Political columns, lights out and youth basketball

By John Toth / Editor and Publisher

I’ve been in this weekly newspaper publishing business a long time. We start our 20th year next month. I think I know what it takes to keep a weekly paper printing.
That is why I was surprised that my national syndicate pulled my columns from their blog. They are now focusing strictly on political cartoons and columns, and cut out all of the human interest stories.
Not just mine, but others that are actually interesting. I am in the process of trying to get permission to print some of them in The Bulletin.
Look here, syndicate guys. There is life after politics. No matter what side of the fence you’re on, if politics consumes a vast majority of your life and spare time, there is something wrong.
Human interest is always a good read. Humor gives readers a break from the daily who, what and where articles. I tried to explain this to the company people who own the syndication, but no luck so far.
I’d rather read about someone’s success with weight loss than some self-appointed expert on how horrible Obama is again. Or how horrible Boehner is, or how Congress can’t do anything right.
That gets old quickly. I like to read a good political column every now and then, but many of them sent out by the syndication are not all that good. After the first couple of graphs, it’s just the same old and expected ranting and raving.
It’s hard to write a good, interesting political column or draw a funny political cartoon. The readership that doesn’t think it’s funny resents it. Such cartoons don’t appeal to a general audience. Bob Hope could navigate the political humor waters well, but most of us banging out columns are not Bob Hope.
So, we stick with what works. From decades of experience, we know that general interest/human interest columns work locally and in every other way.
But the syndicate did not see it my way. Their loss. I hate them now. O.K, I don’t hate them.

Lights out for a while
The other night, there was a loud sound behind my house, and the lights went out.
The neighbors came out of their house, wondering what happened. This type of sound usually brings out the neighbors. I don’t know if it’s the fact that we’re looking out for each other, or we’re just curious. The neighbor next door even talked to me.
The number for Texas-New Mexico Power Co. is saved in my cell phone, and after a few minutes, I was talking to a real person, somewhere.
Ten minutes later, two trucks pulled up, and the repairmen had the lights back on within a half hour. That had to be a new record.
I have to give those guys a lot of credit. They do this all day long, but to me it was amazing. Instead of facing a muggy, hot night without power, it was back to normal. You guys earned my electric bill this time. Glad to pay it ... this month, anyway.
Last time I had to go without power, it was for two days after Hurricane Ike. I actually started reading a book, that’s how desperate I got. I put it down after the lights came back on, and can’t find it now. It was something about grapes and wrath.

Police and basketball
Talking about the neighbors coming out to see what’s going on, years ago when my sons played in the city’s youth basketball league, they needed a coach. I decided to take a season off from coaching and just be a parent.
A city police car rolled up on my driveway one morning. It was the president of the league. “John, we need a coach,” the officer said.
We talked a little and decided that he would try some of the other parents.
The next morning, he rolled up on my driveway again in his police car. “I called all the others. Nobody wants to do it. We need you to coach these kids.”
Then he mentioned that the neighbors were looking at us. They were getting really curious why this police car is in my driveway each morning.
If you don’t agree to do this, I’ll be here tomorrow asking you again, and I’ll probably have my lights on, he said. We were friends, so it wasn’t like official oppression. It was more like one friend blackmailing another friend.
I agreed. Then, I had to go around to some of the neighbors to explain everything.
There is a happy ending. It was the best season I ever had. The team that almost didn’t have a coach won it all, and I wound up coaching the all-stars, who made it to state.