- The Washington Times - Monday, September 5, 2005

So now the usual hacks in the national press are expressing their phony humanity and calling on the NFL to do more for the victims of Hurricane Katrina, while taking petty shots at the Bush administration and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The usual hacks are questioning the NFL’s decision to have the Saints play a preseason game last Thursday night and dispensing the obligatory boilerplate about the limited meaning of sports and how the evacuation in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast should have been resolved in a day or two, or even in a couple of hours, as we have become a nation of instant gratification.

It is reassuring to read how so many have all the answers to this unprecedented natural disaster, although their expertise in this area was unknown until television crews started beaming the pictures of despair and anarchy last week.

Fingers are being pointed, as if a federal master plan could be drawn to address a lawless city let down by local and state officials.

We in the Washington region have a particular reason to note the disturbing images that emanated from New Orleans.

Would the nation’s capital respond in a somewhat orderly fashion to a dirty bomb? Doubtful. And no amount of government planning could meet what would be a devastating situation. It would be, as it was in the Gulf Coast, “every man for himself.” That is why they are called disasters, whether natural or man-made.

There is the tiny matter of personal responsibility in all this, and if the nation’s capital ever were caught in the throes of a disaster, you would like to believe that none of us would resort to looting a TV set or material goods that serve no survival function. You would like to believe that none of us would rape and pillage and shoot at those attempting to provide relief.

Ours is undoubtedly a naive belief, for searing events bring out both the best and worst in people.

The NFL, like other institutions, is an easy target. It basically has a license to print money, and its money-making capacity is forever expanding.

Commissioner Paul Tagliabue announced late last week that the NFL was donating $1million to the American Red Cross and looking at other avenues to contribute to the relief effort. This was received in all too many quarters with a sniff, as if all-knowing commentators from afar know exactly how much the NFL should contribute.

Whatever happened to the notion of being thankful?

Americans all across the land are digging into their pockets to help the displaced of Hurricane Katrina. Relief stations have popped up across our region. We should not quibble about the quality of the gesture, whether a person dumps spare change into a boot or $5.

Deion Sanders is urging all professional athletes to contribute at least $1,000 apiece to help the victims of the hurricane, a fundamentally decent call. Yet you could call the $1,000 donation a pittance, given the enormous salaries of most professional athletes.

This sideline game of who gives what and how much is tasteless. It is enough to know that countless companies, private citizens and the government already have earmarked an unthinkable amount of money to the Gulf Coast region, and that more money is certain to follow as all the restoration projects get under way.

There are those who put themselves in harm’s way to aid the victims of the hurricane, and there are those who have opened their wallets to the cause as well, and from the safety of distant cities, so much of the prevailing response is, “You are not doing enough.”

This scoring of cheap political and professional points is unseemly, so dishonest.

We are tending to the daunting challenge of a natural disaster that hit the Gulf Coast of three states — the latter figure being easy to forget because of the emphasis on New Orleans — and the best we can do is criticize those who actually are doing something.

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