Wednesday, April 26, 2006

We Want Our Hero

Anyone who reads the newspaper or watches the news is well aware of the latest attempt by a federal grand jury to implicate Barry Bonds and his cohorts in Major League Baseball's growing steroid scandal. This issue is causing waves of shock and disappointment among baseball fans across the nation. Everywhere, except here.

The local news in the San Francisco Bay Area is noticeably devoid of in-depth coverage on this issue. From national news, I know it is a big deal, but here, it is markedly played down. Only very short spots on the news channels report the progress in the case. Print articles are small, and often relegated to lesser-read areas of the newspaper. What should be the biggest scandal that Major League Baseball has ever seen is almost non-existent in the San Francisco Bay area, for one reason alone.

We want our hero.

Make no mistake, Barry Bonds is one of the greatest ever to play this game. His incredible hand-eye coordination, superior ability to read the ball and jump on mistakes, and blindingly fast bat speed are all a part of the great machine that is Barry. Steroids or not, these qualities would still be present. They cannot be artificially induced.

It is alleged that a wide number of baseball greats and mediocres alike have partaken in these banned substances. It is also alleged that Barry Bonds was one of those who systematically broke the rules of the league in utilizing artificial means of performance enhancement.

We should be outraged by this. Steroids is cheating, and cheating is wrong. When athletes compete, we fans expect that they do so to the best of their natural abilities; by working hard, keeping healthy, practicing, and partaking only in those supplement regimes that are permitted by the league. Anything more than this is reprehensible. But the San Francisco fans seem to be systematically turning a blind eye to the possibility that Barry partook in this evidently widespread breach of the rules.

Why ? We want our hero ! No player since the great Willie Mays and Willie McCovey has singlehandedly captivated this city and exalted the Giants to contender status in such a decisive way. One of the greatest personal experiences in all the games I've ever attended was the one that Barry broke the single-season home run record. Nobody in attendance gave a damn that he is widely disliked throughout the league for having a prickly personality. And this personality quirk was completely absent when he broke down in tears at the podium during the ceremony after the game. Nobody in those stands, nobody who chanted "Barry ! Barry ! Barry !", cared about anything except the great accomplishment of their hero. He was an idol then, as he is now, in the hearts and minds of almost every San Francisco Giants fan.

We want to see home runs. We want to see Splash Hits, the famous name for right-field homers that end up in the murky waters of the Bay. When Danny yelled "Keep using the cream !" in the stands at a recent game, he was only half-joking. The fans want to see Barry hit. That is what makes the game great. That is what puts everyone at the edge of their seats, with their $5 hot dogs and $8.25 cups of beer, waiting with bated breath during every Barry at-bat.

Did he actually use steroids ? We don't know. Everyone has their opinion, especially those who may be envious of all that he has done. But if it ever is proven that he did, I somehow have a feeling that the local fans will not be swayed.

No matter that he only has three home runs in the first 21 games of this season. No matter that he noticeably limps and winces in pain, even when making the home run trot. No matter that his aging body may or may not last to break the all-time home run record held by the great Hank Aaron. He's still a hero. He's still our hero.

No injury, and no scandal, will ever take that away.

Friday, April 07, 2006

An Immigrant's Perspective on Immigration

I must admit that I haven't read many of the articles on the current immigration debate. When the news talks about it, I change the channel. Normally, I make it a point to keep up with as much local and national news as possible. This issue, however, is a sore point for me.

I was born and raised in Canada. I have a university degree. Six years ago, I was offered my dream job, the one I currently hold, in the Bay Area of California. Finding a solution to the multitude of immigration issues was one of the most difficult and stressful situations I've ever had to deal with.

The categories for work visas are severely out-of-date. When I was on my NAFTA visa, I had to refer to myself as a "Computer Systems Analyst." I'm not an analyst, I'm a software engineer. But there was no category for that. So Computer Systems Analyst was my name. If I had said anything else while crossing the border, they wouldn't have let me back in the country. Those outdated categories still persist to this day.

Any person who is hired for a job that does not fit into a small, restrictive list of job types is turned away. One could have a four-year Bachelor's degree and a job offer in hand, but if their job did not fit into this tiny, archaic list, they would be denied entry. Luckily, I did not encounter this issue, but there are many others who have.

The requirements for each visa are completely out of line with reality. A person with years of experience and training in an industry, being offered a job in that industry, but whose degree is in a different discipline, is turned away at the border. I've known at least two people in this situation. Just because one's degree is in a different discipline does not indicate that they are not fit to work in the job for which a company has already hired them. Obviously that company believes that this person is a good match for the job. But the visa restrictions on degree relevance render it powerless to bring that person in.

The heart of the current controversy is that of illegal immigration. People that snuck into this country and 'bypassed' the system are proposed to be given citizenship. Understandably, those that went through the expensive and painful process of legal immigration are upset with this, as are those who are afraid of criminals and terrorists.

But this begs my question: Why does this country have no work visa provisions for skilled, blue-collar workers ? Why is there absolutely no way for law-abiding technical people in skilled trades to enter this country legally ?

My former husband is an automotive technician. When we relocated here, he was told that there was no work visa for his job type, regardless of the fact that the trade was in need of 60,000 workers nationwide. This is inconceivable to me. There is absolutely no reason why an upstanding worker from another country, in a skilled trade that is desperate for hires, cannot be a contributing member of the American society. Luckily, he was able to fit his apprenticeship into a training visa. But any other technician, who had several years into the trade and did not qualify for an apprenticeship, would have been out of luck.

This is my challenge to the American government: Make it legal for law-abiding, non-terrorist, upstanding citizens of other countries in blue-collar and skilled lines of work to enter this country with a valid work visa. Of course, this would need to be implemented with the same vigorous controls as the H-1B visa to ensure that US citizens are not being replaced or undercut by immigrant workers. But by expanding the scope of the current work visa program, and updating the unnecessarily restrictive categories in the current professional visas, the illegal immigration 'problem' will be lessened significantly.

Of course we want to keep out the bad people. But why can't we let in the good people, the hard workers, those that just want to make a good life for themselves and their families ?

That is my challenge. Who has the guts to meet it ?
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