Don’t get me started again about “amateur” athletics, the focal point of the rant I let loose in last week’s issue. Right after that column came out I stumbled across another front-page article in the New York Times, about a college football player who wanted to transfer to another school.
You wouldn’t expect the coach who initially recruited him to give the departing player a going away party. But you might be surprised to learn that the coach had rights of refusal on where the player could transfer. All of which brings up another aspect of college athletics that I didn’t even touch in last week’s rant: The proposal — serious proposal — that big time college sports programs simply hire their athletes. In other words, the hypocrisy of “student athletes” in major college sports is so great that reasonable people are suggesting that a more honest approach is the ultimate answer.
Crazy? Joe Nocera of the New York Times wrote a column on December 30, 2011, that attracted a lot of serious attention. Amazon even has a book on the subject: “Should College Athletes Be Paid?” by Geoff Griffin. But don’t get me started. I have some other subjects I need to rant about:
Privacy. Some of my politically progressive friends will frown but I have no problem with Big Brother collecting telephone and Internet data and using it to thwart terror attacks or catch terrorists after they have struck (or, for crying out loud, for scouring the record of calls made to the Princeton University campus on the morning of June 11, when a bomb threat was made).
We already willingly give up tons of information in our quest to be wired into all the social media and Internet resources. As for E-mail, I have been warning my staff for years not to say anything in an E-mail that you wouldn’t want to see in print some day. And now we have news of toll plazas that no longer have toll collection booths. You either pay by E-ZPass or your license is photographed and you get a bill in the mail — thanks to a picture taken of your license plate as you sped by. I haven’t heard a squeak of concern over the obvious loss of privacy to that system (but of course no one wants to be held up at a toll booth).
As for the “traitor” who gave all this information away, prosecute him under the law, and then cut him a break. He has initiated a national debate that should have been started and finished years ago.
In that debate, let me offer a modest proposal: That we have an opt-in system where, if you feel you have nothing to hide, you permit the National Security Agency and its counterparts to monitor your phone, check your E-mail, track your Internet, and scan your irises for the eye recognition system that is looming on the technological horizon. In return for that you get red carpet treatment at airport check-in lines and you get to whisk through sensitive passageways such as the Lincoln Tunnel — once you look that security camera squarely in the eye. It’s time for the progressives to get a little pragmatic. But don’t get me started.
The Weather. It rained last Friday and it rained again on Monday. I know that. Nobody needs to tell me. Many years ago I wrote a whole column on the weather and the mindless conversations it generates and how your whole mental attitude can be uplifted by not talking too much about the weather and particularly not complaining about it. Nothing has changed since then, except the amount of extreme and generally weird weather that keeps coming our way.
Here’s deal. Every time you tell me about how cold it is, or how warm it is, or how rainy (or dry) it is, I will give you a little lecture in return about global climate change, and how foolish it is for the Republican Party to turn its institutional back on this important issue (and not to mention the economic opportunities that surely lie in the solutions).
Pollution — In Your Backyard. So there, you got me started about climate change and now my rant turns to an old favorite, one that boils over often at this time of year as mowers, weed whackers, and leaf blowers are all powered up. I’m talking about suburban lawns and their pollution, including the fumes and noise of the machines that tend to them.
Here’s one more reason to be against lawns, at least large lawns: An article in the April 30 issue of “E the Environmental Magazine.” The piece was titled “Are Lawns Worse than Corn Fields?” The answer, according to David Bowne, an assistant professor of biology at Elizabethtown College in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, is yes.
According to Bowne’s data, lawns emit even more carbon dioxide than corn fields, and the net effect of those emissions is more heat — so much more that suburban lawns can create their own version of “urban heat islands,” usually associated with paved roads, parking lots, and rooftops.
But there’s hope. The same article notes that “if people recycle the grass clippings, leaving them to decompose on the lawn [and recycle nitrogen], the U.S. lawn area could store up to 16.7 teragrams of carbon each year. That’s equivalent to about 37 billion pounds.”
I could go on about lawns, but I won’t. Instead I’ll just wait until the landscapers arrive to tend the large lawn outside our office. I’ll rant then, but you won’t hear me — I’ll be drowned out by the leaf blowers.