A Small Town Gave Up Tackle Football. It Came Storming Back.

A community’s struggle with when children should play tackle football reflects a broader debate over the sport and who is left playing it.

New York Times: By Ken Belson Photographs by Brandon Thibodeaux

MARSHALL, Texas — One evening last spring, a retired doctor named James Harris carried a pickle jar filled with bright red Jell-O to Marshall’s school board meeting.

He shook it up so the Jell-O sloshed against the glass, a representation, he told the school board members, of what happens to the brain during a hard hit in football and what can happen to those who are allowed to play the sport at a young age.

“The brain is like this Jell-O in the bottle,” he told them. “When the head hits the ground, it hits front and back, and swishes, twists, sloshes and stretches inside the skull.”

It was a dramatic presentation. It was also futile.

The board listened and then voted unanimously on the matter at hand, to bring back tackle football for seventh graders, which it had banned only five years ago.

Football is a powerful, cultural force in Marshall, a city of about 24,000 people in East Texas, where high school games can draw half of the city’s residents and church ends early on Sundays when the Dallas Cowboys are playing.

Still, even Marshall has not been immune to the nationwide debate over whether and how young children should play tackle football — and the shifting demographics of who is left playing it.

The most urgent battle lines are forming along the first years of tackle football, including middle school in many parts of the country, even as football remains by far the most popular sport in the United States. But high school participation has dropped more than 10 percent in the past decade, even in football hotbeds like Texas, Ohio and Florida, as young athletes and their families seek alternatives they perceive as safer.ON DEFENSE Articles in this series are exploring the debate about the future of football.Inside Football’s Campaign to Save the GameNov. 8, 2019

Despite all the warnings about the risks of tackle football in Marshall, two youth leagues popped up to replace the programs that had been disbanded in recent years. And this year, the school district’s new athletic director, Jake Griedl, who is also the high school football coach, persuaded the school board to restart seventh-grade football, too. He reassured trustees that the game was safer now because of new rules, more medical attendants at games and expanded training for coaches in modern tackling methods and concussion protocols.

“Anything you can do to ease the minds of parents is good,” Griedl said this fall. “People don’t realize it’s safe.”

Read the complete article at: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/16/sports/youth-tackle-football-marshall-texas.html?smid=nytcore-ios-share

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By George Smith

I want Donald Trump to be a one-term president. I want it badly.

The president has turned his first three years into a movie sequel of “All the President’s Men.” You know, criminals setting public policy among a litany of dirty tricks aimed at messing with  the opposition…that movie.

While the Republicans are sticking to their game plan of posturing with dynamic displays of feigned righteous indignation, the Democrats out of the TV screen are doing everything they can to hand Trump a second term. 

I’m talking about the 113 candidates (or whatever the number is today) wanting to be the Democratic nominee in 2020.

A Democrat, any Democrat, is not going to break through the culture of them vs. us, elites vs. deplorables and decaf latte drinkers vs. those that swill lukewarm Budweiser by talking about corruption-squared amateurs playing politics and scamming the system to maximize their reputations, power and latent need for money.

The Democratic Party is not going to win the White House a year from now by impeaching this president or emasculating, so to speak, other Democratic candidates.

The only way a Democrat, any Democrat, will win the right to sit in the Oval Office is to talk about the most important items facing Americans —the deficit (which no one is talking about), the long-term survival of Medicare and Social Security (which no one is talking about), the failing national infrastructure (which no one is talking about), and climate change (which no one is REALLY talking about).

A majority of Americans are tired of the partisan party games, name-calling, egocentric stunts and cock-of-the-walk preening for the television cameras.

What they want — what we all should want — is an honest discussion of what the future should hold to ensure the safety of our nation and a dedication to re-establishing of the U.S. as a true global partner of any nation that embraces democracy as a right or a goal.

The division in the nation’s framework is steeped in prejudice and tribal regionalism and hatred of the political status quo.

It’s time to make a conscientious effort to put aside paltry, petty differences and start thinking “America is better than this.”

It’s not too late to seek a different path one which is lined with angels to help guide us into the future.

We are all headed to the same place.

Leave the bugaboos and will o’ the wisps behind. Look to the light. Move to the light.

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By George Smith

Ethics? Gone. 
Moral judgement? Gone.
Common sense? Gone.
Grasp of basic human emotions? Gone.
Basic political survival mode? Strong as 180 proof moonshine.

That’s the state of a majority of elected Republicans in Washington-on-the-Deficit as the Trump Train roars down the mountain at 90 mph. with the party’s hand on the throttle.

Will individual representatives and senators be scalded to death by the steam?

Bad analogy, assuredly, but you get the point.

There are many good people on both sides of the political spectrum. In this era of constant head-shaking actions, when it seems light is dark and up is down is the truism of the day. But those good people who are standing strong in support of the most conflicted president in history are inflicted with a hard-to-control virus: Reelectionitis.

The symptoms include:

— Blind acceptance of dictated talking points on any subject dealing with the actions of President Trump.

— Lacking the ability to conjure up and espouse original thoughts.

— Inability to discern the difference between the truth and blatant lies.

— Disintegration of spinal column and severe depletion of intestines in males and females; males may also experience a severe shrinkage of testicular matter.

— Formally and openly offering for sale one’s independence, ethical spirit and moral fiber.

It is excruistingly sad  to watch professional, so-called public servants sign up to enhance the Cult of Trump with their actions, words of praise and defense of the president’s indefensible actions  simply to maintain a public office.

Do they all not realize three key truisms about the backing of this morally flawed human being will be their legacy as chronicled by public records and historians?

Three points of which Trump kowtow-ers should take heed:
1. His followers will forever be linked to Trump’s administration, which has been marked by violence, abuse of human rights, scandals involving key officials and impeachment.

2. They will be forever s part of and  ridiculed for their strident support to this president who has made public statements detrimental to those with  a physical handicap, Gold Star families, Native Americans, immigrants, those opposing white nationalists, foreign counties he deems of inferior status, women in general and the women he paid money to in exchange for silence about alleged affairs in particular.

3. For being members of the Cult of Trump for whatever reason, his supporters enable and tacitly give their blessing to his bullying, support of tax breaks for the rich, spiraling deficit, shunning valued allies in need, a widening of the wealth gap of the uber-rich and the other 99 percent of Americans, and the frightening fluctuation of respect other countries have for the U.S.

To many politicians, selling one’s soul is simple: Just spit on the notion of using common sense, putting country over party and following the Golden Rule.

It’s an easy choice when all you truly care about is the “now”, and what
you have endure to keep turf, territory,  title and ego intact.

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George S. Smith

You either know him or know the name.

Now, for one night only, see him as never before: Smith has reinvented himself as The World’s Oldest Sit-down Comedian.

He will give two dinner performances at 5:30 and 8 p.m. Saturday, December 14 at the Blue Frog Restaurant, at Blissmore Valley Ranch, 208 North Washington in Marshall.

Seating is limited and reservations are required. Call 903-923-9500 for tickets. A percentage of ticket sales will benefit the Marshall-Harrison County Literacy Council.

Former publisher of the Marshall News Messenger (1982-1992) Smith conceived and developed the FireAnt Festival and, with J.C. Hughes Jr., founded the Wonderland of Lights.

Smith said, “Most folks who know me know I like to tell stories. These performances allow me to tell stories about a variety of humorous events without being interrupted by others who think they have something more important to say.”

He said, “I’m older now and my feet hurt so I am, truly, a sit-down act.  I will tell stories about the newspaper business, about my decade in Marshall (without embarrassing anyone but myself) and will share some funny stories from my soon-to-be published novel, “Growing Up Mostly Happy”, subtitled “It Takes a Village to Raise an Idiot”.

Smith has been a frequent storyteller on the PBS radio series “Tales of the South”, and was a regular “Amateur Night” participant at a Seattle comedy club while serving as executive director of the Washington State Newspaper Publishers Association.

Smith said, “I want all my friends and some of my friendly detractors to show up for a great meal and fun and frivolity  It will be an old-fashion homecoming with laughs galore.”
Copies of Smith’s “Uncertain Times,” a southern humor mystery and romance novel set in Uncertain, Texas, will be available for sale at the shows.

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We Are Better Than This

By George Smith

We are better than this.

COMAYAGUA, Honduras (AP) — The 3-year-old girl traveled for weeks cradled in her father’s arms, as he set out to seek asylum in the United States. Now she won’t even look at him.

After being forcibly separated at the border by government officials, sexually abused in U.S. foster care and deported, the once bright and beaming girl arrived back in Honduras withdrawn, anxious and angry, convinced her father abandoned her.

He fears their bond is forever broken.

This month, new government data shows the little girl is one of an unprecedented 69,550 migrant children held in U.S. government custody over the past year, enough infants, toddlers, kids and teens to overflow the typical NFL stadium. That’s more children detained away from their parents than any other country, according to United Nations researchers. And it’s happening even though the U.S. government has acknowledged that being held in detention can be traumatic for children, putting them at risk of long-term physical and emotional damage.

“I think about this trauma staying with her too, because the trauma has remained with me and still hasn’t faded,” he said, days after their reunion. (Associated Press report)

Personal note: There is no justification, no excuse, no lapse in judgement sufficient to excuse this action against families seeking asylum in the U. S.

This has always been a nation of hope, of promise. What we are witnessing today is a mean-spirited, racist attack on people fleeing oppression, drugs, poverty snd violence. For-profit detention centers are fleecing the taxpayers and federal officials are applauding the staunching of the brown horde.

Pray. Pray our better angels rise up en  masse and lay waste to the very idea of superiority that is inflicting our federal decision makers.

We ARE better than this. Or ARE we?

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Opinion: I’m a Climate Scientist Who Believes in God. Hear Me Out.

Global warming will strike hardest against the very people we’re told to love: the poor and vulnerable.

By Katharine Hayhoe — Oct. 31, 2019 — New York Times

Dr. Hayhoe is a professor and co-directs the Climate Center at Texas Tech University.

I’m a climate scientist. I’m also an evangelical Christian.

And I’m Canadian, which is why it took me so long to realize the first two things were supposed to be entirely incompatible.

I grew up in a Christian family with a science-teacher dad who taught us that science is the study of God’s creation. If we truly believe that God created this amazing universe, bringing matter and energy to life out of a formless empty void of nothing, then how could studying his creation ever be in conflict with his written word?

I chose what to study precisely because of my faith, because climate change disproportionately affects the poor and vulnerable, those already most at risk today. To me, caring about and acting on climate was a way to live out my calling to love others as we’ve been loved ourselves by God.

I realized, distantly, that there were people on both “sides” who fundamentally believed and were even dedicated to promoting the idea that faith and science were in conflict. But it wasn’t until after I’d moved to the United States for graduate school that it dawned on me, to my disbelief, that divisions within the science-faith arena, originally focused on questions of human origins and the age of the universe, were expanding to include climate change.

Now, this discrepancy is pointed out to me nearly every day: often by people with Bible verses in their social media profiles who accuse me of spreading Satan’s lies, or sometimes by others who share my concerns about climate change but wonder why I bother talking to “those people.” The attacks I receive come via email, Twitter, Facebook comments, phone calls and even handwritten letters.

I track them all, and I’ve noticed two common denominators in how most of the authors choose to identify themselves: first, as political conservatives, no matter what country they’re from; and second, in the United States, as conservative Christians, because the label “evangelical” has itself been co-opted as shorthand for a particular political ideology these days.

But I refuse to give it up, because I am a theological evangelical, one of those who can be simply defined as someone who takes the Bible seriously. This stands in stark contrast to today’s political evangelicals, whose statement of faith is written first by their politics and only a distant second by the Bible and who, if the two conflict, will prioritize their political ideology over theology.

I’m not a glutton for punishment and I don’t thrive on conflict. So why do I keep talking about climate change to people who are disengaged or doubtful? Because I believe that evangelicals who take the Bible seriously already care about climate change (although they might not realize it). Climate change will strike hard against the very people we’re told to care for and love, amplifying hunger and poverty, and increasing risks of resource scarcity that can exacerbate political instability, and even create or worsen refugee crises.

Then there’s pollution, biodiversity loss, habitat fragmentation, species extinction: climate change makes all those worse, too. In fact, if we truly believe we’ve been given responsibility for every living thing on this planet (including each other) as it says in Genesis 1, then it isn’t only a matter of caring about climate change: We should be at the front of the line demanding action.

But if caring about climate change is such a profoundly Christian value, then why do surveys in the United States consistently show white evangelicals and white Catholics at the bottom of those Americans concerned about the changing climate?

It turns out, it’s not where we go to church (or don’t) that determines our opinion on climate. It’s not even our religious affiliation. Hispanic Catholics are significantly more likely than other Catholics to say the earth is getting warmer, according to a 2015 survey, and they have the same pope. It’s because of the alliance between conservative theology and conservative politics that has been deliberately engineered and fostered over decades of increasingly divisive politics on issues of race, abortion and now climate change, to the point where the best predictor of whether we agree with the science is simply where we fall on the political spectrum.

An important and successful part of that framing has been to cast climate change as an alternate religion. This is sometimes subtle, as the church sign that reads, “On Judgment Day, you’ll meet Father God not Mother Earth.” Other times this point is made much more blatantly, like when Senator Ted Cruz of Texas told Glenn Beck in 2015 that “climate change is not a science, it’s a religion,” or when Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said at a 2014 event hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations that “the problem is Al Gore’s turned this thing into a religion.”

Why is this framing so effective? Because some 72 percent of people in the United States already identify with a specific religious label, according to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center. And if you are a Christian, you know what to do when a false prophet comes along preaching a religion that worships the created rather than the Creator: Reject it!

So this framing plays right into the narrative that scientists are a godless bunch who have teamed up with liberals (and perhaps the Antichrist, according to some comments I’ve received) to rule the world and overthrow religion, an agenda that any right-minded believer will oppose until his or her dying breath. In fact, 51 percent of scientists said in a 2009 Pew survey that they believed in God or a universal spirit or higher power.

And that’s why my favorite question is the one I often hear from fellow Christians: “Do you believe in climate change?”

One of the first times I remember being asked this it was by a visitor to the evangelical church I attend here in Texas, who was surprised (and possibly a little horrified) to learn that the pastor’s wife was a climate scientist.

“No, I don’t!” I cheerfully replied.

A puzzled silence ensued. Wary of calling out the pastor’s wife, the man haltingly asked, “But aren’t you … didn’t you just say you study climate science?”

“That’s right,” I said with an encouraging nod.

“So how can you not believe in it?!” he asked, perplexed.

And with that question, he opened the door to an incredibly constructive conversation about science, faith and truth. As I always do now when someone asks this, I explained that climate change is not a belief system. We know that the earth’s climate is changing thanks to observations, facts and data about God’s creation that we can see with our eyes and test with the sound minds that God has given us. And still more fundamentally, I went on to explain why it matters: because real people are being affected today; and we believe that God’s love has been poured in our hearts to share with our brothers and sisters here and around the world who are suffering.

After hundreds, even thousands, of such conversations, I’ve grown to understand how much of this opposition to the idea that the climate is changing, that humans are responsible, that the impacts are serious and that the time to act is now, comes from fear: fear of loss of our way of life, fear of being told that our habits are bad for society, fear of changes that will leave us worse off, fear of siding with those who have no respect for our values and beliefs.

But as a Christian, I believe the solution to this fear lies in the same faith that many non-Christians wrongly assume drives our rejection of the science. In the Apostle Paul’s letter to Timothy, he reminds us that we have not been given a spirit of fear. Fear is not from God. Instead, we’ve been given a spirit of power, to act rather than to remain paralyzed in anxiety, fear, or guilt; a spirit of love, to have compassion for others, particularly those less fortunate than us (the very people most affected by a changing climate); and a sound mind, to use the information we have to make good decisions.

And you know what? These are the very tools we need to address climate change.

Connecting our identity to action is key, and that’s exactly why I don’t typically begin with science when starting conversations about climate change with those who disagree. Rather, I begin by talking about what we share most. For some, this could be the well-being of our community; for others, our children; and for fellow Christians, it’s often our faith.

By beginning with what we share and then connecting the dots between that value and a changing climate, it becomes clear how caring about this planet and every living thing on it is not somehow antithetical to who we are as Christians, but rather central to it. Being concerned about climate change is a genuine expression of our faith, bringing our attitudes and actions more closely into line with who we already are and what we most want to be.

And that’s why I’m more convinced now than ever that the two most central parts of my identity — that of climate scientist and evangelical Christian — aren’t incompatible. They are what’s made me who I am.

Katharine Hayhoe is a climate scientist at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, where she co-directs the Climate Center, hosts the PBS digital series “Global Weirding” and is writing a book on how to talk about climate change with people who don’t agree.


By Ron Munden

Two stories tell the story:

First –

Russia Says Trump Offered To Help Putin Fight Forest Fires In Siberia

President Trump spoke with President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday and offered U.S. help in fighting widespread forest fires raging in parts of Siberia, according to a Kremlin account of the call.


Second –

Trump threatens to cut off federal funding for California wildfires

President Donald Trump tweeted Sunday morning his first comments about the wildfires blazing through California attacking Gov. Gavin Newsome saying he has done a “terrible job” of forest management.

For the record – 57% of the forests in California are federal land and under the management of the federal government, not the state of California.  So if Trump wants to point the finger at who has failed, he should rotate his finger 180 degrees.

This is just another incident that makes one question who Trump really works for. 

Only weeks ago he sold out our allies the Kurds and gave our enemy Russia what they wanted – control of Syria.  This decision will cost American solders their life and that blood will be on Trump’s hands.

Trump campaigned on making America great again but is spends a lot of time making our enemy Russia great again.

It is clear that Putin has Trump by the balls.  The only question is “What does Putin have on him?”

Keep It Real

By George Smith

Okay, this is getting out of hand. Keep  it real to be believed.

When Ivanka Trump decided to defend her dad from the resolution approved Thursday by House Democrats formalizing the impeachment process, she relied on former President Thomas Jefferson for help.

The first daughter and White House adviser tweeted a quote from the third president to his daughter Martha about the hazards of life in Washington: 

 “…surrounded by enemies and spies catching and perverting every word that falls from my lips or flows from my pen, and inventing where facts fail them.”

She added, “Some things never change, dad!”

Okay! Whoa! Maybe, just maybe, FDOTUS has a point., Maybe Trump and Jefferson have some similarities.

1. Both stated they wanted to make America great.

2. Both had mistresses.

3. Jefferson owned slaves; Trump makes slaves of followers.

4. Both openly fought with economists and politicians in their terms.

5. Both had a “Muslim” problem.

6. Both were/are extremely impulsive; Jefferson bought “Louisiana” on a whim, Trump wanted to buy Greenland.

7. Both men have been called “the best” and “the worst” that America has to offer. 

8. Behind their facades (or in front of them), both men can be labeled as confirmed “hypocrites” and “racists.”

9. Jefferson had a major problem with Native Americans, mirroring Trump’s problem with immigrants that don’t fit  his image of what America should look like, demographically.

10. Both initiated attacks on the judiciary…for diverse reasons, bit still….

11. Both questioned the legitimacy of a federal judge.

12. Both are of the common thought that Americans are superior in every way from other countries.

And, finally,

13. They have a similar number of body parts and both an IQ. Jefferson was fluent in six languages, including Old  English. Trump has trouble with basic English and thinks Old English is Queen Elizabeth.

See! Ivanka is right.