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Friday, June 7, 2002
Updated: June 8, 12:25 PM ET
Politician, heal thyself

By Jim Caple
Page 2 columnist

Ralph Nader
Ralph Nader
News item: Consumer advocate and 2000 Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader sent David Stern a letter demanding that the NBA commissioner review the controversial calls made by referees in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals. "At a time when the public's confidence is shaken by headlines reporting the breach of trust by corporate executives," Nader awkwardly began the letter, "it is important, during the public's relaxation time, for there to be maintained a sense of impartiality and professionalism in commercial sports performances."


    Charles D. Strang
    NASCAR National Commissioner
    Daytona Beach, FL

    Commissioner Strang,

    It has come to my attention that nearly four decades after the publication of my book exposing the dangers in the American auto industry, the sport of racing still remains "unsafe at any speed," but especially those in excess of 200 mph.

    Sadly, despite the considerable documentation of the many risks involved, drivers continue racing their cars at speeds far exceeding those recommended by even the auto manufacturers. Further, drivers and their "pit crews'' also are known to modify the vehicles for speed purposes, thereby voiding the cars' already insufficient warranties and the manufacturers' liability.

    Nor are the obvious physical risks the only unsettling aspect. Fuel economy also diminishes markedly at such speeds, to as low as an appalling four miles per gallon (compare that to the fuel-efficient hybrid models that average 60-70 mph) while the harmful carbon dioxide emissions are in gross violation of those limits set down at the Kyoto Summit.

    At a time when the public's confidence is already shaken by the turmoil in the oil-rich Middle East countries and the administration's breach of the Kyoto Agreements, it is important during the public's relaxation time for there to be maintained a sense of environmental protection on our nation's enclosed road circuits.

    I urge you as strenuously as possible to immediately pass the needed reforms that would set safer, more fuel-efficient and environmentally-friendly standards for all NASCAR races, beginning with a conversion to ethanol by 2004 and a 55-mph speed limit.

    Sincerely,
    Ralph Nader


    Paul Tagliabue
    National Football League commissioner
    New York, NY

    Commissioner Tagliabue,

    It has come to my attention that despite the development of suitable alternative materials, the NFL still insists upon the disturbing and indefensible use of genuine leather in its footballs. At least 3,000 cows are slaughtered annually just to supply the league with a season's worth of these so-called "pigskins'' -- and that is a conservative estimate. The actual number may be even higher, depending on whether you count mini-camps.

    The dangers and horrendous abuses in the American meat-packing industry have been well-documented for nearly a century. The incidents of work-related injuries and dismemberments are the highest of any industry. It is even more hazardous for the cows.

    At a time when the public's confidence is already shaken by the E Coli outbreaks in the fast-food industry and the threat of food contamination by terrorists -- not to mention the new Taco Bell grilled stuffed burrito -- it is important during the public's relaxation time for there to be maintained a sense of public health and worker safety on the football field. (Except for the actual players, of course.)

    I urge you in the most strenuous manner possible to address this issue by immediately banning the use of leather and all animal byproducts from the league's equipment. As a substitute, may I suggest Nerf, which is synthetic and easy to grip for passing.

    Sincerely,
    Ralph Nader


    Allan H. Selig
    Major League Baseball Commissioner
    Milwaukee, WI

    Commissioner Selig,

    It has come to my attention that major league baseball is choosing its All-Star Game participants through an unregulated and wholly unrepresentative electoral system, vulnerable to the worst kind of voter fraud.

    All-Star ballots are distributed randomly in frantic stadium settings by harried ushers who make no attempt to ascertain the fans' qualifications. Fans eager to vote are too often denied this sacred privilege, because they were standing in line for garlic fries or are at the end of a row where ushers tell them unconvincingly, "We ran out of ballots.'' Teams not only tacitly encourage other fans to cast multiple ballots, many specifically urge them to vote repeatedly for the home team's players. This not only is a flagrant violation of our country's "one man, one vote" principle, it handicaps the player on an unpopular small-market team as surely as if he were a presidential candidate barred from the League of Women Voters debates.

    Worst of all, the ballots must be punched, resulting in the undercount of votes due to a preponderance of hanging chads.

    At a time when the public's confidence is already shaken by the breaches in the most recent presidential election -- of which I was a personal victim -- it is important during the public's relaxation time for there to be maintained a sense of impartiality and professionalism in baseball. Or at least as much as possible outside Wrigley Field.

    To return baseball's All-Star Game to its honored place as the Midsummer Classic, I urge you in the most strenuous manner possible to immediately pass the needed reforms, such as aggressively registering voters in remote areas not normally exposed to major league baseball, such as Tampa Bay.

    Sincerely,
    Ralph Nader

    P.S. I see that Ivan Rodriguez has only three hits and yet leads American League backstops in votes. Meanwhile, Cincinnati's Adam Dunn is hitting .303 with 11 roundtrippers and isn't even on the ballot. This is exactly what I'm talking about.

Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at cuffscaple@hotmail.com.