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3:24 am EST        22°F (-6°C) in Lebanon, IN

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Tonight, I’ve got lots and lots of controversy to talk about, and really not a whole lot of time, so I’m going to dive right in.

Première partie
On the February 7 edition of “Real Sports” on cable network HBO, host Bryant Gumbel closed the broadcast with the following:

Finally, tonight, the Winter Games. Count me among those who don’t care about them and won’t watch them … [T]ry not to be incredulous when someone attempts to link these games to those of the ancient Greeks who never heard of skating or skiing. So try not to laugh when someone says these are the world’s greatest athletes, despite a paucity of blacks that makes the Winter Games look like a GOP convention. Try not to point out that something’s not really a sport if a pseudo-athlete waits in what’s called a kiss-and-cry area, while some panel of subjective judges decides who won … So if only to hasten the arrival of the day they’re done, when we can move on to March Madness — for God’s sake, let the games begin.

I’m hardly the first to ask, what the fuck is he talking about? This smells like a bit of reverse racism to me. The suggestion that skiers, figure-skaters, lugers, etc., a majority of whom are white, are not true athletes is insulting enough, but frankly, Gumbel is ignorant of a rather simple reality. Where do you think these winter sports that are being contested in Turin were first invented?

It was Norwegians who more or less invented cross-country skiing, or at least first contested it as a sport. The Austrians and the Swiss, among others in west-central Europe, originated downhill skiing as we know it. Our northern neighbors, the Canadians, were the inventors of the game of hockey, and it was the old Soviet Union that perfected it, as evidenced by all the gold medals they won in hockey from the 1950s through the 1980s. Tell me, just how many black people (or, to state it more accurately, people of African origin or descent) are there in Norway, Austria, Switzerland, Canada, or Russia?

Although I know I’m hardly going to be exhaustive here, I’m going to take a short look at a couple of majority-black or at least significant-minority black populations throughout the world. There are mountains in Africa, and I’m sure that Mt. Kilimanjaro, which reaches above 19,000 ft. (5,791 m), gets enough snow at its peak to allow for some excellent skiing. The thing is, though, most African athletes, for whatever reason, don’t use high-elevation or mountain areas for skiing or other “winter” sports; instead, they are best known for using high-elevation areas to develop almost superhuman endurance. There is a reason that Kenyans, Ethiopians, and Tanzanians are the world’s best long-distance runners, from the marathon all the way down to the 5,000-meter race: they train extensively at very high altitudes, and such training in thin air helps to enlarge their lungs, hearts, etc., and strengthen other body parts that are vital to endurance.

The largest black populations in the United States are found in essentially two places: (a) the South, or (b) large cities in the Northeast and Midwest. Certainly, the climate found in the South is hostile to winter sports, and on top of that, Southern culture has never looked very favorably on most winter sports either. (While there are NHL teams in Nashville, Atlanta, Raleigh, Tampa, and Miami, they really have a lot of difficulty building the type of rabid fan bases you find in Detroit, Philadelphia, Toronto, and Montreal, for example. Hockey is still kind of viewed as a novelty by most people in the South; it’s a place to go to be seen, in a way. The exception would be in Tampa, with the Lightning being the defending (2004) Stanley Cup champions.)

The weather in the Northeast and Midwest is much more amenable to winter sports, but even so, cities don’t provide the best environment in which to practice winter sports. Most cities will have a municipal ice rink for hockey or figure skating, but a lot of other winter sports require mountains or some other specialized location. For example, people in Detroit who want to take up ski-jumping face an eight-hour drive into da U.P., to Suicide Hill Ski Bowl in Negaunee. A lot of working-class and poor black families simply can’t afford eight-hour one-way drives, hundreds of dollars worth of equipment, and other costs involved in supporting a child’s desire to become an elite ski jumper. It’s not that black kids can’t grow up to be gold medalists in hockey, downhill skiing, ski jumping, snowboarding, or other winter sports; it’s more that the scourge of poverty that tends to hang like a cloud over majority-black communities in America denies black children the opportunity to learn, practice, and hone winter-sport skills.

A friend of mine put it best about Gumbel’s comments: “He needs to be punched — hard — by [Calgary Flames forward] Jarome Iginla.” This statement demonstrates one of several perfect examples of black people succeeding, and in fact being stars, in the sport of hockey. Iginla is the latest in a 25-year tradition of black hockey stars that perhaps most famously includes Grant Fuhr, the goaltender who backstopped the Edmonton Oilers to five Stanley Cups in the 1980s.

Deuxième partie
After hearing something on the radio a few nights ago about the Reich-wing’s latest assault on women’s reproductive rights, an idea occurred to me. See, these Reich-wingers get all in a lather about women doing anything to control their bodies, whether it be using “the Pill,” “the Patch,” or the “morning-after pill” Plan B, and on top of that, there are medical risks associated with the use of such means of birth-control; obviously, the Reich-wingers’ answer to this is essentially that the slutty whores ought to suffer all the consequences of having any sex at all, and ought not be able to enjoy sex free of such worries. I have a better idea that would fundamentally change the way we look at birth control that I think even the loony righties could go for.

Currently, we think of birth control as being essentially the prerogative of the woman: she is the one who has to use hormonal forms of contraception, or ultimately, it is up to her to force her male partner to properly use a condom. After all, she is the one who will suffer the consequences (getting pregnant) if she fails to take that initiative. My idea shifts the burden to men, in a novel and really quite simple way.

Hospitals today make a killing from performing medically unnecessary and utterly useless mutilations of baby boys’ penises for really no logical reason whatsoever. Instead of wasting time and effort on circumcision, hospitals should instead be required to perform a different, ultimately more useful procedure on the genitalia of baby boys: a vasectomy immediately after birth. This would have to be coupled with another law stating that a man must be at least 21 years old, and be emotionally, psychologically, and financially able to support a child, in order to have the vasectomy reversed.

Once such a policy went into full effect (i.e., once roughly 20 years had passed after its implementation), rates of teen pregnancy and abortion would plummet to virtually zero, and few, if any, children would be born to single mothers or end up in situations of neglect or abuse. It is a genius solution that works well for all parties involved. Teenagers are going to have sex anyway, no matter how many times you tell them “no,” and requiring vasectomies at birth for baby boys would remove the specter (and more importantly, the destructive burden to society) of teenage pregnancy and parenthood.

Like I say, this is a plan that intellectually honest conservatives and “Christian right” types really ought to support, if their true goal is to get rid of abortion and unwanted pregnancy. To oppose my idea would be to reveal an agenda of simply controlling women and keeping them in the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant, popping out more “Christian” soldiers at the rate of one per nine months.

Troisième partie
My parents are back at it again, claiming I am simply using them and that they are “enabling” me to “not make any progress in life” by allowing me to stay with them when I take time off from the road. Hmmm … are they blind to the money that has been going into my car lately in hopes of keeping it running at least five more years, if not longer? Have they been deaf when I have mentioned several times the tires and wheels I’m about to buy? Have they been bothering to listen when I’ve talked about the upcoming purchases of a TV and a bed that I will need for a future apartment of my own?

Does it occur to them that my upcoming $2,900 Federal tax refund check, the roughly $900 I will get by cashing out the paid vacation time I currently have with my company, and the just over $2,000 I currently have saved will take care of all of those and then some? (Those figures even assume that I quit my job two weeks ago and wouldn’t be seeing another cent from this company, to say nothing of another several months of earning potential with this or another over-the-road trucking company.)

On the one hand, I have to give them credit, because if they are “enabling” anything, it’s enabling me to stay on the path toward eventually leaving the trucking industry and going back to college. On the other hand, why must they take every chance they can get to take shots at me? Double-speak like that is a hallmark of Rethuglicans, and you know what I think of the GOPstapo.

That’s it for tonight’s edition of Larry’s Phat Page. I’m on my way to Atlanta, where, after I deliver this load, I will be putting this truck in the shop for a scheduled service.