December 6, 2007
First off, let me be clear:
I am that guy that’s “ready for some football.”
I really enjoy football. Very much. All levels of football – from flag to the NFL. While there are some teams and games I’ll favor, it really doesn’t matter. I just enjoy watching whatever game is on. Liz says that when I tell her I’m going to go “watch a game,” I’m really going to “take a nap.” But that’s accurate no more than half the time. I’m already complaining that the season is going to be over soon (though watching Baylor, my alma mater, field a team year after year tests my affection; and, please, don’t be snide and say that’s not football).
Like the rest of us, the Legislature must go from Tuesday morning to Friday night with little more nourishment than the odd college or rare Thursday pro game. So I can sort of understand that it wants more mid-week football.
And, in the absence of competitive tackling and blitzing on TV, leave it to lobbyists to turn football into even more of a contact sport.
In case you haven’t heard – which would be surprising, given the number of lobbyists and advertising companies who’ve tried to fire you up over the last few weeks – the National Football League and some cable corporations are trading form tackles over the dominant issue in pigskin policy.
The question has nothing to do with the really important football issues: whether Faith Hill’s new intro to Sunday Night Football is better than the old traditional Hank Williams, Jr. intro to Monday Night Football. Or if those three ridiculous goobers on ESPN’s Monday Night Football really are the worst announcers in the history of the game.
It’s this: should the cable companies offer the NFL Network – you can probably guess what they show on that – as a basic cable channel, and should the NFL be paid what it thinks its channel is worth or, instead, what the cable companies (and their customers) are willing to pay?
Imagine a couple of heavy-set billionaires bumping bellies like they’re linemen, and you pretty much get the idea.
What makes this different from any arcane and entirely private business dispute over supply and demand is that some folks want the Legislature to weigh in.
At a time when Texas struggles to improve its schools, fails to ensure health care for its citizens, offloads university costs onto students and parents, dallies on climate change and other environmental threats, hordes money to pay for ill-advised tax shifts, and slashes transportation spending while threatening drivers with private toll roads, some are worked up about whether the cable-ready citizens of Texas can watch another eight football games a season.
This caught fire because the Cowboys were playing the Packers in a Thursday night game. Yeah, that’s right, Romo and Favre. And that’s very cool.
But do we really want our free-market legislative leadership to wade into this business school case study? I’m curious to see how they’ll solve it without the equivalent of a mandate that all convenience stores sell diet root beer (Capitol cafeterias, too, if anyone’s listening).
Then again, this is football. When Hank Williams, Jr. sings, “Are you ready for some health care?” or Faith asks if we’ve “been waiting all day to make education right,” maybe we’ll get around to those little issues.
I gave a speech this week to the Hispanic Scholarship Consortium. This is a really good group that’s made a mission of making sure more Hispanic students have access to higher education. Not only is this about as high a calling as one can find in public service, but these are exactly the people that Texas needs to be doing more to serve.
As I note in the speech, Hispanics will be the biggest demographic group in Texas by 2020. A generation later, they’ll be a majority. And they’re young – the last census showed the median age for Texas Hispanics was 25 and a half, and 38 for whites.
This is great news. In fact, if we approach this growth and this youth in a sensible, responsible way, it will fuel our state’s prosperity for decades to come.
Our future depends on how these kids do when they grow up and enter the workforce. If they are the creative, intelligent workers that the economy will demand, we’re in great shape. But if they aren’t – if Texas must limp on with only two flagship universities and an unquenchable need to import college graduates – then we’ll all have problems.
I’ll close with excerpts from the speech:
. . . I never doubted, or questioned the possibility, of going to college. In fact, Daddy made it pretty clear to me that I didn’t have much choice in the matter. He was determined that I would have the options he almost lost and walk through doors that almost closed to him.
That fundamental truth – that it’s worthy to invest in children and education – was coded into my DNA along with everything else my father gave me.
Imagine how great the Great State of Texas would be if all children shared that fundamental certainty. No matter what they look like. No matter where their parents are from. No matter where they live – whether in the ‘burbs or in the barrio; in the gated community or in the ghetto. No matter how much money their families have. No matter what world they know or think they know. No matter, even, what they expect for themselves and their own children.
Imagine what would happen, and what we could become, if every last one of Texas’ children knew in their bones that they had the talents and could find the means to get a college degree . . .
So I believe it’s in our best interests to help these students succeed. But even more than that . . . they deserve to have confidence in their own abilities and trust that they can spend four years in class without bankrupting themselves or their families.
That combination of self-assurance and faith – that is hope. Hope carried my Daddy and his children and grandchildren to a new or different life. Hope is what you give to students and families with every scholarship, tutoring program, and counseling session.
Hope matters. Hope is your mission. And hope must become our state’s mission, as well.