The release of balloons; sports fighting

Published 9:21 am Thursday, August 23, 2018

It’s a sort of double standard I’ve been witnessing all of my working life, but it is finally coming to an end, at least part of it is.

We’ve all seen the balloon releases. I’ve seen them dozens of times at schools, celebrating this occasion or that. I’ve seen them several times at special events, such as road races. Clemson University even had the practice (It is ending this year.) of releasing some 10,000 balloons as the Tiger football team takes to the field.

Releasing balloons is, to put it simply, littering.

I’ve always wondered how an elementary school teacher, one who cares about their students and teaches them to be responsible stewards of the environment, could be a part of a balloon release. The balloons have to come down somewhere.

The new theory is that the plastic or rubber or whatever the stuff is that balloons are made of, does not decompose, and poses threats to fish, birds and other wildlife that may ingest it. That is true. Just about everything our throw-away society uses is harmful to wildlife. I’ve even heard that contact lenses being flushed down the toilet end up in our rivers, then in our fish.

Think of it this way. You are driving down the road, right in front of a state trooper. You let a balloon go out of the car window. Chances are, that trooper is going to stop you and write you a ticket for littering. At least, they should write you a ticket for littering.

In my mind, it’s no different than sending hundreds of balloons into the air, even if it is to mark a good cause.

Another double standard I see often is at sporting events – when the players get into a fight.

I’ve attended dozens of hockey games (Go ‘Canes!), and watched even more fights at hockey games. And yes, I’ve heard the saying: “I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out”. Sometimes it is nothing more than almost friendly pushing and shoving. At other times, they really fight, landing punches and drawing blood.

Police officers are everywhere at professional sporting events, but I’ve never once seen any of them arrest or even talk to the athletes involved in the fighting.

A double standard?

I sat behind a Los Angeles Kings fan in Raleigh one time. I really, I mean I really, really wanted to punch him in the face. If I had, there’s no doubt that I would have spent the night with some of Raleigh’s finest rather than watching a hockey game. I would have been arrested. I sat in the middle of the Buffalo Sabres fan section one playoff game, wearing a Canes shirt. Raleigh police are on top of everything. One followed us up the stairs, watched us take our seat, and stayed in that section for the rest of the game. If a fight had started, someone would have been arrested.

A double standard? It has to be.

Closer to home, a Winston-Salem police officer pulled a gun on a driver at Bowman Gray Stadium a few Saturday nights ago. The stadium is famous for wrecks and flaring tempers – one of the reasons races there are so popular.

It seems this driver had rammed a car with his car and was positioned to ram it again – even while emergency folks were helping the other driver out of his vehicle. The officer didn’t fire a shot. He didn’t have to. His finger was never on the trigger. But his actions stopped the threat, which is what should have happened. Things could have ended very badly if that officer hadn’t jumped into action.

Even in hockey, fighting in sports shouldn’t be allowed. The leagues sometimes penalize the culprits, but if police officers would make arrests for such behavior, it might make a difference.

But where would that put hockey and racing at Bowman Gray? Not as much fun, for sure.

And then there’s boxing …

Maybe we should just leave things the way they are.

– Mike Barnhardt