The Banks County News
June 13, 2001
Even Granddad was a Braves fan
If every day were holiday, to sport would
be as tedious as to work.
Henry IV, Part I, I, ii. 205
As my grandfather grew closer to the end of
his life, he had whittled his activities down to two: he watched
television, mostly sports and mostly baseball, and he cared for
his yard. In these activities he played, and enjoyed his leisure.
His yard was the greenest on a block lined with green two-acre
lots. The grass cut neatly around the thick bottoms of the mesquite
trees and their stick-like thorns were cast into the rubbish
pile. His yard was an ideal place in an ideal neighborhood only
a few minutes from downtown San Antonio in a place called Hollywood
The deer laze in front yards and dawdle across streets there.
Strictly speaking it is not an Eden, but in my mind it has represented
Granddad would sweat in his yard every day. He fought nature
and controlled its green tones and restricted its growth and
its death. He was the deity of his yard. But despite his divine
place in his two acre world, he fought a battle every day he
couldn't win, because every day, even in winter or in the summer
when the aquifer below San Antonio was low and water restrictions
were in place, he found some task to take on. He found a duty
in his control of that yard.
It must have been subconsciously like the military, which he
made a career of and fought with in World War II, or even like
the challenges of life for everyone: There isn't a day that you
wake up and say "I have won, now I am through." The
war seemed like it could last forever, but each individual continued
to fight, or to survive or help others survive.
People continue to play, to compete.
Thus my grandfather's second pastime. Baseball.
Baseball is not controllable except by the nine defensive players
and the batter. No one else has a say in changing anything.
But baseball, all sports, makes a fan rise to their feet in triumph
at a ninth-inning homer or Sid Bream's slide, and makes you heartbroken
still for Bill Buckner and Donnie Moore and all the players that
had to lose.
In sport we can live vicariously in a world that doesn't have
consequences. Our team can win the World Series or the state
championship and our lives are better because of the joy.
If we lose, our lives are better because of the spirit that binds
you to your fellow fan. My phone rings after nearly every Georgia
football game to cheer or jeer, to analyze and criticize with
a fellow fan and friend.
My grandfather's second prioritized way to pass time was watching
sports. He rooted for the Spurs, but he loved the Braves.
Ever since Ted Turner masterminded the plan to deliver commercials
wrapped around wrestling, baseball and reruns and send them all
over America on WTBS, my grandfather was a Braves fan. I had
moved to the Atlanta area, 1000 miles from my grandfather, but
we had the Braves. I played third and was slow so he often compared
me with number 5, Bob Horner. San Antonio has a Dodgers double
A team but we hated the Dodgers because Dale Murphy didn't like
My grandmother, Nanny, did the letter writing for them but at
the end of her letter Granddad would write a paragraph about
grades or something I was doing, but often he'd just say something
about the Braves. I still have one of those letters where he
commented that David Justice looked like he was going to be a
good player, and one where he commented that it was probably
time for Murphy to move on. "It would be nice to see him
And, you know, it would have been nice, but really we wanted
his success because we could have claimed a part of the joy.
He had already given us two M.V.P.s and the National-league West
in '82, and he gave me and my Granddad 1,000 miles away something
we could share.
I've never been to war, and I've never had a yard, but boy how
I've loved the Braves.
The Banks County News
June 13, 2001
Why we must confront
the illicit use of video poker
There are people in the halls of our state
capitol who say I am frantic about the unchecked growth of illicit
video poker gambling in Georgia. I am. I am fanatical about issues
that I know in my heart, if not resolved, will hurt our families,
our children, our grandchildren and our state.
I represent Senate District 47 in northeast Georgia. It is made
up of Jackson, Hart, Franklin, Madison, Banks and Elbert counties.
Video poker has been particularly harmful to the people of our
district. I could share with you dozens of stories of homes lost,
families broken, children hurting because of this devastating
industry. While others like to say it is merely harmless fun
on a video game for trinkets of prizes, do not be fooled. This
is an industry that is seeking to prey on Georgians. There is
a reason why this industry has been labeled the "crack cocaine
I have spent hundreds of hours studying the video poker industry
and the legislation that has made these machines legal in Georgia.
These machines are legal in Georgia through cleverly crafted
legislation that lumps these machines into the same category
as children's amusement games like the ones you find at "Chuck
E. Cheese." Under current law, a 12-year-old can play a
blackjack machine in our state. We have literally put a rattlesnake
in the middle of a kindergarten class. (Bear in mind that children
are six times more likely to become addicted to gambling than
And that is what these machines are designed to do-gamble. These
machines are based on pure chance. There is no skill involved
or knowledge required. Only the industry seeks to continue this
charade of fun and seeming innocence. How else can one defend
a GBI sting in my district that impounded 500 machines and $200,000
in cash from illegal payouts over one weekend? And it is no longer
in my district and a few other counties on the South Carolina
border. In the last few weeks, hundreds of machines and tens
of thousands of dollars have been impounded in counties such
as Fayette and Coweta.
While families are left to suffer in its wake, the video poker
industry is reaping and looking to continue to skate the letter
of the law. While most Georgians could not even recognize these
types of machines, other families are losing homes and livelihoods
because this industry is continuing to further itself by being
illicit and covert.
This is a growing industry that is looking to grow more under
our noses. Why? Money-lots of it.
In 1999, South Carolina eliminated a 10-year-old video poker
industry that had grown to $3 billion a year. That is $3 billion
out of our economy and into the pockets of the few who continue
to keep this industry in back rooms hidden from view.
And the results of video poker are clear. Since video poker was
introduced in Texas in 1998, the state lottery has dropped there
by 30 percent. Are Hope scholarships, Pre-K programs and technical
education the next victims of this growing problem?
I have spoken to GBI officials district attorneys, sheriffs,
and police chiefs. The regulation and enforcement of laws concerning
these types of machines are a nightmare to these folks. It will
take special task forces, GBI sting operations and a concentration
of personnel, money and resources to police this industry. This
is money and resources that could be used to fight the war on
drugs, armed robberies, murders and rape. We will literally have
to spend millions of dollars in taxpayers' money to enforce special
laws dealing only with these machines.
We have the support of the district attorneys and sheriffs across
our state to ban these machines in Georgia. Common sense must
prevail. This industry grows stronger every day as it reaches
its tentacles into Georgia. The industry is currently hiring
additional lobbyists to protect itself and influence state legislators.
Every day we wait is a day that this industry is closer to having
an unbreakable hold on Georgia.
I have met with the governor and he is considering making part
of the call for the special session in late summer to address
this problem. The governor has shown a great deal of concern
in looking at this important issue. I applaud him for realizing
this problem and working with me to look for solutions.
You can also make a difference. Call your State House and Senate
member today and ask them to vote to stop video poker in Georgia.
We are facing a growing challenge in Georgia-and it is one that
will continue to consume our families unless we act now.