facilities at the bankruptcy auction. Tufts got the law and medical schools. Surprisingly, there were no bidders for the Harvard Business School. I guess the old adage was right: Without the H, it’s all BS.

Best wishes from your future self! And if you can get people to stop running, please do. It’s a killer on the hips and knees.