Banks County Opinions...

June 13, 2001


Column
By Todd Simons
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 Park.
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 that.
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 the Dodgers.
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 win somewhere."
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.

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Guest Column
By Mike Beatty
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 of gambling."
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 adults.)
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.


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