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Thursday, March 28, 2013
My meandering mind: short observations and random thoughts that have crossed my mind lately, because instead of thinking of complex issues I've been watching basketball.
Speaking of basketball, this time of year I often recall something I once heard Larry King say: Sports are the most important unimportant thing in the world. I love the NCAA Division I tournament, but like a lot of longtime bracketeers I think some things have gone awry in recent Marches. Why 68 teams? This year, play-in games filled two 16 seeds, a 13, and an 11. Why such random seedings? How about 80 teams, with the less impressive programs playing in to the 15 and 16 seeds only? And why do teams travel to Philadelphia to play in the South Regional, to Dayton, Ohio, for the West, and to San Jose, Calif., for games in the East?
Even so, it could be worse. If some people tried to run the NCAA tourney the way they propose an economy should be run, there would be 87 refs on the floor, higher ranked teams would be forced to wear leg irons, and in the end, all baskets would be equally distributed so no one's feelings are hurt.
n Like all parents of 18-month-olds, we are diligently drilling our son in his animal sounds. What does a ducky say? What does the horsie say? Isaac is a seeming prodigy in such matters, but I have to wonder - why do we put such emphasis on this subject? Is this really an essential life skill we need to convey to the next generation? Are we afraid in 30 years our son will hear this: "I'm sorry, Mr. Long. Your references were impeccable, but I'm afraid your command of barnyard noises is just not what we are seeking for this position." Just in case, better get back to work. He hasn't mastered "ribbet" and "gobble" quite yet.
n Because he goes down in history as "Silent Cal," we often assume Calvin Coolidge seldom said anything of significance. But I recently ran across two quotes of his that bear repeating: "We must have no carelessness in our dealings with public property or the expenditure of public money. Such a condition is characteristic of undeveloped people, or a decadent generation." Also: "It is much more important to kill bad [congressional] bills than to pass good ones."
n Roanoke City Council is considering the formation of an endowment to fund local arts and cultural organizations. I've heard the idea kicked around in places before, but this is the most serious discussion of such an arrangement to my knowledge. Instead of these groups coming annually to council for operating moneys, the proceeds of the endowment would be divvied up among eligible applicants on some basis that has yet to be described.
So far, no specifics have been spelled out (from where will the original principal come? How long before it becomes self-perpetuating?), but I think the idea bears consideration. Since the principal in the fund would presumably be invested in stocks or interest-bearing bonds, the amount available would vary from year to year. But it would alleviate the uncertainty of annually requesting support from a council that perpetually faces its own budget pressures.
Cultural groups enrich the fabric of our community in immeasurable ways and are worth funding as long as they give back to the public. If this endowment idea can be made to work, it might set an example for other communities that put priority on the arts.
n It's gone largely unremarked, as far as I know, but this Saturday is the 175th anniversary of the formation of Roanoke County. For years, a group of residents along the Roanoke River in what was then Botetourt County, feeling estranged from their leaders in Fincastle, had petitioned Richmond to secede. On March 30, 1838, the new county finally was formed, with Salem chosen as the seat. 175 is not as round a number as 150 or 200, but still worth a moment of reflection on what our forebears accomplished.
n I'll leave you with a thought for Easter. Christian apologist and pastor Tim Keller wrote, "If Jesus rose from the dead, then you have to accept all that he said; if he didn't rise from the dead, then why worry about any of what he said? The issue on which everything hangs is not whether or not you like his teaching but whether or not he rose from the dead." Joyous Easter from my family to yours.
Long is a Roanoke Times columnist and director of the Salem Museum.
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