How is your NCAA bracket holding up? With so many upsets, buzzer beaters and instant classics this year, it seems the rubbish bins from here to Burrillville are littered with the broken dreams of office pools dashed. I have our old friend Rick Pitino squaring off against Billy “The Kid” Donovan in the finals, because I am a fool for nostalgia, so I am still alive, but barely. Ed Cooley deserves all the praise he is getting plus some after going on the improbable run to the Big East Tournament and almost upsetting basketball royalty North Carolina in the second round. He’s put together a good team, he recruits well and coaches even better. He has restored “the basketball culture” at PC in less than three years. And it’s a lot of fun to watch.
Not as fun to watch is almost everything else going on around the state. The Speaker of the House, Gordon Fox, had every place he puts stuff raided last week by almost every government law enforcement unit. He resigned his position as speaker, and while we are not sure what all the raiding was about yet, it is certain they weren’t doing research to give him an award.
It’s disheartening because he is a guy who seemingly jumped out of the pages of a Horatio Alger story. Mixed race kid bullied by both blacks and whites in his neighborhood, drops out of school, but comes back to earn a law degree and works his way to power in the state house. Along the way he comes out to the general public by blurting out his sexual orientation while speaking about marriage equality, which he helped to pass, but not until an influential gay state senator was elected to help push the law through that body of congress.
There is a wonderful production of Macbeth playing now at The Gamm Theatre and one can’t help but draw parallels between the ambitious couple who struggled for power and what seems to happen every few years in the biggest little. Even before reporters could ask “What does the Fox say?,” state reps were crowding rooms on either side of the aisle (and by rooms I mean restaurants, and by aisle I mean Federal Hill) like the ambitious Scottish general plotting to fill the not-yet-warm seat. Not to say that these lawmakers have bad intentions, but it seems to be a corrupt Hydra running this state, and as soon as one head is cut off, multiple others spring out to take its place.
And it seems like many of the stories are the same. Much like the Drake song, they started from the bottom and now they’re here. And when they began, their main focus was to make the state a better place. Maybe it still is; I cannot say for sure. Sure the Buddy Ciancis and then Gordon Foxes do make improvements to the status quo, but at what cost? For every positive like the Providence Place Mall or Gay Marriage bill, how many other positive game changers are dismissed because the right pockets didn’t get lined or palms weren’t greased? Politicians love to run on change and hope because it is an intangible positive feeling. By keeping the state in a quagmire, by keeping the status quo, they can run on change and hope in perpetuity.
Nick, I brought up Ed Cooley earlier, and it was for a reason. This state, like the PC basketball program, is small, with limited resources, and not a whole bunch of basketball players or businesses want to come here. At least it’s not their first choice. But coach Cooley came in with a plan. He is passionate about his program and is frank about its place and his intention to make it better. He thinks outside the box to get players to commit and once they are here he coaches them with the intention of making them better. And he leads with integrity, suspending players even though it meant he would be short handed for the season. And he turned it into a championship season.
Now I know politics isn’t basketball, but Rhode Island is small enough that a few great leaders with a handful of great ideas can turn this state around. Be pro-active about this. Call your state rep and ask them what their great ideas are. If they don’t have any, ask when you can call back to get an answer. If they give you any push back, ask them why they ran for office, and please report the results of your conversations to the editors here at Motif. These men and women should not be led by the cutthroat ambition of a Macbeth constantly trying to wash the stains of corruption off their guilty greased palms; they should be leaders who always have the best interest of our team in mind, trying to coach us up from last place (like in employment) to the championship.