August's Almost Over; Must be Football (and Hurricane) Season...
It's been a tough week for me to concentrate on what's going on the world, what with two huge fantasy football drafts smack in the middle of it. Oh, and my daughter's third birthday, too. Cough.
Yes, the football season is finally here. In fact, I had a fun moment about a week ago when, on the morning drive, I was listening to sports talk radio. The fill-in host that morning was talking about how the Democratic National Convention was going to feature Obama's keynote speech on the night of Thursday, August 28 (tonight). The host couldn't help but note that it was the same night of the first college football games. So he asked when McCain would be speaking at the Republican National Convention. He learned that would be on Thursday night September 4... the night of the first National Football League game.
Okay, tossing aside all lessons about "what's important" and politics and the election and so forth, I have to say, if I'm representative at all of Joe American, a guy who has spent his last six months absolutely starved for pigskin, then I have to guess that the politicos aren't going to be pulling in quite the audience they hoped for. I'd heard talk that both parties scheduled their conventions for late August because they didn't want to go head-to-head with the Olympics. If so, one has to wonder why neither bothered to check the football schedules. A random sampling of "my circle" determined that 97 percent would opt to watch the football games live and forego both televised conventions, and 3 percent might Tivo one or both conventions and think about watching them later. I think my survey had a 3 percent margin of error.
So it's probably a safe bet that I won't be blogging much over what either candidate had to say in the next week or so. And anyway, I already watched (and loved) Rick Warren's Civil Forum, so I'm good and set on who I'll be voting for (the experienced guy).
But even though my brain has morphed into an oblong shape and laces are growing from the top of my skull, I did manage to pick up on a few other items of interest in the world this week...
Most notably, I was struck by a headline I read this morning that New Orleans could face evacuation if Hurricane Gustav takes a path towards the city. The very notion of the idea exactly three years after Katrina gave me a knot in my stomach. I remember coming home from the hospital with our new baby daughter in 2005, settling in for a week off of work, and turning on the TV... and just being floored by the jaw-dropping devastation and human suffering.
Now, city officials have planned strategies for evacuation and lock down. The Army Corps of Engineers did spend billions of dollars to improve the levees, but they have yet to be tested by a full-force hurricane. And Gustav could weaken, or strike a less-than-direct hit.
The question, however, must be asked? Can New Orleans, can Louisiana, can the nation sustain another Katrina-type situation in that city when repairs are still ongoing? I just don't know. I hope you all will be in constant prayer, not only for the people of Louisiana, but of Haiti, Jamaica, and other Caribbean countries.
Of much less importance, but of greater debate, is the LPGA's decision that all golfers on their tour will be required to speak English. The decision is apparently one borne out of marketing - being able to sell women's golf in this country, which is difficult if tournament winners can't give an interview on ESPN or successfully hawk a product to an American audience. Questions are rightfully being asked whether the move is unfair, discriminatory, un-American (though plenty are applauding it - wrongfully, I believe - as pro-American, "speak-our-language-or-get-out" rhetoric), or driven by money as a wrong-reason as the expense of good sportsmanship, quality competition, and soul selling.
In a move that emphasizes the global nature of the tour and brings to the forefront the complexities and demands of that diversity, the LPGA has revealed its intentions to insist that all players with at least two years' seniority have sufficient skills in English to manage media interviews, deliver victory speeches and interact at an acceptable level with amateur partners in pro-am competitions.
A player who does not meet the required standards -- the criteria for which the tour plans to develop and present to the players by the end of the year -- will be suspended from the tour and provided the remedial help required to get up to the level of expected communication skills. The move by the tour lays bare an extremely complex issue where cultural respect clashes with the creation of a successful business model.
"The players have been very supportive of this," LPGA deputy commissioner Libba Galloway said, "and the majority of our international players already meet the standards of effective communication we expect. We just want to make our expectations very clear. While we are having a large degree of success, we don't want to just stay where we are. We want to get better. We are looking to the future. We are a global tour, and we take pride in the fact the LPGA attracts the very best golfers from all over the world."
My very first feeling was that the decision was completely unfair. I mean, nobody tells baseball players - who hail from all over the world - that they have to conform to a language standard. Sammy Sosa can even conveniently forget his English when sitting in front of Congress and still retain the right to play Major League Baseball. But women's golf doesn't have the secure place baseball does in the sports spectrum. It's taking lessons more from NASCAR and other sports entries who have grown by leaps and bounds because of constant athlete interaction with fans and sponsors.
Of course, it's not lost on me the fact that I'm in favor of the LPGA's decision to cast restrictions here, while last week I wasn't in favor of doctors being able to refuse service to patients on whatever grounds they choose for their own practices. I get that.
Just to me, one is business, the other's personal.
Feel free to disagree below!