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Ice hockey in June?


PRESIDENTIAL politics --

Ah, but I see you reaching already to turn the page. Half-mad with hunger for fleeting summer's joys, you want tales from ball parks, romances from the Catskills, fun features about those silly clothes the kids are all wearing on the boardwalk this weekend, hot-weather gossip from L.A. about George Raft's or Sean Penn's or Tom Cruise's dust-up with the bouncer at the Mocambo, golden-oldie news ("Never ages no matter how many times you read it") about heat so hot that reporters in eight states fried eggs on sidewalks and zoo keepers had to put cakes of ice in the polar-bear tank to keep their charges in sportive mood.

Speaking of ice and ball parks, was I still sleeping and just dreamed it when, surfing TV for the ball scores, I came across people still playing ice hockey? Shouldn't ice hockey and Santa Claus be mothballed by March?

And speaking of boardwalks, please don't write to inform me that the last boardwalk was torn down in 1957. I have already had to hire six clerks to write cringing apologies to letter-writers furious because this column recently referred to Mark Twain's Shepherdsons as Hungerfords. It's shameful having to upsize by six hires when the rest of humanity is downsizing. Upsizers don't last long in today's fiercely competitive international marketplace where there is no longer any room for humanitarian considerations due to today's fiercely competitive international competition for markets.

Or as they say on Wall Street: "Softies to the wall!"

(Parenthetical explanation of the above-mentioned Mark Twain affair: Shepherdsons, not Hungerfords, were the family who feuded with the Grangerfords in "Huckleberry Finn" until both families were all dead. The column which mistakenly referred to Shepherdsons as Hungerfords was written by a young, new member of our staff who had never heard of the fiercely competitive international marketplace. Irate letter-writers will be pleased to hear he has been downsized. This column will not brook sloppiness. But for this regrettable Grangerson-Shepherdfeld-Hungerburg imbroglio, the column can boast 57 years of error-free publication.)

Speaking of mothballing ice hockey in March, it seems odd that not a single Republican is urging a constitutional amendment to enforce this sensible idea. I cite Republicans rather than Democrats as the people who should be doing this because Republicans are our great amenders.

Show a Republican the Constitution, and as soon as he finishes swearing to preserve, protect and defend it he sets out to amend it. What is it about their philosophy that gives Republicans the amending itch? Sometimes I have the impression that while nobody can love the Constitution as much as a Republican loves it, deep down that Republican secretly fears the Constitution isn't all it's cracked up to be, that it needs a heap of improving.

Among improvements Republicans are now urging are amendments that will (1) make it unconstitutional for government to use deficit financing, (2) prevent citizens from electing a favorite congressman as often as they like and (3) make flag-burning unconstitutional.

This is a party that ought to have at least half a dozen members willing to amend the Constitution to preserve, protect and defend the identity of the great American seasons by making it unconstitutional for ice hockey to be played in June.

OK, I confess to tainting biases here:

First, a bias against winter that makes me detest all activities involving ice except pouring gin over small cubes of it.

Second, a bias in favor of flag-burning. This springs from an incident in which great louts, or perhaps small children, found my splendid American flag while I was out of the house and apparently used it for tug-of-war competitions, then hid it in the cellar for old crocks to find.

In short, I now have a desecrated Old Glory to deal with. The cops can't do much about it yet, but with a constitutional amendment in place, couldn't I be in a serious pickle?

Where was I? Yes, right: Presidential politics --

I'll get to that next time.

Russell Baker is a New York Times columnist.

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