When Rivalries Get Ugly

The San Francisco 49ers played the Oakland Raiders last night.  Although the two towns are separated only by the San Francisco Bay, they are fierce rivals.

Last night’s game was marked by significant violence.  Two guys were shot, and another guy was seriously beaten in a stadium bathroom.  The story on the violence also features a video of a slugfest in the stands between two big guys who probably had too much to drink and were mouthing off until things got physical.

I’ve been to Browns games where violence seemed to lurk just below the surface, and it is a scary scenario.  After all, when you go to a professional football game you are sitting with tens of thousands of strangers, many of whom have been drinking steadily as they have enjoyed the on the field violence.  It makes for a volatile situation.  It doesn’t take much to move things from taunting to brawling, and once a brawl breaks out it can spread easily.  And then, suddenly, you go from an orderly scene, where you are sitting with other fans watching a sports event, to a melee where the guy sitting next to you could decide he wants to punch you out because he doesn’t like your t-shirt or can’t figure out any other way to deal with the testosterone rush.

I’m convinced that the vast majority of sports fan fights are alcohol-related.  Sports teams could cut back on the fighting if they cut back on the beer service — but they don’t because that would cut back on the profits, too.

Giving Taxpayers The Bird

The United States Department of Agriculture — the same entity that proved unable to answer the question a farmer posed to President Obama recently — is paying western farmers and ranchers millions of dollars to protect a bird that is not on the endangered species list because there are too many of them.

The bird is the sage grouse.  In the last two years, the USDA will have paid $112 million to farmers and ranchers in 11 western states to implement practices to preserve the bird’s habitat.  Yet, the sage grouse — which is found in Wyoming, Colorado, Montana, Idaho, South Dakota, North Dakota, Utah, Nevada, Washington, Oregon and California — is too numerous to be included on the endangered species list.  Indeed, 10 of the 11 states where the bird is found allow it to be hunted.

I’m all in favor of sensible environmental protection programs, but the key word is “sensible.”  With our current budget issues, paying millions of dollars to farmers and ranchers to try to preserve the habitats of birds that aren’t endangered is not a prudent use of federal funds — particularly when about 40 percent of every dollar spent on the program must be borrowed.  I recognize that $112 million is a mere drop in the federal budget, but we need to pay attention to every penny if we are going to bring our enormous budget problems under control.