Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Bonanza Column 247 - Candidates, What Are You FOR?

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Bonanza Column 246 - A Level Playing Field?

We’d like to think that sports stand as one of the last bastions of meritocracy in the modern world. Government has become the province of those who have the time and money to campaign, college admissions depend more on who you know and how much you can pay than on academic achievement, and advancement in business seems to have as much or more to do with connections and appearances than with real business acumen, but in sports it’s “faster, higher, stronger,” or so we hope.

The London Olympics mostly bore this out, but it’s the “mostly” that’s the rub. Some 100 athletes were barred from the games because of doping, resulting in very few doping problems in the Olympics themselves. While the actions of a few teams throwing matches to get more favorable opponents in groups play in badminton left a bad taste, by and large we can believe that the winners in each event were, in fact, the fastest and strongest, while not necessarily the highest.

But with Major League Baseball, not so much. Melky Cabrera, late of the Giants, looked like a true golden boy. A great hitter and fielder who seemed to get better and better. Fans dubbed him “the Melkman” and dressed in old-fashioned milkman uniforms to cheer him on. He seemed too good to be true and he was. Cabrera is now suspended for the rest of the season plus five more games after being found to have used performance-enhancing drugs, i.e. steroids.

Steroid use has become so common in professional sports that, except among Giant fans, this barely caused a ripple. Some would say “what difference does it make? These guys are overpaid, over-admired, and over-noticed, so what do you expect?” But I think it does make a difference, an important one. You’ll hear it said that we should just make performance-enhancing drugs legal – that somehow that would level the playing field (no pun intended). I don’t think so.

The whole ideal of athletic competition is, it’s true, a level playing field. Put everyone under the same conditions, the same constraints, and see who comes out best. Doping thwarts this – it tilts the playing field in favor of those who use the drugs, and gives cheaters an unfair advantage. If performance-enhancing drugs were made legal, the field would still not be level – everyone reacts to chemicals differently, and the advantage would not be to those who performed best, but to those whose genetic endowment most favored the use of the drugs. We might as well just have the drug companies put up competing formulas. And all that leaves out the indisputable long-term harm that these drugs do.

So Melky, we hardly knew ya – the great performer turns out to be a cheater, the great moments when he went deep are tainted by the knowledge that he was “artificially assisted.” When I was a kid we idolized baseball players – the great hitters – Williams, Di Maggio, Ruth – the great pitchers – Larsen, Ford, Slaughter – and the great fielders – Robinson, Mays, Mc Covey. Who will our grandchildren idolize? Certainly not the likes of the false Melkman.

On a totally different topic, Jim Clark did a good job last week of making the case for the importance of the meeting on August 28th to prioritize the issues raised by residents in the IV/CB 2020 listening sessions conducted in July. The past ten years or so have seen a number of visioning efforts, each of which has built on the others. The work of Jim, Gene Brockman, Dean Meiling, and others on engaging the Nevada Rural Development Council to conduct this latest survey is one of the most rigorous and most timely as the region moves toward greater community self-determination. I’m in Africa on business until after Labor Day, but I’ve read the report of the NRDC’s sessions and am looking forward to the community taking this conversation to the next level – I can think of nothing more important to do on August 28 than to attend this session and want to add my encouragement to Jim’s for you to attend.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Bonanza Column 245 - I'm Back

Just over a year ago I stopped writing this column when I took on a year-long contract as Chief Operating Officer of TRPA. I went there to do some specific things involving internal operations and organizational culture, and was for the most part successful – people tell me that they perceive the Agency as more customer-focused and easier to deal with. I believe that the processes we put in motion over the year I was there contributed to this and will continue to improve TRPA’s relationship with the public and its partner agencies.
That contract ended at the end of June and for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was pent-up demands from my corporate clients, I resumed my consulting and coaching practice. I still work with TRPA at about 30% time, doing staff training, development, and coaching. I remain committed to the Agency’s vision, mission, and goals, and feel that the 70 people who work there are the best of the best in the environmental field, and I consider it a privilege to contribute to their work.
So I’m back to my practice full time – I’m writing this from an airline lounge in Johannesburg, South Africa, on my way to a long-standing client in Botswana – and my training and coaching relationship with TRPA frees me up to resume this column which many people have been kind enough to say they’ve missed. I may address issues that involve TRPA from time to time, and when I do it will be as a private citizen, not in any way as a representative of the Agency.
The return of this column will be welcomed by some and less so by others. The guest columns in the Bonanza for the past year have been dominated by the Conservative perspective, and the need for balancing that point of view is why I began this column in 2004. Just as a reminder, I make no claim to balance or objectivity in this column –Jon Carroll, one of my favorite columnists, recently addressed this in the San Francisco Chronicle:
Every time I write a column about electoral politics, I am sure to get at least one letter saying "your bias is showing" and excoriating me for said bias. But I'm a columnist. I'm supposed to have bias. My views on a wide variety of matters are known, and I make every effort to argue my case forcefully, even using (dare I say it?) rhetorical devices to further my arguments. This is not illegal or unethical; it's my job description.”
I could not have said it better. My bias is unapologetically liberal/progressive. I’m pro-Obama, pro-Harry Reid, the whole package. I respect your right to disagree, and I stand on my right to represent that side of the political spectrum, and I refuse to believe that living in Incline Village takes that right away from me or from those who agree with me.
That said, I believe that the ideologies that guide politics on the National and State level mostly have no place on the local level. I have made common cause with my more conservative neighbors on a raft of local issues, where we agree far more than we differ, and I will continue to do that, so don’t be surprised when Jim Clark and I agree on local matters, which we mostly do.
In that last area, I’ve been distressed at what has been going on in our community for the past year or so. The level of rancor and divisiveness that, as far as I can tell, is being fostered and promoted by a very few people is truly unseemly. We’ve lost good people from the ranks of IVGID staff, and the ability of the IVGID Board and staff to manage the District’s affairs has been compromise by a ruthless onslaught of unfounded criticisms and accusations and even lawsuits that I would characterize as frivolous at best, and malicious at worst. While the worst offenders were roundly rejected by the voters in the primary, several candidates on the November ballot seem to be running on a “throw the rascals out” platform that I believe the current Board does not deserve and running against the staff, which is equally uncalled for. I’ll have more to say about this in columns to come, but I’m confident that the community’s electorate will see through these manipulative tactics.
See you on the Op-Ed page.