icon caret-left icon caret-right instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads question-circle facebook circle twitter circle linkedin circle instagram circle goodreads circle pinterest circle

Doris writes a weekly column for LaGaceta, the nation's only trilingual newspaper, which has pages in English, Spanish, and Italian.  Begun in 1922 for Tampa's immigrant community, it continues to thrive more than a century later.  Her column is titled "In Context," as it aims to put contemporary issues in the context of the past.

Main Street, Football, and Diversity

I drive most of Kennedy Boulevard, the “main street” of our town, approximately once a week. The one that is named “Main Street” is about a half-mile north, in West Tampa, and just north of I-275. It is no longer “main” to anything, and West Tampa is no longer the separate municipality it was when the street was named. The most constant thing about Tampa is change, and what now is Kennedy used to be LaFayette. It’s interesting, too, that we always call it “Kennedy Boulevard,” not John Fitzgerald Kennedy -- although we say the full name of Martin Luther King, not “King Boulevard.”

That’s not what I’ve been pondering, though, as I take Kennedy to Westshore. Instead, I’ve observed three phenomena for most of a year now -- which in itself is worth noting in our changeable world. The first is an advertising sign at a strip club near Krispy Kreme Doughnuts. Now that I think about it, that also is something of a phenomenon, as Kennedy Boulevard has been hosting the lustful (even near family-oriented businesses) since at least the 1980s. And there’s been little public complaint, unlike competitors a little north, where the Thee Doll House and Mons Venus regularly attract detractors. That’s another thing to ponder, given that these are on Dale Mabry, which has no pretension to “main street” status. We taxpayers spend little to no money on Dale Mabry in terms of landscaping and other pleasantries, yet our moralists seem to think it is fairer ground for puritanism.

Anyway, to the point: For months, this Kennedy Boulevard lounge has been using its signage opportunity to advertise for dancers. Apparently the owners are desperate for young women who are willing to display their bodies, as the sign promotes flexible hours and good pay. It also denotes an understanding of child-care needs and promises applicants that they will “work around classes.” That’s an interesting phenomenon, and a new one: I never saw such a sign in the days when women’s employment opportunities were much more limited.

A little further west and on the south side of the road, we have a permanently parked van that sells roses in the parking lot of a convenience store. I’ve never stopped, although I’ve been tempted to meet the entrepreneur who manages to stay in business selling “25 roses for $11.99.” I really can’t believe it: I could get more than two-dozen roses for less than a dozen dollars! How can that be possible? They have to be grown elsewhere, as our climate does not do good roses, especially in summer, when these have been for sale at that price. Presumably the roses are grown in South American mountain country, with sunny days and cool nights, and then flown here quickly enough to be fresh. The workers who prune, weed, and fertilize them must be paid in peanuts, as airlines certainly aren’t going to give bargain rates to temperature-sensitive flowers. And then someone presumably picks them up at TIA and spends long days selling a van load on Kennedy Boulevard. It’s a case study for a business major. Or perhaps for an investigator. I would be sad if roses, the symbol of innocence, were a cover for drug running, but the thought occurs.

The third enterpriser probably donates his time, but he is as dedicated as if he were intent on profit. Throughout the heat of summer and now into fall, an older white guy is at the southwest corner of Kennedy and Westshore, in front of the hotel and office complex there that houses the sophisticated Centre Club. The sign he waves is not sophisticated. In homemade lettering, it says: “Wake Up America…God Loves You…Read the Declaration of Independence.” He turns and faces Kennedy when the traffic flows on it, and then waves at Westshore drivers when the light changes.

I have mused on his message, but still can’t quite correlate the three ideas. “Wake Up America?” We’ve been asleep? Asleep as we elect the first non-white president ever? That’s not something a nation at sleep does, and we did it twice. Nor is it a dream that we are well on our way to electing the first woman. From what does he want us to wake and to do exactly what? I’ll not comment on the line “God Loves You” -- except to suggest that God may not love some of His children more than others. And finally, “Read the Declaration of Independence.” Yes. Reading always is a good idea. The sign waver may be surprised, however, to see that the only mention of God in the Declaration is brief and limited vaguely to “Creator.” The Constitution has no mention of God at all. Its only allusion to religion is to prohibit the nation from establishing one. Please do read.

* * *

Hubby watches a lot of televised football – the only kind we can afford -- but I rarely join him. I did, however, grow up listening to the radio with my brother on Saturday afternoons in autumn when the Arkansas Razorbacks played. So once in a while, Hubby will tell me when a game is close and he thinks I’ll enjoy the last quarter. That was the case last week, when Arkansas defeated Mississippi – and again on Sunday, when the Bucs pulled out a similar victory. Hubby drew my attention to both. In the Arkansas/Ole Miss game, the scoreboard for the sold-out stadium read 38-38 with ten minutes to go, and in overtime, the Razorbacks won 53-52.

Because Hubby expects to be interrupted, the game was on the DVR, and we rewound to about ten minutes prior to the end. I had noticed several little things that I wanted to check out. One was Home Depot’s nearly subliminal ads, something that used to be illegal. Most of what interested me, though, was sportscaster lingo. Their newest term seems to be “show up.” I don’t find that quite as objectionable as an older usage that appears to have faded: “giving 110 percent” or other implausible percentages. There were repeated usages of “huge hole” for a gap in the line, and I noticed that what we formerly called a “split end” now is a “wide receiver.” I guess “split end” is too girly.

But the main thing I wanted to observe in detail was the uses of four words: game, ball, ballgame, and football. We counted them and discovered that the forms are contradictory, with the longer usage dominating in one case and the shorter in the other. I was surprised that “ballgame” was used just once, while “game” got 22 uses. As for the pigskin itself, “ball” was used 12 times, while “football” had more than twice as many at 30. I don’t know how to explain any of this; I’m just your data collector.

The game – or ballgame, if you prefer – was played at the University of Mississippi, which you may know is in Oxford. It’s a lovely place, with lively downtown businesses and good restaurants. On the historic town square, more attention goes to Nobel Prize winning novelist William Faulker than to football, and I’ve wondered what Faulkner would have thought of his university and modern football mania. I’m sure he would approve, though, of the leadership recently shown by players at the University of Missouri. I never thought I’d see the day when athletes united to improve a university’s culture and increase its diversity, but that is exactly what happened when these kids brought down an excessively conservative president who failed to understand academia. There’s hope for this coming generation.

Interesting, too, that the game they refused to play was against Brigham Young, the Utah university supported by Latter Day Saints, or Mormons. There, too, a younger generation is resisting a doctrinal cruelty recently announced by the church’s national president. The Salt Lake City elders who govern the faithful issued a proclamation saying that children of same-sex couples could not be baptized -- and within days, hundreds of people dropped their longtime church membership. It could be that we are entering an age when what the Westshore sign guy says indeed will be true – God loves you, no matter who are you. And no matter what the scribes and Pharisees may say that God says. Hooray for rebels, both in the temples and on the football fields.

* * *

Speaking of diversity, how about those Republicans? In every recent election, they’ve managed to find some male African-American to wave their flag in the early, non-threatening stages of presidential campaigns. They pinned their hopes against Obama in ’08 on Allen Keyes; in ’12, it was Herman Cain; and this time, it’s Ben Carson. He soon will be as obscure as Keyes and Cain, but the early enthusiasts can declare themselves to be free of racial bias -- as long as their ephemeral hero also is free of profound thought and any credible record in governance. No women need apply, I guess, or just as likely, no African-American woman is sufficiently egotistical and opportunistic.

And how about some diversity in names? You almost need a scorecard to keep them straight, what with Rand Paul and Paul Ryan and Scott Walker and Rick Scott, plus Rick Perry and Rick Santorum. Chris Christie even repeats his own name. Maybe this has something to do with the Republican “brand,” another linguistic abomination. Anyway, I thought about it when I read Times reporter Adam Smith’s schedule for the recent Republican “summit” in Orlando. Just so you don’t miss the point, here’s Adam’s list of speakers -- in the order he used, with me adding the bold:

Blaise Ingoglia, Rick Scott, Jeff Atwater, Marco Rubio, David Jolly, Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, Lenny Curry, Richard Corcoran, Mike Huckabee, Al Cardenas, Todd Wilcox, Jeb Bush, Andy Gardiner, Carlos Lopez-Cantera, Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Frank Luntz, Ron DeSantis, Rick Santorum, Jim Gilmore, Mike Hill, Bobby Jindal, Rand Paul, Chris Christie, John Kasich, and Carly Fiorina.

One woman. No Florida woman. Think about it.


Doris Weatherford writes a weekly column for La Gaceta, the nation's only trilingual newspaper. With pages in Spanish, Italian, and English, it has been published in Tampa since 1922.
Make a comment to the author