Saturday, May 15, 2010


NEWS: Arizona’s new anti-immigrant law jeopardizes the 2011 baseball All-Star Game for Phoenix, where I live.

VIEWS: After Obama won the presidency, Janet Napolitano, Arizona’s Democratic governor, abandoned the last two years of her second term to go to Washington to head the Homeland Security Department, turning the state’s government over to her Republican No. 2 and the Republican-controlled legislature. They’ve proceeded to enact their brand of right-wing sharia in the Grand Canyon State.

Most of the stuff they’ve done mainly affects Arizonans. Among other things, they’ve made it okay to pack guns—openly or concealed—just about anywhere without a permit, ordered the removal of the photo-radar cameras that have calmed traffic and saved lives on the state’s major highways, and filed lawsuits to block implementation of the new Federal health-care law.

They’ve also passed a law requiring local police to demand proof of citizenship or immigration documents from anyone whom they might “reasonably suspect” of being here illegally; having brown skin or speaking Spanish might qualify someone for such treatment. That one has caused an uproar in many precincts, accompanied by threats to boycott all things Arizona. This includes Arizona Iced Tea, which is made by a company based in New York.

In reality, the “show ID” law is political theater, pure and simple. A couple of years ago Arizona passed a law making it illegal to employ illegals, but hasn’t bothered to enforce it. The sheer number of people residing in the state without “papers” (an estimated 400,000 to 500,000, mostly from Mexico or elsewhere in Central American), long winked past the border to provide employers with a malleable work force for dirty or poor-paying jobs, precludes any serious enforcement of the latest statute. If such were attempted every restaurant in the Phoenix area would have to close.

Still, chest-pounding can have its price. It’s easy for people not to do something, and enough of them are deciding not to have any truck with Arizona to put a dent in the state’s tourist business, a pillar of its already-weak economy. This probably won’t include removal of baseball’s All-Star Game, but in a sport where some 30% of the players come from Hispanic countries and another sizeable chunk are U.S. citizens with Hispanic roots, a player boycott of some sort seems likely. At the least, it’s sure to keep the flap over the law, and its repercussions, in the news for the foreseeable future.

But y’all nice folks needn’t be put off, so come on down. Just remember to be armed (if you can’t get your guns through airport security you can buy ones here), carry your passport (especially if you’ve got a tan) and bring a crash helmet. And rest assured that we’re not all bigots—only 60%.

NEWS: John Calipari, who last year signed a long-term contract to coach basketball at the U. of Kentucky, has been mentioned in the whispers over who’ll be the next to coach the NBA Chicago Bulls or Philadelphia 76ers. This spurred Kentucky to reopen, and possibly sweeten, his pact there.

VIEWS: Calipari took his trail of recruiting slime to Lexington from his previous jobs at UMass and Memphis. His specialty is luring top-drawer phenoms who haven’t hit the NBA-mandated age of 19 for “one-and-done” college seasons that allow them to hone their hoops skills without being much troubled with academics (few schools flunk out anyone in just a year). For that he’s reportedly being paid $4 million a year, tops for the college-coach rat pack and probably more than the salaries of the math profs at all the Southeastern Conference schools combined.

But is he satisfied? Noooooo. He’ll likely pull the flirtation scam annually until he cuts loose from UK for greener pastures. And you know what? Kentucky is getting what it deserves.

NEWS: The Kentucky Derby is run in the rain with its favorite on the sidelines. And that’s not all.

VIEWS: The news for thoroughbred horse racing, my favorite participation sport (when you bet you participate), usually is bad, but lately it’s only gotten worse. Not only was Derby Day, the sport’s annual showcase, a soggy downer with the likely clear favorite Eskenderaya out with injury (for good, it turns out), but a potentially enormous future race now is in danger. That’s because of the mediocre performance so far this year of Rachel Alexander, the filly whose sensational 2009 campaign earned her Horse of the Year honors.

You may recall that the elegant Rachel won all eight of her starts last year, including victories over the boys in the important Preakness, Haskell and Woodward stakes. Those last feats, highly unusual in the equine world, earned her attention beyond the sport’s normal public. Wonder of wonders, so did the doughty filly (now mare; she’s turned 5) Zenyatta, who’s unbeaten in 16 career starts and put on maybe the best show in recent memory with her last-to-first run against the strongest possible male competition in the Breeders Cup Classic, the sport’s fall championship.

A Rachel-Zenyatta matchup—maybe in a prime-time, womano-a-womano format—would have turned the country on its ear, but Rachel has been beaten by other girls in her two 2010 outings (while Zenyatta has gone a triumphant 2-for-2), taking the shine off such a race. It’s possible that Rachel might regain her top form and allow a match to be staged, but that doesn’t seem to be in the cards now. Woe is us.

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