NFL has enough on its plate

As if the National Football League didn’t have enough on its plate with which to contend.

The NFL has just issued an edict ordering its players to stand for the national anthem when it’s played prior to football games.

There is another issue on the NFL’s plate. It’s called chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.

I got to write about it while working part time for Panhandle PBS. My task in those days was to write blogs pertaining to public service programming. “Frontline” did a landmark special on CTE in 2015 and I was privileged to offer some perspective on it.

Here is what I wrote in September 2015 for Panhandle PBS.

I mention this now because the NFL is back in the news. The topic this time — players who “take a knee” to protest police brutality against African-Americans — is unpleasant. It’s not nearly as grim and grievous as the “other big issue” that plagues the NFL to this day.

CTE is taking lives. The league is trying to do better at protecting these highly paid athletes/entertainers. It’s a full-time job for the NFL. I am wondering how in the world the league is going to focus on players who launch their protests by “taking a knee.”

Patience will be stressed

I guess I am somewhat liberated these days. I can speak about all the road work ongoing in Amarillo, Texas, even though I spend most of my time in our new home in Fairview, just north of Dallas.

I happen to agree with a letter to the editor published in the Amarillo Globe-News about the need for patience as the city and the state repair roads, bridges and highways seemingly in every corner of the city.

“Let us all relax, be patient, and this too shall pass – just not in the construction no-passing zone, please,” writes Alan Tinsley, an Amarillo resident.

Check out Tinsley’s letter here.

I’ve sought to counsel the same thing for years. I will admit that my own patience has been tested at times as I drive through Amarillo.

But I do try to keep some things in perspective. After all, it could be a whole lot worse than waiting to get through an intersection that’s being rebuilt. We could be recovering from devastating floods or heavy wind; our health could go south on us in a flash.

As my wife and I return to Amarillo on occasion, we’ll get to experience the progress as it develops without experiencing some of the hassles of navigating through the work in progress.

To my friends and neighbors in the Panhandle, just keep in mind: There’s an end to it. You will like the finished product.

NFL tells players to stand … or else

Freedom of speech and political expression has just been dealt an improper blow to the gut by the National Football League.

To be candid, this story makes my gut churn. The NFL, though, has made the wrong decision to restrict the manner in which its players can express themselves politically.

It began a couple of seasons ago when a player decided to kneel during the national anthem prior to the start of a game. Former San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick wanted to protest the treatment of African-Americans by police.

At one level, I wish the young man had decided to stand during the anthem. His decision to “take a knee,” though, didn’t bother me greatly. I understand why he decided to do that.

But a presidential candidate, Donald Trump, decided to make a major issue out of it. Then the candidate was elected president in 2016 and he kept up the drumbeat. He called protesting NFL players “sons of bit****” who should be “fired.”

This week, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said players henceforth will stand when they play the anthem. They are free to stay in the locker room, but while they are on the field, they will stand.

Trump won one, yes? I guess so.

I want to stipulate something here. The nation’s founding was based on its honoring of peaceful dissent. Its very governing document, the Constitution, guarantees citizens the right to protest.

NFL players who “take a knee” are exercising their right to protest. I have heard the argument that as employees of professional football team owners, they are obligated to behave the way their bosses dictate.

Yes, but they are performing on a public stage, subsidized by the public that pays top dollar to watch them play a game. As a social media acquaintance of mine noted recently, these men aren’t “indentured servants.” They are highly paid professional athletes, some of whom choose to make a political statement.

They do so peacefully. And to my way of thinking, their kneeling doesn’t disrespect the nation in the least. It honors the basis for the nation’s very founding.

‘Probably’ shouldn’t say Spygate? C’mon, Sen. Graham

Lindsey Graham can do better than this.

The South Carolina Republican U.S. senator says that Donald Trump “probably shouldn’t” use the term “Spygate” to level an accusation that the FBI planted someone inside his presidential campaign for political purposes.

Actually, Trump is defaming the FBI yet again by making an assertion without the hint of evidence that what he is saying is true.

Trump most clearly shouldn’t use such language to describe what the FBI might have done, which is to probe questions that arose during the 2016 campaign that Russians were meddling in our election and trying to turn the tables in Trump’s favor.

Rather than welcome an FBI investigation into that allegation, Trump has decided to declare political war against the law enforcement agency and leaders at the top of the Department of Justice.

He is seeking to discredit the special counsel’s probe. He has launched a scorched-Earth campaign against the FBI. He has introduced the term “spy” to describe the FBI’s effort to get to the bottom of the Russia meddling caper.

Graham offered radio host Hugh Hewitt a milquetoast response to the question about the Trump’s reckless language: “I don’t know. Probably not, but I don’t know,” he said. “I didn’t go to the meeting. I don’t think it’s — I don’t think he’s a spy. And I don’t know who this person was.”

Trump’s continuing campaign against the FBI is a disgrace.

Putin to abide by the law? Imagine that!

Vladimir Putin, the man so admired by Donald John Trump Sr., says he’s going to step down as Russian president by 2024 — in accordance with the Russian constitution.

Well, shut my mouth and send me to Siberia!

It reminds me of American politicians who boast from campaign lecturns about how they are faithful to their wives. So many of them, though, turn out to be quite unfaithful.

I’ll have to wait for Vladimir Putin to actually deliver on his pledge to, um, obey the laws of his land. “In the constitution it’s clearly written that nobody can serve more than two terms in a row. … I intend to abide by this rule,” he said.

That’s big of him, don’t you think?

Happy Trails, Part 105: Bring on the thunder!

Years ago, when my wife and I committed to moving to the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, we expressed the hope we might get to revive one of the memories we had when we lived on the Texas Gulf Coast.

Today, it happened.

My wife and I are huge fans of thunderstorms. We love the sound of thunder. We just heard a huge clap of it right overhead. Directly!

Our conclusion is that the relative humidity of the Metroplex atmosphere — compared to the dryness of the Texas Panhandle air — is going to produce the kind of explosive weather we enjoyed/endured while we lived in Beaumont.

There was one storm in particular in Beaumont that I recall. It was a doozy. What did my wife and I do? We hauled our lawn chairs to spots under our carport and sat there, just listening to the thunder and watching the lightning streak across the sky.

I know what you’re thinking: Are those people nuts?

Actually, we’re quite sane. It doesn’t take much to please either of us. Mother Nature’s tempestuous is one of the joys of life we enjoy.

Sure, we had some beauts blown in over us in Amarillo. We had to replace the roof on our house just three years after we built it because of baseball-size hail that pummeled us. And, yep, the lightning was damn loud that day, too!

We are hoping for more of that kind of thrill — perverse though it sounds — as we settle into our new digs just north of Dallas … although the hail can stay away!

Do these symbols speak for a community?

CLARENDON, Texas — We have been traveling through this community for more than two decades en route from Amarillo to the Metroplex … and occasionally beyond.

During a relatively recent span of time, though, I have been struck by the plethora of religious symbols that have sprouted up on both ends of the highway that courses through the Donley County community.

Some of them are crosses, symbols of Jesus’s crucifixion. There are signs, too. They speak about God. There’s a touch of preaching in them; some of the signs speak of the “only path to salvation.” That kind of thing.

I’ve long wondered: Who put these messages out there? Did the city sanction them? I’ve sniffed around only a little bit.

Then I found a link to an Amarillo TV station that rooted out an answer or two.

As KFDA NewsChannel 10 reported: A local resident, Jim Griffin, put the signs up. They are meant to predict consequences far worse than 9/11. They seek to espouse Christian belief.

Not everyone is happy about the signs, or the crosses, or the message some have construed — which is that Clarendon is welcome only to Christians.

Hmm. I don’t buy that. I’ve never felt “evangelized” when I read the signs or look at the crosses.

The signs generally speak of hope and faith. Is there something really wrong with that? I think not.

Yes, it is a curious community feature. I have noticed that all the signs and the crosses are sitting on private property. I haven’t noticed anything on the Clarendon College campus, or at the Donley County Courthouse, or at Clarendon City Hall. There clearly would be a constitutional concern were there to be such messages delivered on public property. That First Amendment prohibition, after all, does prevent government from sanctioning any specific religion.

Not everyone is happy about it. Read the editorial in the Clarendon Enterprise here.

As for non-Christians’ feelings as they motor through Clarendon, I am sensitive to that, too. However, I am unaware of anyone forcing individuals to abide by whatever message the signs convey.

I rarely stop in Clarendon for anything other than gas or perhaps a convenience snack or cold drink. I might feel differently about the crosses and the signs if a convenience store clerk were to start preaching to me.

My response would be: Talk to me on Sunday — in church!

More pain gets inflicted in the media

Oh, the hits just keep coming.

The San Antonio Express-News — the newspaper of record for Texas’s second-largest city — has announced another round of layoffs. It doesn’t stop. The reductions are costing communities the services of valuable craftsmen and women with decades of experience reporting on the issues of the day.

When will it end? Ever? Well, it has to end, likely when the last reporter checks out for the final time. Will he or she please be sure to turn out the lights?

The Internet is the culprit. The villain. The bogeyman.

It has spawned a whole new array of “news and information” outlets. Cable news has joined the fray. Righties have their own view of the “truth,” as do the lefties. They hunker down and consume only the “information” that comports with their world view.

It sickens and saddens me at the same time.

I once was a victim of the changing climate. I was told during a company “reorganization” that I no longer would do what I had done at the Amarillo Globe-News for nearly 18 years. I wrote editorials and columns for the paper. The publisher at the time decided to reshuffle the deck. After interviewing for my own job, I got the news: We’ve offered it to someone else and he has accepted.

I quit on the spot.

Not long after I left the G-N in the summer of 2012, I scored an interview with the Express-News. The editorial page editor flew me to San Antonio, where I spent the day talking to him, the paper’s publisher and the EPE’s editorial page staff members.

The fellow with whom I interviewed made quite a point of telling me how the Hearst Corp. was reinvesting in the Express-News, restoring positions that had been cut. Times were good in the Alamo City, he said.

I didn’t get the gig. The paper was “going in another direction,” the e-mail message told me.

It’s all good now.

I want to re-share with you a quick story. I was at my post at the Amarillo newspaper. A gentleman called about a letter he had submitted. I chose not to publish it. Why? It was full of falsehoods.

His response was classic. “I know it’s true,” he said. I asked, “How do you know that?” He said, “Because I saw it on the Internet.”

I laughed out loud into the phone.

It’s a brand new, and damn scary, world out there.

Was there spying going on? Maybe, but not for politics

Donald J. Trump has accused someone in the FBI of “spying” on his 2016 presidential campaign for “political purposes.”

Now we hear from the former director of national intelligence, James Clapper, who all but confirms a portion of what Trump has alleged.

Except that Clapper says that if the FBI got wind of Russian meddling in our presidential election, then it was duty bound to find out if the reports had any veracity.

The FBI was doing its job, if that’s what occurred.

Trump has offered no evidence of politicking. No surprise there. The president has become the master of innuendo, diversion and destruction. He wants to subvert and dismantle special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Russian meddling issue.

He calls it a “witch hunt” and says he didn’t do anything wrong. So, his strategy is to discredit the work of a highly respected career prosecutor who once led the FBI under two administrations, one Republican and one Democratic.

This is getting weird, man.

It’s ‘Secretary,’ not ‘General’ Mattis, Mr. President

I’ve made this point already, but I feel the need to restate it.

Donald J. Trump once again referred to the secretary of defense as “Gen. Mattis.” Yes, James “Mad Dog” Mattis — one of my favorite Trump Cabinet appointees — is a retired Marine Corps general. He’s got four stars on his epaulets.

But that was then. Today, the here and now, Mad Dog Mattis is a civilian, just like the president is a civilian.

Trump’s reference to “Gen. Mattis” came as he was announcing his decision to sh**can the planned June 12 summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un. The president, naturally, followed that reference with a statement that the U.S. military is the strongest in the world and that it is ready to act if the need arises.

Oh, brother, man!

Mr. President, we assign these Cabinet posts to civilians. It’s a time-honored tradition that civilians control the military. President Truman had to remind Army Gen. Douglas MacArthur of that fact when he relieved him of his Korean War command in the early 1950s.

I know it’s a semantics issue. It just bothers the daylights out of me that the commander in chief cannot honor the long-standing tradition of the office with a simple reference to the defense boss as “Secretary” James Mattis.

Get with the program, Mr. President.

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