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Burning, or thoughts on the torch

Discussing Olympics, NFL rules, Brooklyn D. and more

Posted: Friday April 11, 2008 11:58AM; Updated: Friday April 11, 2008 11:58AM
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It IS the offseason, after all, so I hope you'll allow me to step out of the football uniform for one brief moment and give voice to something that bothers me greatly. China. The Olympics, or more pointedly, Olympic blindness that sees the Games as an excuse for any number of excesses.

Per Heistad, our Emailer of the Week, from Lebanon, N.H., calls attention to the incident involving the Olympic torch's passage through San Francisco, in which Majora Carter, who runs a non-profit agency in New York, briefly carried the torch. In so doing, she pulled out a small Tibetan flag from her shirt sleeve, and she was immediately swarmed by Chinese police, on duty in the U.S., in their blue track suits. This mini-protest got her shoved back into the crowd.

Chinese police on duty in San Francisco? "What if we sent a SWAT team to China?" Mr. Heistad writes. "Do you think they would allow us to police their citizens?"

Of course not. That's only one thing wrong with this whole picture. Another is the wimpy position many Olympic people take when human rights clash with the Olympic movement. China, with its miserable record of abuses -- Tibet, Darfur, jailing their own dissidents -- never should have been awarded the Olympics in the first place, but now that they're the host nation, it's time to put pressure on it. And you do that by attacking its most visible image, the Olympic Games.

"Politics and sports should not mix," was the rallying cry of Avery Brundage, former president of the American and International Olympic Committee for many years, whose blindness to human rights was legendary. I've covered five summer Olympics, and the main story almost always was political. The only one I covered that was not was my first, Tokyo in 1964.

After that? In Mexico City there was the slaughter of the students in the Plaza of the Tres Culturas, neatly hushed up by the Mexican government. I remember I had to file my stories by giving them to a Pan Am pilot to hand carry back, because the government cut off our filing facilities. In Munich it was the death of the Israeli athletes by the Black September terrorist faction. In Montreal it was the steroid explosion, the full scope of which only was felt in the German athletes' lawsuits years later. In Moscow it was the American boycott.

And always, I heard the same bleating of the same sheep that I'm hearing now...kill the demonstrations, stay away from the Olympics, and so forth. Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Browne now says he'll skip the opening ceremony in Beijing but send England's Olympic rep instead. Big deal. Why not skip the whole thing and show some guts?

But that's not the politician's way.

• OK, I'm off the soap box. Back to the innocent world of football we go, and thanks for listening to me (you DID listen, didn't you?). A deuce from Peter of Wethersfield, Conn. "Who was the greater safety, Jack Tatum or Brian Dawkins?"

Dawkins.

"Which one hit harder?"

Tatum.

• I'm getting ripped for my preference for the 15-yard interference penalty over the point of infraction call. It 's my own fault. I told Dom-baby, our new S.O.L. (Selector of Letters), replacing Paul F., who replaced Andrew, who replaced Jimmy, who replaced a poor chap who, unfortunately, lost his mind, that negative letters are to get VIP treatment, and he actually took me seriously.

So stepping in with a left hook to the groin is Brian of L.A. "You're off the mark on this one. I'm surprised the Redhead didn't stop that idea dead in its tracks." Hey, leave Red out of this, OK? I don't want her stepping out of the kitchen and getting mixed up in stuff that doesn't concern her.

Brian's complaint: cut the size of the penalty down to 15 yards and you'd kill the long passing game in the NFL. Receivers would be getting hacked to death downfield. Je voudrais poser un question a vous, monsieur -- How come this doesn't happen in the college game? Which is exactly the argument used by the rule's advocates some years ago when it was brought up before the Competition Committee.

The answer is that coaches aren't going to coach their DBs to hack people to death downfield. They don't want to give up 15 yards any more than they want to give up 40.

Jim of Zanesville, Ohio, agrees with Brian of L.A. (You guys get together or what?). To you I say that, as an Ohio man, you should be ashamed of yourself for suggesting that a beaten cornerback would go outside the rules and flog a victorious wideout to death. They certainly do not coach that in the Big Ten.

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