Political posturing over bingo cards

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 6, 2010

It takes a lot for me to pay attention to politics. I just find the whole deal to be too…political. But, much to my chagrin, my attention has been grabbed.

How ridiculous do we need to look as a state? We have been near the back of the line in terms of national perception for decades, a fact that can be traced back to Civil Rights resistence and something about George Wallace and a threshold. Lasting images the stigma of which we will likely never fully shake.

Over the years we’ve had a number of “you’ve got to be kidding me” moments. And, typically, those are the only times I pay attention to politics.

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We want to fund education. Let’s get a lottery. Roughly 70 percent of Alabamians vote “no.” Fine. Whatever. A few years later, we want to fund education. Let’s ratify a tax plan that will help bankroll it. Roughly 70 percent of Alabamians vote “no.” You’ve got to be kidding me.

Now, seven years gone in Bob Riley’s term, the legality of bingo is apparently a hot-button issue. You’ve got to be kidding me.

Granted, I would like to be blissfully ignorant enough to think that we were trying to keep people like my grandmother from screaming out “Bingo!” after hearing some silver-haired fellow say “B-4!”

I would also like to picture my grandmother responding to “B-4!” with a cry of “You sank my battleship!” Just because I think that would be funny. But that is neither here nor there.

Instead of that mildly-amusing mental scenario, I am forced to face the fact that elected officials and people whose salaries are paid by way more of my paycheck than I would like them to get are trading punches over previously legalized gambling facilities. You’ve got to be kidding me.

One question enters my mind. Why now? Are we not in a position where there are so many other things about which we should be concerned?

Economy? Stinks. Job market? Bad. Education funding? Somewhere just north of awful. So why does this bingo thing matter that much and why now?

My best guess is that Riley has an eye on his legacy and realizes that after nearly two full terms, his legacy is not all that memorable.

The tax plan was supposed to be his baby. It was supposed to fix education, minimize proration and immortalize him in fourth-grade Alabama history textbooks as a conquering hero. But that didn’t exactly pan out. Now, he’s kind of stuck.

Don’t get me wrong. I like Bob Riley. I’ve met him twice and he seems to be a nice guy. I even have people I consider friends who have worked as his aides. But the last thing we need right now is for him to be remembered for standing in a bingo hall door.

Jeremy D. Smith is the sports editor of the Demopolis Times.