A Stones Throw 12-8-16


I think some celebrations are good, some are bad, and some are ugly. Obviously, any celebration that ends in violence is ugly, but those celebrations are not my issue today. Instead, I want to first address a growing form of celebration that is shortsighted at best.

As I write this, I have one-half of an “Ultimate Spiderman” latex-foil-Mylar balloon sitting on my desk. For the past three or four years, this balloon was stuck in the top of one of our trees. Recently we finally had a wind strong enough to break it free.

Looking at this half balloon reminds me of all the “balloon release” celebrations that seem to be becoming a celebration norm. I have to admit, for years I enjoyed watching the Indianapolis 500 release hundreds of balloons to celebrate another 500. I never considered where all those balloons were going or what was going to happen with them, with the environment, or more importantly, with the animals that might be affected.

Today, it seems there is a necessity to celebrate weddings, funerals, birthdays, memorials, marathons, and backyard cookouts with a balloon release.

Stop it!

A balloon release looks good for four or five minutes. The long term consequences could last years, as did the “Ultimate Spiderman” balloon that sits on my desk. I am not saying the balloon on my desk hurt the environment while it was stuck in the tree for several years. But, it survived along with a long ribbon for all those years.

And, this is just one of tens of tens of thousands of balloons released in celebration over the years. What happened to all of those other balloons?

I recently read an article that discussed the increasing problem of birds, fish, and other water based animals being poisoned, injured and/or mutated due to eating plastics that have been dumped into our waters. Most of what was written covered our propensity to dump our garbage into our rivers and oceans, but I had to think that many of the thousands of balloons that float through the skies do the same damage – to both land based animals and water based animals.

Sending balloons into the sky may give a minute of joy, but a lifetime of damage and destruction.

It isn’t worth it.

On different note, I commented earlier that when Tennessee Titans linebacker Avery Williamson decided to wear specially-made cleats designed to honor the 9-11 victims and first responders the National Football League immediately told him, and anyone else considering wearing tribute shoes, that he/they would be fined.

Fortunately, the NFL backed off and decided not to fine Williamson after he went ahead and wore his tribute cleats. Not only that, the NFL has moved from the “no tribute” rule, to last week’s “cleats for a cause” program.

The “cleats for a cause” program allowed each player to wear specially designed cleats to honor and recognize the player’s favorite charity or special cause. As a result, when watching the games, it was interesting to see the multitude of colors and designs worn by the players. In fact some players wore two different color, different design cleats.

Each of these specially designed cleats will be auctioned with proceeds going to the recognized cause.

I like that.

I don’t like looking at a game with every player wearing different colors and different designs for their cleats. While I like the purpose, I thought while watching that it looked like a pick-up game where everyone has to bring their own cleats.

It look a bit like watching my grandchildren playing on their soccer teams.

Bring your own shoes – we will provide the shirts (which you will pay for – but at least they will be the same.)

I know this isn’t a valid comparison, but I think too much individuality takes away the team image. Still, I like the idea that the NFL allows its players to celebrate their cause – Just don’t do it by having a dozen different colors and designs. Surely, the NFL and the players can figure out a different way to “honor the cause.” Perhaps, a special patch on the sleeve and then auction off the jersey.

My fear is that last week it was individual cleats – next week it will be individual jerseys. My fear is that while last week the “cause” being celebrated was a player’s favored charity which included efforts to eliminate domestic violence, child abuse, and homelessness, next week it could be social causes that call for protest and violence.

I realize balloons and cleats seemingly have little common ground, but to me they both represent a celebration.

And, while I don’t like to watch a professional football game with black, pink, red, green, orange, yellow, brown, etc., etc. cleats, I think the long term effect is positive as the money raised from auctioning off those cleats is designed to improve the future.

On the other hand, while I agree that watching a balloon release is often exciting and even an awe inspiring event, the long term effect has no positive value.

In fact, the long term effect of dying balloons can only be negative – perhaps devastating at some point.

I can live with different colored cleats. However, I think it is time we stop balloon releases. Why not light candles – or flashlights – in celebration? Doing so provides the same awe inspiring celebration without a negative long-term effect.

– Mike Cooney