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Inside Politics

Inside Politics: What Idaho Can Learn from John Gruden

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I love the fall months. I really do. I love the colors, the weather, the smells and the atmosphere. A few years ago, I literally walked across New York State in October just so I could soak up the Sleepy Hollow-like feel of the Western and Central parts of the state. If you’ve lived in the West long enough, you know the Aspen tree is at its most shimmering gold during the fall. It’s one of the most glorious things you’ll see in our part of the country.

I also love the fall because of football. College or pro, it doesn’t matter. There’s simply no better time of the year.

This may not be very PC of me, but I love football and football people. My father was a football coach and many of my parents’ friends growing up were involved in football somehow. I enjoy the emotion, the intensity and the character of football people – at least the ones I grew up around.

I did not grow up around Jon Gruden, and thank God I didn’t.

For those who don’t know, Gruden is the former head coach of the Oakland Raiders, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Las Vegas Raiders. In between, he did a stint on Monday Night Football as a color guy. Within the last few days, a series of articles by the Wall Street Journal and New York Times exposed numerous Gruden emails over eight years in which he made clear a few things: (1) he doesn’t like black people (2) he doesn’t like women and (3) he doesn’t like gay people. In other words, he’s not very fond of over half the people in Idaho or the country for that matter. Given his proclivities, Gruden was forced to resign and he will likely never work in football ever again.

At a minimum, Gruden’s opinions are puzzling given that 70-percent of NFL players are black, his former boss (Al Davis) had female executives and the lone openly gay player in the NFL actually plays for his (former) team. Sports are the ultimate meritocracy and yet Gruden seemed to be offended by a system that simultaneously paid him millions of dollars while giving people of all races, religions, nations of origin, gender and sexual orientation (the NFL is still working on the latter two) a place to make a living.

Not only was Gruden anti-black, anti-women and anti-gay, he was anti-Capitalist.

This is a man who held a lot of power in the multi-billion-dollar business known as the National Football League. While he benefitted generously from his position, he held in contempt most all of the people who enabled him to succeed. In other words, he thrived under capitalism while despising many of the people who sought to prosper under the same system.

Idaho could learn a lot from Jon Gruden.

As a member of Idaho’s Capitalist Party (Democrats) I believe in the meritocracy. If you can provide the best product or service at the best price, then you win. That is, until someone else comes along with a better product or service, and then they win. And so on. Capitalism – on paper anyway—is the meritocracy that cares nothing of your race, gender, religion or anything else. That’s why it’s the most American thing aside from America.

Yet, Idaho’s Right Wing Party seems to have a Jon Gruden problem in their disdain for capitalism. They discriminate against those who can’t afford to go to school beyond high school, homeowners who can’t afford sky-rocketing property taxes, young people, entrepreneurs, blue-collar workers, business owners who need to move goods to market and, of course, capitalists. While the majority talks a good game, in practice, they are content with underfunding schools and infrastructure, failing to address the state’s property tax crisis and passing laws that scare away our kids and prospective business-owners.

Given those principles, is it any wonder Idaho remains one of the poorest states in the nation? I can tell you, from knocking on hundreds of doors over the years, that Idahoans are sick of being poor, and yet our leaders continue to support a system that rewards a very few even though thousands of Idahoans have the brains and brawn to prosper in our state.

Idaho’s governor may be Brad Little, but when you look at the facts, it may as well be Jon Gruden. And Idahoans who want to prosper under capitalism continue to suffer as a result.

I love the fall, but it seems like winter may be coming all too fast here in Idaho. Perhaps it’s time to fire some of our leaders before it’s too late.

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