Surfing as Our “Official” State Sport: Is That What We Send People to Sacramento For?

No comments

HERE’S ALL YOU NEED to know about what’s wrong with California: There are actually state legislators who seems to think that designating surfing as the state “sport” is what voters sent them to Sacramento for.

Raise your hand if you wonder, as I do, “Why do we put up with this nonsense from the idiots that we elect to represent us?”

As the Fresno Bee put it:

Surfing is only slightly higher than hacky sack on the list of stereotypical California sports.

So, it’s fitting (and kinda funny) that state Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, D-Torrance, is seeking to declare surfing the state sport of California.”

Why do we need to designate surfing a state sport?

There is a tongue-in-cheek quality to the Fresno Bee story about this, because of course, Fresno is one of the great many places in California where surfing is viewed as just something a few people on the coast choose to do. It has virtually no impact on their life, or the lives of the 99 percent of Californians who aren’t out riding the waves.

Personally, I like surfing, although I have never taken part. I also love the Beach Boys, and they sang a lot about surfing and the surf culture. I also lived in Hawaii — the birthplace of surfing, where it is rightly designated as the state sport — and learned there to appreciate the great skill it took to ride a big wave.

I also worked, for a very short time, helping my brother-in-law as he tried to get a surfboard company off the ground. It didn’t really get going, but the point is that I’m like a lot of Californians — I recognize the surf culture as a small part of the California experience. But I wonder: is it such a big deal that the State Legislature should spend even a millisecond of time on it?

You know the answer to that.

What’s surprising about all the coverage of surfing as California’s “official state sport” is the total absence of anyone in the media willing to step up and call out this Assembly bill for what it is — pure legislative nonsense and grandstanding by elected officials who should have better things to do.

To put it more bluntly, this bill is total BS, and the media has simply parroted the fact that some California legislator is doing this without any questioning of exactly “why?”

California media don’t ever question crap like this

Surprising, the only critical focus has come from The New York Times in its daily California newsletter. As The Times noted:

We recently asked you what you thought about a bill that was introduced recently by two state lawmakers from Los Angeles to name surfing the state’s official sport.

You had plenty to say. “Ridiculous.” “Absurd.” “Great.” “All for it.”

There was no consensus, clearly, but the question stirred passions.”

This is something one would have expected the Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, or another of our California-based media to ask, but sadly, our local media does little to question or challenge so much of the legislative idiocy coming out of Sacramento these days, although to give them the benefit of the doubt, there’s an overwhelming amount of legislative crap for them to question and challenge.

But The New York Times cut to the heart of the issue of “surfing as the state sport” when they wrote:

Some said that surfing, even though it is closely identified with California culture, is not reflective of the state’s diversity, both in matters of ethnicity and race and geography. “Surfing — a white man’s sport,” one reader wrote. Another wrote that surfing is, “characterized by young whites, mainly males, mainly from middle-class to affluent backgrounds in coastal areas. Let’s try again folks.” …

Still others thought the question was simply a waste of time, for lawmakers and readers, and wondered why we were having the discussion in the first place. As one reader put it, “Why not leave it as it is, with no state sport, that way people will not be angry about something that is so unimportant?

Yes, there may be a silver lining 

As a lifetime journalist and editor who ran newspaper newsrooms, I remember a time when many columnists and media critics would have asked some pointed questions or mocked the idiocy of a bill like this, but sadly, our local and state media has been decimated and media watchdogs are practically extinct.

It’s too bad we’re all so numbed by all the crap coming out of Sacramento that we don’t demand that what’s left of our media to ask why legislators spend time on stuff like this instead of focusing on fixing our failing infrastructure, or our terrible roads, or properly funding the California State University, or a hundred other REAL issues.

But those are hard things to tackle and take a lot of work. Softball issues — like designating an “official state sport” — are fun and easy, even if they aren’t what we elect legislators for.

If there is a silver lining here, it’s this: When our state legislators spend so much time and energy on a bill recognizing surfing as the official state sport, perhaps they won’t spend as much time trying to tax or legislate every single human activity that Californians take part in.

Gov. Jerry Brown, who is down to his last year in office, is the one guy who could do that, and he captured that spirit for a brief moment back in 2011 when he vetoed a law that would have fined parents who let their children ski or snowboard without a helmet.

He famously wrote in his veto message that, “Not every human problem deserves a law.”

Legislation that people could care less about

That comment resonated with a great many people, but in typical Jerry Brown fashion, the pragmatic nature of that veto message was drowned out by all the other BS bills that he DID sign. In fact, during his four terms as California’s longest serving governor, he was sent over 18,000 of them and ended up vetoing a paltry 8 percent.

Say what you will about Arnold Schwarzenegger’s failed stint as governor, but in 2008 he vetoed a record 35 percent of the bills sent to him by the Legislature. As needed as that was, with around 1,000 bills becoming California law in any given year, even The Terminator could have done a little better than that.

The other side to this argument about the “surfing as the official state sport” bill is that softball legislation like this doesn’t really hurt anyone or do much of anything, and although that’s true, it proves my point: too many Legislators spend too much time either trying to legislate their pet peeves, or, grandstanding on some nebulous non-issue that their constituents could care less about.

Don’t believe me? Well, as the Los Angeles Times DID point out:

Muratsuchi is the latest legislator to try to make various aspects of life in California “official.” A San Diego legislator wants to make the California Vaquero the official state horse, and in recent years, California has named an official state nutdinosaur and deemed denim the official state fabric.”

A state fabric? A state horse? A state dinosaur? I can probably live with those, but please, tell me that they designated California legislators as the “state nut.”

Leave a Reply