By Pam Linn


Crises, politics and emotional sports

Good grief! There’s so much going on it’s difficult to keep up with it all. On the one hand, there seems to be an agreement among nations to increase sanctions against Iran. Even those who have economic ties to Iran realize that nuclear arms in that country would destabilize the entire Middle East. Russia and China are joining Germany, France and the U.S. in what appears to be a sincere effort to resolve this.

Meanwhile, the Israeli attack on a Turkish flotilla attempting to run the blockade and deliver needed supplies to Gaza is heating up a conflict that many believe has no resolution. By the time this column sees print we may have learned more, but as of Sunday Israelis have intercepted and boarded two ships, killing almost a dozen. It is still unclear who provoked whom, who was playing offense and who was exercising their right to self-defense. Guess the elusive two-state solution is still a moving target.

On the home front, oil from BP’s collapsed drilling platform is threatening our own shores and the Gulf Coast tourist trade and fisheries. While BP airs TV ads designed to calm its shareholders, politicians are taking potshots at each other and the administration for not doing enough, soon enough. They should get a grip and accept that the federal government can hold BP’s feet to the fire but it simply doesn’t have the resources to plug the broken pipe and staunch the flow of crude. And apparently neither does BP. After many failed attempts, oil continues to threaten wildlife that depends on the estuaries, the fisheries and tourism on which the Gulf States depend.

Some folks would like to see the president show more anger, outrage, something visceral. He quickly placed a moratorium on deep well exploration in the gulf until all the facts are known and technology is proven dependable at such depths. Of course, locals who depend on drilling and support services in the area say the moratorium itself may put them out of business. It’s a no-win situation.

I understand the frustration, economic devastation as well as the dire ecological consequences. But what’s the president supposed to do? The fact is many of those folks voted for the guy who can keep his cool in a crisis. Remember “No Drama Obama?” Well, now he’s keeping his cool in a crisis and you all want him to rant and rave on national TV. Get over it. That’s not who he is. Y’all (including James Carville) may have to be satisfied with a tightly clenched presidential jaw and whatever behind-the-scenes pressure he is putting on BP chief executive Tony Hayward.

On a slightly brighter side, the crisis may force Congress to get serious about passing an energy bill (nee Climate Change Legislation). Senators John Kerry, Joe Lieberman and John Cornyn have already done the heavy lifting on this. Now, while the pressure is on industry to do better, safer and while industry lobbyists might be more subdued in their attempts to force loopholes, exemptions and subsidies, the bill may get the votes it needs to pass.

I’m not one to use sports analogies but this time I can’t resist. Baseball fans are known for yelling at umpires, throwing ripe fruit or whatever else expresses their frustration with decisions not to their liking. It goes with the territory. But after an unfortunate safe call last week robbed a pitcher of his perfect game, what happened? The sort of riot commonly stoked by frustrated soccer fans? Well, no. The umpire admitted his mistake, said he felt terrible about it and apologized to the pitcher, whereupon the pitcher graciously forgave him. Even commentator and baseball aficionado George Will acknowledged the sense of it. I agree it must have been a first for baseball and it surely beats tearing up the stadium or setting cars alight in the streets.

I was momentarily annoyed Sunday morning that the local NBC affiliate bumped “Meet the Press” in order to show the French Open men’s final match from Paris. Oh, well, enough of political wrangling and international crises. I love tennis, the last set was in progress and I was instantly hooked.

I missed the early play so beautifully described by AP reporter Howard Fendrich: “Scurrying along the baseline as only he can, sliding through the red clay he rules, Rafael Nadal stretched to somehow dig the ball out of a corner and fling it back over the net- once, twice, three times-during a 14-stroke exchange that ended when Robin Soderling sailed a shot long.”

The 24-year-old Spaniard was definitely on his game and when he finally put away his Swedish opponent without losing a set, he collapsed on the clay in celebration then quickly got up, smiled and waved to a cheering crowd. A moment later, he sat alone sobbing, his face covered while telephoto lenses focused tight on the red towel trying to capture the emotion of the moment. “Rafa” may not have been totally cool but he was undeniably gracious.

It was a glorious finale to a troubling week.