Zombie Pedestrians

Once upon a time in a land called America, schoolchildren were taught how to cross the street by their parents or their older siblings. Red light means the cars stop, and green light means the cars go. Wait for the red light and make sure the cars have stopped, look both ways, carefully cross the street. For decades, first graders across the nation successfully crossed the street without tens of thousands of dollars' worth of flashing lights and annoying beeping and counting and pictures of a cute little walking man at every stinking intersection.

Those early pedestrians understood that the cars were bigger than they were, and that they needed to pay attention to the traffic and what was going on around them; a grasp on reality that many of today's pedestrians have not yet achieved. As more and more laws are enacted on the pedestrian's behalf giving him the 'right of way', fewer and fewer pedestrians are taught what the right of way is or how it works. The phrase itself is frequently reduced to a weapon, something righteous for disgruntled have-nots to hold on to and disparagingly yell at those they perceive to be the haves.

Being granted the right of way means the legal right of one entity to proceed with precedence over others in a particular situation or place.

Here are some things that having the right of way does not mean:
  • It does not mean that cars can't crush you and bikes can't run you down and that you are invulnerable.
  • It does not mean that you have no-fault insurance; that you can't be held liable for an accident.
  • It does not mean that it is OK to dawdle your way across a six lane highway while twelve cars are waiting in the left turn lane, eight of which will have to wait for another light cycle because you are poking.
    Pedestrians expect drivers to be courteous toward them but seemingly never consider returning the favor. Hustle across the street when you can! It is OK for pedestrians to be considerate too.
  • It does not mean that you can stop paying attention to the world around you. Walking down the street staring at your phone, crossing intersections and parking lot entrances without ever looking up is both dangerous and stupid.
A wise man once noted that the only thing you know for certain when you see another driver's directional blinking, is that his directional is blinking. Similarly, the only thing you know for certain while blindly walking down the street empowered with the right of way, is that you are entitled to the right of way. You do not know if every driver and biker sees you and is willing and able in that moment to accommodate you. It is reasonable for pedestrians to expect drivers to be paying attention and it is just as reasonable for drivers to expect pedestrians to be paying attention.

Pedestrians are a part of traffic, not above it.

Not everything that looks like progress automatically is. Do the crosswalk lights and timers make us a safer society, or just lazy? Or worse? Early in the morning in Any City, USA you can find people waiting for the little walking man to give them permission to cross the street, though ten minutes have passed since the last car did. Is it a fear of getting caught crossing against the light that maintains them on the corner like zombies, or more frighteningly, did crossing against the light never even occur to them?

Perhaps the issue is neither safety nor laziness, but conditioning. Law enforcement and government routinely use tricks like pulling drivers over for not using their directional to change lanes although there was no other driver behind them to see it, to turn citizens into less thoughtful beings.

Always use your directional.
Always wait for the walking man.
Don't think.

Pedestrians have the right of way.
Don't look.

Always do what the officer says.
Don't question.

Question everything!
Look around and around!
Most of all, think, think, think!

Cross when it's safe.
Blink when it is necessary.
Enjoy the right of way and be considerate.

We're all part of the same big traffic jam. The sooner we stop honking at each other, the sooner the traffic will clear.

Concussion Bait - Change the Rule!

Let's give Barry Church and the Jaguars the benefit of the doubt. Let's take #42 at his word when during an interview on WEEI radio he said, "I just tried to dislodge the ball. He's a big dude, and I was just trying to dislodge the ball. It's the toughest play in football. If you go low for the knees you are considered a dirty player, and if you go high, they throw the flag at you. It's a bang-bang play, and I was just trying to play football. I tried to lead with my shoulder."

Let's acknowledge that fellow DB Richard Sherman's evaluation is 100% right on: "The hit on Gronk is the only way Church could have done his job without just obliterating Gronk's knee. If he would have just hit him low most ppl would calm him dirty. So there is nothing he can do to make everyone happy and do his job. Unless you think he should let him catch."

And then let's look at the result of the play. The Jags get a fifteen yard penalty, and the Pats' most impactful player other than their quarterback, is out of the game. This could not be more unfair. Initially, the Jags are affected for one play while the Pats offensive arsenal is reduced for every subsequent offensive play. Additionally, at least in this case, the player that had to leave the game was a big scoring threat and key offensive leader. So the result of the play as the rules stand is that the team that committed the foul suffers only very slightly, while the offended team suffers greatly. All of this without having yet gotten to the part where a young man's short-term, and very possibly long-term health is affected and risked. While both players' quotes above may be true and right on, they do not justify giving someone a concussion.
  • If a helmet-to-helmet hit causes a player to leave the game to go into concussion protocol, the player that hit him has to leave the game for the same amount of time. That's fair.
On the dark side:
Today's NFL is not the game of football that I fell in love with in the 70s and 80s. By working to reduce the violence and brutality in what is an inherently violent and brutal sport, the NFL has altered the very essence of the game. Plays that only a very short twenty-five-or-so years ago brought cheers and glee now bring cringes and foreboding … and rightly so.

The story of Mike Webster's tragic demise, the suicides of Junior Seau and Dave Duerson, and the ever-growing number of players suffering from, and gruesome tales of the effects of CTE have affected us all.

Although the American zeitgeist has shifted to accept and embrace a more sanitized NFL, it seems as if that discarded essence of the game refuses to die, and is haunting locker rooms, coaches offices, officials' meetings and the living rooms of old-time fans, asking its troubled question: "It's still football, isn't it?"

You can hear it even when it isn't being asked!

"You can't hit 'em high, you can't him 'em low. How are we supposed to play defense?" [It's still football, isn't it?]

"C'mon Ref! How in the heck is that a foul?" [It's still football, isn't it?]

"The time has actually arrived when we should put skirts on the quarterbacks!" [It's still football, isn't it?]

How many football coaches ask themselves that question every day? How many of the veteran coaches that played in the 70s and 80s still hold that version of football in their hearts? How many of the approximately four hundred head coaches, coordinators and assistant coaches employed by NFL teams, in the middle of what might be a career-changing game that isn't going their way, facing having to again uproot his family and move to yet another new town, might suggest to a DB that it sure would be convenient for us if #85 had to leave with a concussion? Zero out of four hundred seems like long odds. To some coaches and players, it's still football, isn't it?

Hopefully, the possibly one or two coaches out of four hundred that might employ such a tactic are never in a situation in which they are empowered to do so. But the NFL needs to remove even the slightest temptation by making a simple rule change:
  • If a helmet-to-helmet hit causes a player to leave the game to go into concussion protocol, the player that hit him has to leave the game for the same amount of time.
If DBs are faced with what amounts to an ejection for a helmet-to-helmet hit, the helmet-to-helmet hits will go away. Where and how the DBs are supposed to defend is another problem, but the answer can't be helmet-to-helmet.

Lastly, and sadly, the answer is, "No, not really; it's only kinda still football." It will be interesting to see what the league looks like ten or fifteen years from now, after today's parents have disallowed their kids to play youth football, and more players choose to end both college and pro careers early. Will it still be football?

A graduate of Portland State University, Steve (Reeno) Kloser is the author of Beginning Band - A Guide to Success and Let's Make Music - Classroom Recorder Course. He is also an accomplished teacher, conductor and composer, having penned numerous pieces including La Vida and Fly With Me.

Teacher, web developer, Packers fan and proud American, Reeno's usually slanted outlook often presents an unlikely perspective on issues old and new.
Reeno currently lives in Portland, OR.

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