Goat polo in the High Desert Outback of the American Dream

Expanded from the 11-25-2001 Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune

War always changes the combatant countries, often in subtle ways not noticeable until long afterward. I fear that the Afghan War may forever alter American sports.

Raw greed had already perpetrated plenty of pollution into the purity of athletic pursuit by the time Rupert Murdoch penetrated this country. He followed a familiar pattern first developed in his native Australia, then copied in the United Kingdom.

Murdoch used sporting events as a base upon which to quickly build viewership for his multifarious media enterprises. He then expanded to news and very soon exercised major clout over national governments.

In order to ensure his success in politics, current British Prime Minister Tony Blair had to Clintonize himself. He not only disavowed some long-held Labor Party positions, he also had to genuflect at the throne of Lord Rupert.

The U.S. is the last and largest media market left for Murdoch to manipulate. He not only started the Fox news and entertainment networks, but also bought up every sports system in sight.

Karl Marx once called religion the opiate of the people. No more. Sunday sports long ago eclipsed Sunday church in the national psyche. We worship in our own homes, sports bars and casinos. Churches can only wish for the kind of money wagered on athletic events every week.

But our new, non-secular religion is now in jeopardy from...goat polo.

This should strike wild west Nevada as particularly alarming. There is one unspeakably low insult one can hurl at a Silver State cowboy. It's worse than accusing him of endorsing gun control or being soft on the BLM. It's slightly more hurtful than saying he cares for his wife more than his horse.

The worst thing you can call a Nevada cowboy is (shhh!) goat-roper. I've seen guys get the cattle-seasoned topsoil kicked out of them after saying that in a Fallon bar.

There's just no macho romance to the goat.

It took a writer of the stature of the late Robert Laxalt to make sheep respectable in these parts, but he had it easy compared to goats. Our official state critter may be the desert bighorn sheep, but his more docile relatives nonetheless suffer the snickering indignity of mountain oyster fries for Virginia City tourists when the camel races aren't in town.

Because the domesticated horse (as opposed to the wild mustang) remains demi-god among critters for Nevadans, and because sheep and camels have taken up the silver and bronze slots, there is just no room for more critter worship. If there were, cougars and coyotes would be the primary contenders.

But beware the goat. Early in the 19th century, the U.S. morphed British cricket into stickball. That game matured as baseball and spread during the Civil War.

Which is why we have much to fear from the latest combat-spawned sport. The Afghanis and Pakistanis are gung ho for goat polo. It's a sort of keep away-take away played on horseback. Instead of a ball, they use the carcass of a freshly killed goat.

Polo has always carried subtle dangers for the U.S. body politic. The late Gov. Nelson Rockefeller, R-New York, was once asked about the advisability of moving U.S. elections to Sundays like many European countries.

A politician of the common man would have remarked about Sunday being for church and family. The multi-millionaire Rocky didn't skip a beat. He didn't think moving election day would work.

"Everybody's playing polo on Sunday," said the guv. Rockefeller's presidential aspirations fell apart after a series of such bloopers. He further demonstrated his disconnection from the common man by once prefacing some comments on the economy with "Now you take the average American family with an income of, say, $100,000 a year..."

Such is the mind of those polluted by polo. The Asian brand of the sport must not be allowed a hoofhold in this country. If the new government of Afghanistan wants to send us a goat polo demonstration team, consider yourself forewarned.

Goats are too dangerous. We already have enough muttonheaded politicians without them, especially here in the High Desert Outback of the American Dream.

Today, goat polo. Tomorrow, wet goat contests.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals sent out tofu-based imitation turkey as a Thanksgiving publicity stunt. What if they tried to send tofu goat meat to central Asia as a substitute for dinner or game balls? Such insensitive action could fan the flames of anti-Americanism worse than anything we've seen so far.

If you hear of Rupert Murdoch scheduling goat polo on one of his sports networks, call your congressman.

HOOFBEATS. This Tuesday at 12 noon, an ordinance will be proposed before the Reno City Council requiring severance pay for hotel-casino workers after a shut-down. The Reno Flamingo-Hilton recently closed and did only the federally-required minimum, leaving more than 1,000 staffers without pay beyond Dec. 1. These employees were put out on the street during the slowest time of the year. Hilton's heartlessness is nothing new. In the past, they have implemented policies pushing workers onto part-time during the winter and advising them to apply for welfare to make up the difference.


OOPS DEPT. Two corrections from last week's column. Several alert readers pointed out that Thornton Wilder wrote the 1928 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel "The Bridge of San Luis Rey." I should have double-checked, but I was so sure. After all, I read the book -- when was it? -- just 40 or 41 years ago.

I also didn't know that Ashley Rose Kisman had her fifth birthday on Sept. 6 in an Oakland hospital. As her family noted, the little leukemia victim thus "will remain five forever."

The courageous Sparks tyke's memorial service will be held tomorrow at 1:00 p.m. at Ross, Burke & Knobel, 2155 Kietzke Lane in Reno. Burial will follow at Mountain View Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, her family has requested that donations in her name be made to the Angel Kiss Foundation, 150 Ridge St., Reno, NV 89501; (775) 323-7721.

Ashley did not receive a six-point bone marrow match because her health insurance would not pay enough to send her to the right hospital. You can read more about Ashley and access links to her website at the Nevada Cancer Kids section of NevadaLabor.com.

Stay of good heart.

Be well. Raise hell.

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© Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 32-year Nevadan, a member Communications Workers of America Local 9413 and editor of NevadaLabor.com and JoeNeal.org/ Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.)Tribune since 1988 .

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