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I'll take my Olympics with a side of news

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

To say I'm not much of a sports fan is an understatement. While I worked at the Basketball Hall of Fame for seven years, I did follow and enjoy roundball.

But I don't follow it any longer and I'm not a football or baseball fan, which I've found over the years can present a real problem. Many people find it difficult to accept that sports aren't part of my life as it is theirs. Frankly, my patriotism and my masculinity have both been questioned. I can't be a real American male if I don't like sports, right?

And while I've watched part of the Olympics, I've not been glued to the tube as some have. The interesting thing is I don't pass judgment on them, while some of them have certainly passed judgment on me. I'm sure this column will be the target of at least one anonymous e-mail calling me nasty names.

Understanding that I'm in the minority, I just take the criticism in stride. The one point that does bother me is how much of the media time and space has been devoted to the Olympics. There are lots of events happening that, in the long run, are more significant than what's happening in China.

For instance, Reuters reported the following: "Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. said it would close 12 percent, or 92, of its company-owned U.S. stores and cut 600 full- and part-time jobs as the U.S. economic downturn put more pressure on the company.

"'In the current economic condition, people are driving less and it obviously affects every facet of the U.S. auto industry, including how often they replace tires or buy new cars,' Goodyear spokesman Keith Price said on Tuesday after the announcement.

"'The current economic condition further impacted the stores, but they were not performing well before this year. And we don't expect them to perform well,' Price said. Goodyear owns 742 stores in the United States.

"Goodyear, the largest tire maker in the United States by sales, said it would take after-tax charges of about $30 million in connection with the closings, half of which would be recorded in the third quarter.

"The company said the closings would enable it to eliminate $9 million in annual losses."

That's a pretty big business story, wouldn't you agree?

The Huffington Post put up an interesting story from the New York Times the other day:

"Former President Bill Clinton on Monday praised Senator Barack Obama's energy policy at the opening of the National Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas.

"But Mr. Clinton also lauded Mr. Obama's rival, Senator John McCain, and said that either candidate would be progressive on the issue of climate change.

"'Obviously, I favor Senator Obama's energy positions, and Democrats have been by and large the more forward-leaning actors,' Mr. Clinton said. 'But John McCain has the best record of any Republican running for president on the energy issue and on climate change.' He added, 'I'm very encouraged about where the presidential rhetoric is in this campaign.'"

Think there's going to be a lot of unity at the convention? Think we'll have a Democratic president this time? Think again.

Finally, here's a corker that adds depth to the issues of oil and Iran.

Newsweek's Steve Mufson wrote last week: "Commentators have been quick to point out that Russia's defeat of Georgia has pretty much killed the chances that new oil and gas pipelines will be built to increase the security of supplies to Europe. It's clear that there is little to stop Russia from rolling its forces up to the existing pipeline or knocking it out of commission if it wanted to. The Washington Post's Steve Pearlstein even suggested that demonstrating the pipeline's vulnerability may have been one of the underlying motives for the Russian incursion.

"The United States has been promoting the idea of pipeline routes skirting Russia as a way to promote European energy security, but the chances of making that work have always been slim. The reason: The United States has been simultaneously trying to keep Iran, the world's other major holder of natural gas reserves, out of world markets and out of alternate pipeline networks. Without the Iran card, it's very difficult to win a pipeline game against Russia."

Now these news items add complexity to an already messed-up world and I don't blame people for wanting to take two weeks off and cheer for athletes who are engaged in an idealistic endeavor such as the Olympics. To fix those problems, we have to be aware of them and the press doesn't dothe public any good by focusing on just one thing for two whole weeks.

This column represents the opinions of its author. Send your comments to or to 280 N. Main St., East Longmeadow, Mass. 01028.