Man up to snow

Published 10:07 am Friday, December 31, 2010

After learning that last Sunday’s scheduled Eagles-Vikings football game had been delayed two days because a snowstorm was forecast, outspoken Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell went on the radio to proclaim that, “we’ve become wussies.” As unappealing as the sentiment may be, the governor was not far off target.

The National Football League rescheduled last Sunday evening’s game (which the Vikings eventually won) to Tuesday evening because a forecast snowstorm was expected to make travel and stadium preparations difficult. Snowstorms do, indeed, make things difficult, but difficult conditions are supposed to be part of football. While neither the NFL or anyone else involved in the decision will say so, the real calculation was probably that someone would somehow suffer enough inconvenience or injury in some way connected with the game, that it would result in either bad publicity or — more likely — a lawsuit. The assumption underlying those concerns is that people are unable to make their own judgments about when it’s safe, wise or practical to attend a football game and must be told by others — and if they aren’t told by others, then they definitely won’t feel like they should be held responsible for their own actions.

This is the same sort of thinking that led Minnesota governors to begin declaring “cold days,” back in the late 1990s, whenever the temperatures threatened to be severe. Parents, the government seemed to be saying, can not be trusted to dress their children warmly or, if it is really cold, make their own decisions about whether it’s safe to wait outside for the bus. This was the first coil on a descending spiral, because once the state (or the NFL) takes over decisions about weather safety that ought to be in individuals’ hands, people simply begin to wait for the government or some other authority to tell them what to do. It is a gradual, nearly imperceptible process, but it does lead inevitably in the wrong direction.

Email newsletter signup

Gov. Rendell clearly saw that. “My biggest beef is that this is part of what’s happened in this country,” Rendell said on Monday. Right on, Governor.