Recent editorials of statewide and national interest from New York’s newspapers:
Don’t Let the Games Begin
The New York Times
Look no further than the storied Rose Bowl game to understand the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s disingenuous and perilous posturing about the sanctity of its athletics programs while the coronavirus has ravaged the country and college campuses.
Ignoring health officials who have deemed the annual playoff matchup too dangerous to be held on New Year’s Day in Pasadena, Calif., amid a massive spike in Covid-19 cases, the N.C.A.A. simply allowed it to move to Texas, where local officials are willing to let some 16,000 fans attend. It’s the worst kind of forum shopping.
The N.C.A.A. likes to tell itself that it is in the business of educating students about the virtues of competition and sportsmanship. What it is showing them now by example is that some sports — the moneymaking kind — are more important than public health.
Alabama’s top-ranked football team played a game without its coach, Nick Saban, who had said in-person schooling should be canceled sooner than football over coronavirus concerns, before catching the virus himself. Perhaps the sport’s premier rivalry, between Ohio State and Michigan, had its annual game called off because of an outbreak. And the University of California, Berkeley, played just four of eight games scheduled.
About one in five college football games was canceled during the season over coronavirus worries, according to N.C.A.A. data, which doesn’t include teams like the University of Connecticut’s, which preemptively canceled its entire 12-game season. Despite thousands of athletes being sickened by the coronavirus, the conferences forged ahead, including even the Big Ten and Pac-12, which in the summer prudently chose to suspend their seasons but reversed course. Many college football stadiums allowed in thousands of spectators, who displayed varying adherence to mask protocols, though college basketball appears unlikely to allow fans into its arenas.
At least 10 football bowl games have been canceled, and many schools are opting out of bowl eligibility to forestall the virus’s spread.
Yet college officials are now pressing ahead with the more intimate sport of basketball, ignoring the lessons of the abortive and misguided football season. College basketball is the first major indoor sport to attempt a season without the restrictive player bubbles successfully employed by professional basketball and hockey leagues. These so-called student-athletes are being treated like essential workers, but without the benefit of pay or the opportunity to share in the profits that line the pockets of administrators, coaches and television executives.
Already, roughly one in four Division I men’s and women’s games has been canceled or postponed, N.C.A.A. data show. There is no reason college basketball cannot be delayed until conditions improve or the vaccine is deployed in larger numbers. It’s the right thing to do, particularly as college towns bear the brunt of coronavirus transmission and deaths.
But college sports abound with hypocrisy. Fearing the pandemic’s toll, the Duke University women’s basketball team ended its season early last week, while the men continue to play, regularly, on national television. This despite the Duke men’s coach Mike Krzyzewski’s apparent discomfort playing through the pandemic: “I don’t think it feels right to anybody. I mean, everyone is concerned,” he said this month. Or should we believe the coronavirus is less transmissible if the sport is more profitable?
Even others whose livelihoods depend on college basketball have seemed dismayed. Noting the rising toll of the pandemic, one TV commentator asked during a Duke game against the University of Illinois, “If we were deciding to start now, would we start now? The answer, I think, would be no.” Iona College’s coach Rick Pitino called on Twitter for the March Madness tournament to be pushed back to May.
It should never have come to this. The Pac-12 and Big Ten initially heeded medical experts’ advice that it was likely too dangerous to hold a college football season, particularly with concerns about the lingering effects of the virus, including on the heart. But in the end, boosterism and dollar signs appeared to outweigh student safety, and the conferences reversed course. (President Trump also tried to apply pressure to restart Big Ten football, which runs through several swing states.)
College basketball, by comparison, requires far more travel than football and is a high contact sport, also with no masks. To muddle through a basketball season, the N.C.A.A. is advising players and staff to get three coronavirus tests per week, a luxury unavailable to most students and one that takes tests away from those who might need them more urgently.
While college athletes are welcome to opt out of the season in exchange for an extra scholarship year, the pull of peer pressure and the draw of glory or desired relevance may be too hard to resist. Students shouldn’t be asked to choose between the basketball court and their health, let alone that of the communities they return to during school breaks.
The coronavirus is still ripping across the country. Hospital beds are scarce, and deaths are rising. Over the past two weeks, the country averaged nearly 200,000 new daily cases. California, home to four Pac-12 basketball schools, reported more than 300,000 new cases in the seven days that ended on Dec. 22. As a sport, basketball is anathema to doctors and medical experts who continue to espouse the community benefits of staying six feet apart, congregating outside and avoiding large gatherings.
University officials have only to look around their communities to see the sacrifices other businesses — restaurants, bowling alleys, movie theaters and bars — are making for public safety. By making sports the imperative, colleges and universities are creating two classes of students: athletes who must travel around the country, staying in hotels, playing and competing indoors, and those who may choose to study safely at home.
Delaying the basketball season is the right choice. After a folly-filled football season, university and college administrators and the N.C.A.A. can show real leadership by putting the safety of their players and their communities first.
It’s time to turn the page on 2020
As we prepare to turn the page on 2020, seldom have so many of us done so with the same frame of mind:
This was a difficult year, a year filled with loss, on so many levels.
We lost a lot of people, some of whom were close to us, and their absence affected our balance. We had to force ourselves to see less of our loved ones, a loss of precious opportunity. And we lost touch with lots of other people, casual acquaintances, fellow commuters, librarians, other parents at school sports and cultural events, shop clerks and restaurant servers and kindred movie and theatergoers, who are part of the daily mosaic that enriches our lives. We suffered the tactile loss of hugs and handshakes.
We lost jobs and customers and livelihoods and businesses, and the ability to keep intact our plans for the future. Some of us lost months of our education, and continue to have it degraded. Some of us lost the chance to land that first job out of college or that internship that launches a career.
We lost many of the celebrations, rituals, and rites marking the major moments of life, from weddings and graduations to birthdays and bar mitzvahs and, on some truly heartbreaking occasions, funerals. For long periods of time, we lost the special feeling of communion with others that nourishes the soul either in formal houses of worship or social groups.
As a nation, we lost the confidence that we as Americans can handle whatever life throws at us, as a virus brought us to our knees. But not all of our losses were bad: We also lost the ability to pretend that our country does not have a race problem or a problem with policing, or that inequality and disparity are not weights that drag all of us down. Hopefully, we will not lose the resolve to do something about them.
Even amid the desolation of our losses in 2020, there also were rays of hope and shards of gain.
We found within ourselves the determination and resourcefulness needed to carry on and to continue to be productive. Some of us discovered different ways and places to work and different methods of communicating, and different ways to run our businesses and different businesses to run. Others without such options found the courage to carry on. We learned to appreciate quieter moments and smaller joys, from the satisfaction that comes with cooking a new dish to the contentment imbued by a walk in a park to the pleasure of exploring or rediscovering hobbies new and old.
We gained a renewed understanding of the importance of the bonds we form with family and friends, and a new appreciation for our essential workers. And we realized, late in this awful year, how much can get done when we focus on what we all need and what we all have in common.
Let’s leave the losses of 2020 behind and take all that we learned and all that we gained into 2021, so that it becomes a year of hope and renewal.
Postal workers face tough challenges
Adirondack Daily Enterprise
U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has a lot of explaining to do, as some in Washington are saying his removal this fall of mail sorting machines at postal facilities is partly to blame for challenges the U.S. Postal Service faced in getting packages delivered during the Christmas season. Of course, the culprit being blamed by USPS officials is COVID-19.
Yes, the men and women of the Postal Service were impacted by the epidemic. Many Christmas gifts that in past years would have been delivered in person had to be entrusted to the mail instead. And many gift purchases that previously would have been made in person at local stores were handled online.
Give credit to USPS personnel for doing as well as they did, which was quite well, all things considered. Now, they can add to the famous slogan: Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night nor killer pandemic …
It is likely there is plenty of blame to go around for the instances of slow delivery and even missing packages that have plagued the busiest shipping season of the year.
USPS spokesperson Naddia Dhalai said there have been efforts to address the backlog.
But it all came as too little, too late while far too many people spent Christmas Eve deciding whether to wrap up notes explaining the gifts that SHOULD have been under the tree. And, for those waiting for much more important things – medicine, for example — the excuses from the USPS are no comfort at all.
DeJoy and company must waste no time correcting the problems that have been festering for months, and were only magnified in December. And, soon after Joe Biden takes office as president, he and Congress should make resolving the Postal Service’s longstanding problems a priority.
Recent Charges Shine Light On Human Trafficking
Social services and law enforcement officials have been sounding alarm bells for years about human trafficking in Chautauqua County.
Recent federal charges against a Jamestown woman, however, should do more than raise alarm bells to parents. According to a federal complaint, the woman is accused of two counts of sex trafficking of a minor after allegedly recruiting, enticing, harboring and transporting two 17-year-olds for sex between August and October of this year in Chautauqua County, Cleveland and Buffalo.
The case is infuriating and saddening, but there is a bright spot if one searches hard enough through the mucky particulars of this case.
These allegations may not have come to light were it not for the Child Advocacy Program, whose name appears multiple times in the criminal complaint. CAP’s forensic interviews helped the teenagers tell their story and helped lead to the charges. CAP doesn’t work alone, it’s part of the Safe Harbour Program, an agency that has identified 120 youth since 2017 identified as being trafficked or at risk of exploitation. In 2019 alone, 46 Chautauqua County youth were referred to the program.
Human trafficking is indeed here in Chautauqua County. Unfortunately, law enforcement officials, the CAP or members of the Safe Harbour Program can’t be everywhere. Human trafficking might not be as big a problem here as it is in bigger cities, but it’s troubling nonetheless, and our county’s general lack of population could make it ripe for traffickers to become more prolific.
That’s a sickening thought.
___ GOP must forcefully reject Trump’s next scam
The Auburn Citizen
A majority of the Republican members of the House of Representatives this month formally supported a completely bogus lawsuit filed by an indicted attorney general from Texas that tried to throw out tens of millions of votes in the 2020 election. That’s a disturbing reality, for sure.
But it’s important to remember that there were also dozens of GOP members who wanted nothing to do with that assault on our democracy.
Fortunately for central New York, its congressional representative was among the latter group. Hours before the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the Texas lawsuit, Katko explained why he wanted nothing to do with it.
“We cannot be fighting over the results of an election that are now complete. The multiple allegations of fraud simply haven’t been proven to the satisfaction of the courts, even the Supreme Court. We need to have some finality to this election and we need to move forward as a country.”
But weeks later, a core group of Katko’s Republican colleagues, egged on by President Donald Trump’s fraudulent claims of a rigged election, are continuing to plot ways to try to subvert the outcome.
We expect that Katko will once again have nothing to do with this rotten exercise, but we hope he joins with the frustratingly small number of Republican members of Congress willing to forcefully call out this president and his loyalists for what they are doing.
A shining example of what we need to see more of is U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, who has been trying to restore his party’s honor over these past several weeks. On Saturday, the Illinois Republican made two simple but completely true and badly needed statements on his Twitter account.
He addressed yet another Trump claiming election rigging like this: “My God. Trying to burn the place down on the way out because you can’t handle losing. No evidence, nothing but your temper tantrum and crazy conspiracies. Embarrassing.”
Later, he responded to the news that a handful of elected congressional members are planning to officially challenge the Electoral College results when Congress meets on Jan. 6 for what has always been a formality in counting the votes.
“All this talk about Jan 6th from @realDonaldTrump and other congressional grifters is simply explained: they will raise money and gain followers by blaming everyone else knowing full well they can’t do anything. It’s sad, and an utter scam.”
This a Republican who gets it. And we think there are many more who do, as well. The people have spoken and President-elect Joe Biden will become the president. All of the shouting and games are not going to change that outcome.
But Trump wants his ironclad grip on the GOP to remain in place despite what happened at the ballot box this year, and like with so many other actions he’s taken during his presidency, he doesn’t care if it will damage the country.
If there ever is a time for Republicans to break free from this one-term, impeached demagogue, it’s now. There is no primary to worry about this year. But there is a nation that remains in crisis, badly needing leaders who will boldly stand up to the politics of destruction.