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Symbolism and Solutions in the Sunshine State

As always, Sunday Morning Quarterback makes his point thoughtfully and well, and, this time, his topic is the effort by Michael Adams to change the alcohol-soaked culture surrounding Georgia-Florida weekend in Jacksonville after a third student death there in as many years.

No one takes lightly the tragic deaths of these young people, nor should they. However, we have to be realistic about the measures we adopt to prevent such sad events from taking place.

As with all risky behaviors, a balance must be struck between personal freedom and unfortunate consequences, eschewing burdensome regulation in favor of appropriate safety measures. It is delicate work determining which dangers are worth permitting and which liberties require restricting.

We see this dilemma played out in arguments over the setting of speed limits; 55 may save lives, but a 35 m.p.h. speed limit would save even more. Is anyone really ready to cut the speed limit on the interstate highway system back to 35 miles per hour because of the potential public health benefits?

There is also the question of whether the solution addresses the real problem . . . a question which often arises when considering Il Duce's decisionmaking for the University of Georgia.

The family-friendly tailgating zones on North Campus contained the kernel of a good idea, but the execution was hamhanded and overbearing. Much of it also was wholly unnecessary, as additional rules were not needed. There are laws, ordinances, and campus conduct regulations prohibiting disorderly conduct, public drunkenness, open containers of alcohol, and littering. Rather than impose more regulations, why not simply enforce the ones already on the books? Wouldn't that solve the problem?

The same holds true in Jacksonville. If the drinking is getting out of hand, crack down on establishments that fail to card underage patrons or that continue to serve patrons in a noticeable state of intoxication. Crack down on young men and women below the legal age who are caught drinking or using fake I.D.s. Promote alcohol awareness efforts.

These, however, are real solutions that will take time, cost money, and impose actual consequences, ones that are apt to be unpopular. Il Duce has no problem with being unpopular (as evidenced by his almost willful efforts to alienate everyone associated with the University of Georgia), but he wants to talk about changing the nickname of the game rather than changing something of substance for the same reason that Jesse Jackson wanted to be the District of Columbia's non-voting "shadow senator" rather than the mayor of Washington, D.C.: holding actual offices and making meaningful decisions carry consequences, create a record of accomplishment (or the lack thereof), and subject the officeholder or the decisionmaker to accountability in a way that continuing to deliver platitude-laden pronouncements that sound, but really are not, significant never could.

I do not drink before football games, so I am not a part of the culture Michael Adams decries . . . although I have been known to have a cocktail or two in Jacksonville on the Friday night before the game. My personal behavior is utterly unaffected by Il Duce's efforts, so, to that extent, I do not have a dog in this fight.

What I do have, however, is an interest in seeing my alma mater led by a man who is more interested in solving genuine problems than he is in making cosmetic gestures that look like leadership and concern in the same way that Warren G. Harding looked like a president.

I mocked the absurdity of Michael Adams's efforts to change behavior through a purely symbolic gesture and, in light of the tragedy that followed last weekend's game (of which I was not then aware), I regret it if that mockery seemed disrespectful. I am sorry that young people---and, for that matter, old ones, too---make foolish misjudgments that sometimes lead to fatal missteps.

However, pompous windbags who would rather express their puritanical disdain than make hard choices, and who prefer facile public relations maneuvers to decisive leadership, do not belong in positions of power. The University of Georgia faces real problems to which Michael Adams offers no solutions.

Go 'Dawgs!