Mixed messages from Ferguson

I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels the protests in Ferguson, Mo., and elsewhere are not likely to accomplish anything positive and may even portray those who take part in a negative light.

As we watch buildings and cars burn, tear gas drift through the air and see armed police and national guardsmen standing opposite shouting protestors bearing hand-written signs, our thoughts drift to the owners of those buildings and others affected by the protestors actions.

Ferguson toonNot to deny anyone the right to disagree with the grand jury’s decision – or more importantly, to display that disagreement in a public way – but shouldn’t there be a better way to let someone know how you feel? I admit my life is entirely different from the majority of those protesting, so what I say can be questioned. But I still have the right to voice it, just as anyone else in this country.

But displaying an opinion in such a violent, destructive manner that harms or affects others negatively dilutes the message, doesn’t it? While most protests outside Missouri were peaceful, it’s the fires and destruction we see on TV, social media and news media everywhere. The message of racial intolerance, bigotry and law enforcement bias is mostly lost when we see those images. And you have many “wannabe” protestors who admittedly joined in when they saw it happening. Maybe for the chance to act out publicly, not for the cause many other protestors want to stress.

Ferguson signAnd what positive change will result? I’d say very little, sadly. I wish I could come up with something that would address the issue of tolerance and acceptance, so we could avoid these types of events. Better minds than mine have pondered the question for decades. I try to support those who work on issues like these and admire their efforts. Still, I worry we’ll be looking at more such protests, violence and even hatred in the years ahead.

If we keep taking to the streets with the intent to commit violence, inflict damage and even injury or death, maybe that’s what we deserve. Optimistically, I hope we have a collective “wake up” moment sometime. But viewing what’s happening and has happened elsewhere, it’s hard to not be pessimistic.

Not our finest hour by a long shot.

Rushing to fix things doesn’t solve problems

We live in a world that almost always demands things happen now. Not later. Not tomorrow. Not next month or next year.

Now.

Too many times, that leads to unexpected or unwelcome consequences because things aren’t thought through. From text messages and tweets that should never have been sent without taking time to think it through to life changing decisions that backfire, we’ve all seen – and likely experienced first hand – the negative impacts we don’t see coming.

The world of sports is where you can see such decisions and consequences almost daily. Denver Broncos fans, of which I have been a card-carrying member since the days of my young adulthood, have wanted to see their beloved team sign new players and fire the head coach after a couple of recent loses.

While I have started to have serious concerns about the logic of continuing to employ John Fox and staff, what is the likely outcome if the team changes horses now? The season is almost three-quarters of the way over. What good can a new coach do over the course of five or six more games? Will his system suddenly make Broncos players super human, incapable of mistakes? No. A new system now will only doom Denver to a lackluster finish, likely far short of their desired goal of “Super Bowl or bust.” Think, people.

Likewise, bringing in a new offensive lineman to shore up what appears to be one of the team’s biggest weaknesses will only create more confusion on the line. There just isn’t time for someone to come in, learn what’s said to be a very complicated offense, get into playing shape if they’re been out of the game for a while and make a positive contribution.

Picking a player

As someone in public life once said, “stay the course.” The Broncos are still one of the better teams in the NFL, even if they haven’t played up to what we fans have likely expected. Unfairly expected, I would add. Last year spoiled us and we seem to have forgotten how tough this year’s schedule is compared to last year. Yes, they played a bad game against the Rams, a team they should have beaten fairly easily.

But rushing to judgement and adding a piece here or there will only make things worse. I’d like to see Denver return their offensive line to last year’s configuration, or as close as possible, in terms of positions. Remember, Denver had a 1,000-yard runner last year. Asking three of your five (or six) blockers to switch positions in mid-season isn’t likely to work. Another case of not thinking things through and maybe a little panic by the coaching staff.

Rocking the boat just for the sake of making a change doesn’t seem to be a sound strategy in any line of work, football, politics or business. But that does seem to be the world we live in today.

thinkPeople everywhere need to be more thoughtful, considerate and insightful, think of others and hopefully do what’s right, not just react and rush to judgement and blame.

Recalling my roots

I’ve been remiss in not posting sooner, but still want to say a few words about someone who was among those enterprising journalists who spurred me into a career that I greatly enjoyed.

I never met Ben Bradlee, what with thousands of miles and different career paths in the journalistic world and all between us. But his recent passing brought back a lot of memories, including the images from “All The President’s Men,” featuring Jason Robards as Bradlee, managing editor of the Washington Post. His constant prodding of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein helped lead to the resignation of a president, but more important in my mind was why and how he helped the two young reporters keep going after the story.

If you’ve seen the movie or read the book, you know what I mean. Bradlee had the kind of determination not always seen in these days of downsizing newspapers, overworked reporters and a public that seemingly wants to spend their time watching cute cats on YouTube instead of learning what their government and leaders are up to.

Bradlee wasn’t infallible, and I’m not sure he was the kind of guy I would have hung around with on my off hours, but I think he would have made me a better reporter. Or caused me to seek another line of work. I’m pretty sure it would have been the former.

I recall when I and several of my fellow high school newspaper staff members went to see “All The President’s Men” in 1976. Young, impressionable minds were lured by the romance of the story, of bringing to light an abuse of power that none had believed would ever happen. I’d be interested in finding out how many budding high school journalists took up the torch like I did because of that movie and book. Let alone the actual historical event.

I hope there are other Ben Bradlees out there, egging young journalists on and teaching them the ropes of what it means to be a reporter. Maybe he or she will one day be looked back on with the same admiration and respect.

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