dkSez : : : : : : Don Kahle's blog

Quips, queries, and querulous quibbles from the quirky mind of Don Kahle

dkSez : : : : : : Don Kahle's blog random header image

What’s Changed Forever Now?

September 10th, 2021 by dk
Respond

“What’s gone away recently, never to return?” Somebody asked me that question recently. It really got me thinking. I’ll give you my best two answers, but I’ll pause first for a paragraph or two. How you would answer that question? You can put down the paper for a moment to ponder. I’ll wait. Or just read the next paragraph slowly while think.

How good are the Ducks going to be this football season? I know Coach Cristobal wants his team to be strong and determined, but does that require play calling to be stubborn and conservative? Can we throw in some flashy plays, just to keep the opposing team guessing? Those plays please fans, but they also probably help with recruiting.

OK, where were we? What has changed recently that’s unlikely to change back? My first answer was loneliness. It seems as though it has vanished, but it hasn’t. We need new metrics to monitor loneliness. It’s become too easy to find people who agree with us, who think the way we do, who make us feel good about ourselves.

Social media makes those connections very easily, but are they real enough to make us feel less alone, or less afraid of being alone? My hunch is those connections won’t remedy loneliness, even though they eliminate the condition that we think causes it.

You might have thousands of Facebook friends, hundreds of followers on Instagram, and still feel the ennui of disconnectedness. You can join chat rooms or Reddit threads where everybody is talking about all your favorite topics, yet still worry that none of it matters, that you don’t matter.

Social media gives salt water to a thirsty man. The more he drinks, the more he wants.

This has dire societal consequences. We shun and shame people to dissuade them from unproductive behaviors and beliefs. We’ve used ostracization as enforced loneliness to reel outliers back into the mainstream. Now it only drives them to further extremes. They can always find like-minded cohorts, if they dive deep enough.

My second answer connects to the first. I think a sense of “place” has gone away. At least it can no longer be assumed. I grew up in a world where voice and place were always attached. Even if it was over the phone, I always knew within a few feet exactly where somebody was sitting. Everyone’s phone was in the kitchen, tethered by an 8-foot cord.

Then came laptops and later cell phones. We’ve now mastered video calls with digitized backgrounds. Employers allow telework. Taken together, any of us can be anywhere. But when everywhere is a possibility, is “nowhere” the reality? Here again, we’re trying something new, wherever “here” is….

Then came cordless phones, laptops and cell phones. We make video calls with digitized backgrounds. Employers allow telework. Taken together, any of us can be anywhere. But when everywhere is a possibility, is “nowhere” the reality? Here again, we’re trying something new, wherever “here” is….

Can humans function without a sense of home and without relying on the connections that come from physical proximity and personal history? I don’t know, but we’re all about to find out.

Maybe that’s why we care so much about college football. It gathers people with shared passion and history into a specific, recognizable place. No one inside Autzen Stadium feels lonely.

==

Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at www.dksez.com.

Tags: No Comments.

Texas Law Invites a New Underground Railroad

September 9th, 2021 by dk
Respond

No matter how you feel about abortion or how strongly you feel it, you should be dismayed and distressed about Texas. Its new “Heartbeat Law” forbids any abortion after six weeks and explicitly removes government from its enforcement.

The law sets up a Rube Goldberg system of enforcement through the state’s civil courts. It rewards so-called bounty hunters with a minimum $10,000 prize for any conviction, but nothing to defendants, even if they prevail.

Its diabolical design reminded me of Bill Sizemore’s various anti-tax crusades that twisted Oregon’s systems in his favor. Describing some of his clever legislative contraptions will take up too much room here. Try searching his name and “double majority” or “property tax compression” to start.

Attorney General Merrick Garland, no stranger to underhanded tricks, has vowed to defend women and clinics in Texas with federal agents. But his tools are extremely limited. The FACE (Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances) Act protects women entering clinics, but that’s about it. Once they leave the clinic, Texas law takes over.

It’s somewhat misleading to describe Senate Bill 8 as part of Texas law because law is defined as “the collection of rules imposed by authority.” But the authorities cynically removed themselves from this law’s imposition. Because its enforcement comes from random individuals through the civil courts, the federal courts cannot review its constitutionality.

In place of any sort of government enforcement, Texas lawmakers have declared that vigilantism is a suitable substitute. This is what everyone should find disturbing. Does it count as anarchy when government authorities knowingly tie their own hands?

I’m sure that pro-choice activists are drawing up plans already to flood Texas — and soon other copycat states like South Dakota and Florida — with activists willing to squire pregnant women to other states, where they can safely and legally end their pregnancies. Those activists will then return them to the Texas border with bus fare to get them home.

The woman whose pregnancy ended cannot the prosecuted, but anyone aiding or abetting her instantly becomes a target for civil suit. But the state civil court system cannot reach defendants outside Texas Those aiding the women would become fugitives, risking arrest if they returned to Texas. Most wouldn’t consider being barred from entering Texas as any great loss.

Texas could be inspiring a modern recreation of the Underground Railroad.

There’s already talk of applying SB8’s dastardly lack-of-logic to other changes that have failed as conventional laws. Californians have suggested this tack might be the best way to punish those who own or use guns without triggering (sorry) a challenge based on the Second Amendment. What anti-gun activists need is a well regulated militia of litigants!

Where else might government delegate its core responsibility, using bounty hunters for rogue enforcement? Sloppy recyclers? Unkempt lawns? Texas visitors? Settling for a field goal when the home team is behind by six with less than eight minutes to play?

It’s not technically “taking the law into your own hands” when lawmakers give it to you.

==

Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at www.dksez.com.

Tags: No Comments.

Congress Ignores its Own Experts

September 3rd, 2021 by dk
Respond

Sen. Ron Wyden shouldn’t be surprised if he gets a call from Rep. Peter DeFazio, warning him not to work too hard on the upcoming $3.5 trillion Build Back Better reconciliation package. DeFazio has shown no signs of bitterness about the first infrastructure bill, now sitting in the House docket, but no one could blame him.

When DeFazio arrived in Congress in 1987, he was like a freshman on campus without a declared major. For somebody as curious and wonkish as DeFazio, he must have felt like a kid in a candy store. He joined the House Committee on Public Works and Transportation, as it was known back then.

He focused on highways and transit, building on what he had learned as a county commissioner across one of the most diverse terrains in the country.

He rose to chair the ground transportation subcommittee as those with more seniority retired. He became the ranking Democrat on the House Committee for Transportation and Infrastructure in 2015. He waited four more years for Democrats to win the House majority (making him Chair), and then two more for a Democratic President (making it matter.)

In 2021, after more than 30 years of on-the-job training, DeFazio finally reached the pinnacle of his political career. The timing looked perfect. Transportation funding packages are assembled roughly every six years, so this year was his first chance to put to work all that he had learned over four decades about moving people and stuff around.

Never one to avoid hard work, DeFazio rolled up his sleeves. He oversaw the committee’s work with 67 of his colleagues and hundreds of staff members. DeFazio sponsored HR 3684 – Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act on June 4, 2021. It passed the House less than a month later.

Then the Senate threw it all out. They kept the container of HR 3684, but emptied it of all of DeFazio’s hard-earned expertise. Then they stuffed the container with what a handful of Senators (with nothing approaching the same expertise) thought would be better. They paraded their alternative for TV cameras. It passed the Senate and awaits a rubber stamp from the House.

Could you blame DeFazio for being livid? He may feel compelled to warn his Oregon colleague in the Senate. Wyden has risen to be Chair of the Senate Finance Committee. His committee has been charged with formulating the funding for the gargantuan reconciliation package, so that it completely pays for itself.

In fact, Senate leaders want it to raise an extra $1 billion, so they can claim they are paying down the federal debt. (To spare you the math, that projected “surplus” amounts to less than 0.003% of the total funding package. Cynical? Yes.)

You might think that Congress would respect the work of its committee structure and its resident experts. Think again. Inevitably, the work will get supplanted by a few high profile members with back-of-envelop calculations who don’t like the sound of this or that. Will Wyden’s deep knowledge — his Congressional career began in 1981 — be respected? DeFazio’s wasn’t.

==

Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at www.dksez.com.

Tags: No Comments.

Is Government Too Big? Order a Pizza!

September 2nd, 2021 by dk
Respond

The images and stories coming from Afghanistan are heartbreaking. Can we put them out of our minds for just a couple of minutes? There’s a larger lesson to be learned here for our government. It involves Joey’s Pizza in Springfield.

No, I don’t have a plan to airlift pizzas to the airport in Kabul, though that might not be a bad idea. I’m thinking about thousands across Oregon who may soon be facing homelessness. They too might benefit from one of Joey’s Beer Drivers Specials, but that’s honestly not my point here. I’ll get to Joey’s in a minute. I promise.

President Biden met with Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani in the White House on June 25. Ghani reportedly had only one immediate request. He asked that the United States begin leaving his country quietly, so it would not look as if America lacked faith in his government. Our sudden departure could create chaos in the streets.

Now we know what Ghani must have known all along. We’re a lumbering giant who cannot do anything quietly. Every move our government makes causes chaos in the streets. We don’t know how to adjust our strategies to the size of our influence. Ghani effectively tied Gulliver down for an extra two months while planning his own quiet departure.

On some level, Biden must have known it too. Our society is built around personal choices. Our execution will always be messier than what a totalitarian regime can offer. That’s not because we lack total control. It’s because we refuse to exert total control. Most of the time, messiness flows from our strength, not from our weakness. (This bungled operation might be an exception.)

Regardless, we need to learn some new tricks. Every government ending is likened to a cliff. There are many ahead: Pandemic unemployment benefits, student loan forgiveness, mandated foreclosure forbearance, a moratorium on evictions. Each will be felt as another abrupt exit.

You can expect stories of people who were overlooked, who are suddenly suffering, who needed just a little more help to get on their feet — just like the Afghan army! Every withdrawal will look heartless someplace. There will always be bad optics.

We should be able to means-test each benefit program, scaling back support but protecting the neediest. But those who game the system guarantee more bad optics. We used a birthday lottery system for our last military draft. It was heartbreaking to send young men into combat based on chance, but it wasn’t unfair and there were no collective cliffs.

Joey’s does something slightly different. (I always keep my promises when pizza is involved.) They offer everyone an almost-half-price pizza every month, based on the first letter of their last name. On the 11th of each month, I get a special deal because K is the 11th letter in the alphabet.

Could the federal government use Joey’s method, curbing benefit programs gradually but still predictably? We need some new thinking to avoid the next cliff and the cliffs after that. A good pizza might help us reach some different, softer conclusions.

==

Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at www.dksez.com.

Tags: No Comments.

Masks are the New Bike Helmets

September 1st, 2021 by dk
Respond

Nobody wants to think about mask mandates, so let’s talk about bike helmets. I took a long walk this morning through downtown during the morning rush hour. I didn’t count the number of bicyclists I saw. It was certainly dozens and maybe more than 100. I didn’t see any exposed skulls.

It wasn’t always like this. When my boys were in grade school, our pediatrician, Dr. Blanton, ended his annual checkups with a checklist for parents. Car seats, vegetables, bedtimes, book-reading, exercise, TV limits — it was a long list. We thought we were doing everything right, until he got to bike helmets. “Gotcha!” he whispered.

The good doctor didn’t need to show us statistics about concussions and brain injuries from naked noggins speeding along pavement without protection. We slapped our foreheads hard enough that we might have wished we’d been wearing helmets inside the doctor’s office.

We started wearing helmets after that, but grudgingly. I missed the air tossing my hair, drying my sweat in the wind. I missed feeling as carefree as I did when I was a teenager. It felt like a genuine loss back then. Now it feels just like the right thing to do. I’m sure my parents felt the same way about seatbelts — a necessary precaution, a small discomfort.

My siblings and I never thought twice about seatbelts. Driving without buckling in would feel weird, even slightly uncomfortable. My sons probably feel the same way about bike helmets. If so, Dr. Blanton would be proud.

It wasn’t very many years ago that bike helmets were still seen as optional. I remember thinking it was a little bit crazy when the city of Eugene spent a summer repainting those pavement signs that indicate bicycle lanes or bicyclists merging. They updated the symbol to make sure the bicyclists portrayed wore helmets.

Changes come slowly. There are always early adopters who immediately embrace any update to the social code. Those bike commuters I observed are undoubtedly different from leisure riders. My sample size was insufficient to claim that we’re near unanimity, but the trend lines are clear.

Some of us change our habits only after somebody we respect points it out. Those who continue to resist change may come along only when they feel alone in their resolve. When even the bike symbol figure is wearing a helmet, it might be time to rethink.

Trouble is, it’s harder to make people feel lonely these days. There’s probably a Facebook group for people who refuse to wear seatbelts, congratulating one another for not becoming sheeple in response to government mandates. Statistics show that even bicyclists with helmets can get concussions, so why give up the hair-tossing wind of freedom?

Will masks or vaccine shots eventually become like bike helmets and seatbelts? I know, I know! We all want to scream at the prospect. We don’t want to feel constrained forever, and maybe we won’t have to. But our children will adapt more quickly than we will. If these inconveniences must become the new normal, they will eventually feel normal.

==

Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at www.dksez.com.

Tags: No Comments.

Biden Shows Skill and Will to Exit Afghanistan

August 20th, 2021 by dk
Respond

It was always going to end this way. Most expected it be slower and less chaotic, but the outcome was all but certain. It’s a thrill to ride a tiger, until you want to get off. Joe Biden warned President Obama in 2009 against sending more troops to Afghanistan. Better to save lives than to save face. Choosing the latter was always easier.

President Biden pledged not to do that. He promised to end America’s Forever War, just as his predecessors did. Unlike them, he sent a son into combat. His long tenure in the Senate inured him to jangly-chested commanders’ dire projections. He vowed to keep his word and he did.

He might wish today he’d managed the calendar differently. Christmas might have been a better homecoming deadline. Winters are brutal in the mountains of Afghanistan. Everything slows down with shorter winter days. Instead, brace yourself for raucous Taliban celebrations on the 20th anniversary of Sept. 11th. They won.

The outcome was almost never in doubt. Build an army for the 21st century for a culture stuck in the 7th century? There was never a happy ending in sight. Biden was right to ask the dispositive question: “If not now, then when?” The answer has been “later” and “soon” — but always, definitely “later.”

Biden knew better. “Later” equals “never.” He showed courage to match his conviction.

It’s a shame the move soured so quickly. Biden had just achieved something that no president in recent memory has accomplished. Nineteen Republican Senators crossed the aisle to vote for a major piece of legislation, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. A second initiative followed, promising to strengthen the social safety net. Biden could tout domestic nation-building not imagined for generations.

Unfortunately, Biden’s FDR moment was cut short by his Harry Truman moment. How long might WWII have continued if Truman hadn’t dropped atomic bombs to end it? Was that the right thing to do? Or was it the only thing that could be done?

Truman was expected to lose the 1948 presidential election after taking such decisive action to end the war he inherited. Biden surely understands his electoral prospects will be dimmed by the television coverage that blankets rough transitions like this one. LBJ couldn’t win reelection after biting the bullet and passing civil rights reform. Maybe Biden knows that will be his fate too.

If so, he should be asking himself, “What else have Americans endured for too long because the ending is sure to be ugly?” Are there any other public policy grenades he can throw himself on before leaving the Oval Office? He’d be a hero to end some of America’s never-ending controversies.

Modernizing the filibuster? Curbing the defense budget? Legalizing marijuana? Demanding more accountability from police and teachers, angering their unions? Paying reparations? Nationalizing the power grid and adding Internet service? Strengthening voting standards and women’s reproductive rights?

It was our last president who promised to shake things up and deliver more than incremental change. It’s our current president who demonstrates the skill and the will to do it.

==

Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at www.dksez.com.

Tags: No Comments.

We Can Still Show Strength in Afghanistan

August 19th, 2021 by dk
Respond

President Biden falsely asserted that his administration planned for every contingency. Our military withdrawal from Afghanistan is losing ground in public opinion faster than Afghan forces lost ground to the Taliban. Americans wanted our military involvement to end, but not with human remains clogging wheel wells of exiting transport planes.

What can be done at this point?

This administration has recognized that Americans are in the mood for bold solutions to longstanding problems. Our exit from Afghanistan was scripted as a bold move, ripping the band-aid off after two decades of temporary measures that never offered anything more than momentary relief.

The White House planned to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center by wishing the people of Afghanistan well. Their internal struggles should be settled by the people who live there, not by our American and NATO soldiers in a proxy war against Russia and religious extremism.

But the script was flipped. We’ve been chased out of Afghanistan and their so-called Civil War has already been won by the Taliban. Religious extremists will rule Afghanistan for the foreseeable future, reversing whatever was accomplished over the past 20 years.

The future is suddenly bleak or brief for anyone who helped the American crusade or for anyone without a Y chromosome. All in the first group and many in the second wish they could leave the country, hoping to continue that better life brought by Americans.

The United States of America should meet this moment boldly. We should embrace any Afghan who helped us. The State Department should negotiate with the Taliban for safe passage out of the country. Mayors across our nation should be charged with localized plans to resettle as many war refugees as each city across the nation can handle.

This ending should be on scale with the battle we fought there — 20 years and over a trillion dollars, but also this: More than 775,000 U.S. service members were deployed to Afghanistan at least once. How many of those made a friend while there? More than 18,000 Special Immigrant Visas are stuck in the bureaucratic pipeline. Include their families and the number swells to 53,000.

If we spent $50 billion for one more year, how quickly and how many Afghan families could we assimilate into American society. How much red tape could be cut? For the first time, our investment in them would also be an investment in ourselves. They will be contributing to our culture and economy as soon as they are allowed.

Fortunately, we don’t have to start this new mission from scratch. Evacuate Our Allies (www.evacuateourallies.org/our-plan) has a detailed plan to airlift tens of thousands of Afghanis seeking political asylum. No One Left Behind (www.nooneleft.org) has already built a network of local human rights activists willing to help families resettle.

We fought to better people’s lives in Afghanistan. We can still do that. President Biden wanted a move of strength. It hasn’t worked out that way, but it still could.

==

Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at www.dksez.com.

Tags: No Comments.

Experts Can Be Wrong

August 17th, 2021 by dk
Respond

I had a marriage counselor once give me good advice. “Always leave room for the other side to be at least one percent correct.” That habit of mind didn’t make me a better husband, but it made me a better human.

I got my COVID-19 vaccination shots as soon as I could, without hesitation. Most of my friends who have resisted getting vaccinated are concerned about their personal health or freedom. That’s not me. I would rather live in this world considering the greater good before assessing any personal gains.

If I were younger, I might worry more about unknown long-term effects of the Pfizer vaccine. Long-term doesn’t seem as long as it once did. The short-term benefits of reaching herd immunity as quickly as possible outweigh those concerns for me.

I have continued my search for that one percent I can share with anti-vaxxers. Some skepticism and dissent is based on information that can be verified. Most is not. I don’t expect readers to agree with me, but here is one objection I find myself accepting easily: Experts can be wrong, especially when they are nearly unanimous in their opinions.

Almost every expert insists that the vaccines are safe, necessary, and the only solution we need. Not long ago, we had medical reporters who had been on the same beat for decades who would ask hard questions before publishing the popular position. We’ve lost that mostly invisible protective shield against group think. That worries me.

This example doesn’t prove my point, but it illustrates my concern. My doctor recently sent me to a surgeon who specializes in removing an organ that was causing me problems. I had a battery of questions. What causes this condition? Can lifestyle choices reverse it? Will the periodic pain subside over time? Could it kill me?

His answer to each question was the same. “We don’t know.” I should have asked him to define “we” but it’s hard to think clearly when you’re talking with somebody in a lab coat with their name embroidered on it. I’m guessing his “we” referred to other surgeons with the same specialization. Context and causality don’t matter when a scalpel is in your hand. He’s not called until his services are required.

My primary care physician will help me contextualize what the specialist told me. I’ll wait for input from a generalist before making my decision. Knowledge is important but it cannot replace wisdom.

This vaccine technology moved quickly. We’ve heard mostly from specialists. As the information and opinions spread, they often change. Our understanding of climate change has gotten more harrowing as the data are distributed and interpreted more widely.

Modern society conceives of knowledge as hierarchical — a mountainous pyramid of information and analysis. Specialists scale their mountains, seeing only other specialists around them. It takes time for non-specialists to catch up.

Vaccine development and public health are not the best place to apply this rule, but it’s worth asking. Have experts considered all the wider implications? Usually not. That’s really not their job. It’s ours.

==

Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at www.dksez.com.

Tags: No Comments.

Facebook Posts Prayers? Heavens, No!

August 13th, 2021 by dk
Respond

On June 17, 2016, I suggested in this space that Facebook could build community by adding a button indicating prayer on each posting. Users regularly ask for recommendations, so why not prayers? Not every problem is remedied with advice. Sometimes solidarity is what we need most. Prayer has a long history of providing that.

Five years later, Facebook is testing such a feature. “Prayer posts” are being offered to a subset of Facebook groups. Group administrators must first opt in, which then allows members to post prayer requests in the group. Members can then click a “pray” button to let the original poster know they have prayed for their request.

As I wrote five years ago, “Prayer is expressed in words, but what it expresses is more than words. Addressed to an almighty force that connects everything, it expresses both deferential humility and determined resolve. Prayer articulates intent. It prepares us for action. The posture of prayer is readiness.”

Over the last 30 years, I’ve written more than 2,000 columns for this and other publications — slightly more than a million published words. Over that span, I may have once or twice failed to think something all the way through. (I’m feeling you, Nick Kristof!) This was one of those instances.

I’m having second thoughts. Not about prayer, which I still believe does all those things for us and to us that I described half a decade ago. My recent reticence concerns surveillance capitalism and Facebook’s ability (and willingness) to monetize our hopes and fears.

In times of mortifying fear or ineffable joy, we humans have a redemptive urge to submit to a higher power. That’s a good thing — maybe the one good thing — about humanity. Allowing those urges to be bought and sold is anything but that.

Facebook was quick to respond to critics who wondered how prayer requests would be used by its algorithms to increase engagement. The company assured users that the information wouldn’t be made available to advertisers. But of course it’s not that simple. Prayer requests for a new job then become the topic of later conversations.

So a posted prayer request for a new couch won’t instantly be “answered” with ads from furniture stores. That’s some cold comfort. But Facebook has made no promises that its own algorithm won’t quickly favor friends’ posts about coffee tables and reading lamps. “Facebook loves you and has a wonderful plan for your living room.”

What happens when Facebook-fueled prayers go unanswered? Will the company as interceder-in-chief be faulted for an unannounced power outage? If our hopes are sent to the cloud, have they been properly backed up first? Why does Mark Zuckerberg, whose current net worth is $125.2 billion, allow pain and suffering in this world?

Submitting to a higher power might seem like a thoroughly anti-modern ideal. But look at us, marveling at wealth that seems to have no upper limit. Come to think of it, Zuckerberg has been conspicuously absent from the gaggle of Internet titans racing to space. He may have a plan to occupy heaven instead.

==

Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at www.dksez.com.

Tags: No Comments.

Sports Without Spectators

August 5th, 2021 by dk
Respond

The 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games are concluding this weekend with no fans allowed to witness the competitions. A decades-long trend has finally reached its conclusion. The tail of television broadcasting now wags the dog of spectator sports.

I remember racing home from school to catch the last inning or two of Chicago Cubs baseball games. Announcer Jack Brickhouse always reminded viewers that thousands of bleacher tickets went on sale every game day, but that his broadcast would be “the next best thing to being here.”

I would watch the game, wishing I could be at the park. Wrigley Field had fewer lights and electronic gizmos than any ballpark in the league. The Cubs never had a night game until 1988 because its owners refused to install lights. Scores were updated manually by a person inside the scoreboard who may or may not have been using binoculars to steal signals from the opposing team.

There was no substitute for being there.

Broadcasters made sure of it. If a sporting event failed to sell a certain number of tickets, team owners reserved the right to black out a local broadcast. Watching from home shouldn’t be considered as good as being there.

My, how things have changed. The latest multi-million dollar upgrade at Autzen Stadium installed two massive video screens and a much-improved sound system. Fans inside the stadium will see instant replays on the largest screen in college sports. Tailgaters in the parking lot will watch another screen that’s only slightly smaller.

The goal now is to match the comfort and convenience the audience would have at home. The stadium experience is different now only during commercial breaks and bathroom runs. I’m sure they must be working on those.

I wonder what it’s like for the athletes, knowing that only some in the stands are actually watching their performance directly. Many have their eyes fixed on the Jumbotron. Some will be talking or texting with their phones during. The whooping and hollering is still synchronized, so maybe that’s enough. But I wonder.

The biggest sporting event of the world will now be roughly equivalent to a moon landing. The only witnesses will be the other participants. Everyone else will experience it through a screen. Am I alone worrying that people won’t see the value of showing up for anything, once pixelation replaces participation?

We can stand against this trend because we have Hayward Field, which is now as modern as the sports experience comes, but still not overly digitized. The stadium remains in a neighborhood, surrounded by unrelated functions. It’s not like Autzen and PK Park, where everything nearby exists only to serve the stadiums’ crowds.

Let’s keep Hayward Field firmly in the context of our everyday lives. We should go about our business, willingly oblivious to the events inside its luminous shell. Or we can stand outside, interpreting each cheer as if we were there, because we are.

Wouldn’t it be great if a few hundred seats were always available on the day of each event? It’s not a new idea, but still a good one.

==

Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns atwww.dksez.com.

Tags: No Comments.