The Hail Mary pass and starting the year off on the right foot

Thursday, January 3, 2013

A Hail Mary pass in American football refers to any very long forward pass made in desperation with only a small chance of success. We awoke Wednesday to see not one but two big Hail Marys pay off: In Washington, the passing of fiscal cliff legislation that averts enormous tax hikes and spending cuts, and probably an immediate economic recession; and locally, what appears to be a successful eleventh hour effort to get together $75,000 to save the Passion Play, by Rev. Randall Christy of the Gospel Station Network.

These two events have more in common than just the obvious. Either event would have hit the economy hard, either locally and/or nationally. Lots of people work at the Passion Play, and lots more come here to see it and spend money at local businesses, granting numbers have fallen over recent years.

The spending cuts and tax hikes in the fiscal cliff were purposefully draconian -- when it was set up over a year ago by Congress as a part of the wrangling over raising the debt ceiling, most involved hoped the severity of the cliff would drive legislators to make the necessary concessions to avoid it, when the time came, which they did. Barely.

But for Congress to have come so close to the edge, and then to have actually pulled back, in these days of gridlock and obstinacy, is a tribute not so much to those young idealists who went to Congress a couple years back to "kick the ---" out of the establishment -- which they have not done -- but rather a tribute to people like Joe Biden and Mitch McConnell, who have been there a long time and know how to get things done.

The analogy with the Passion Play situation is solid. Whether through a lack of vision by its administrators, the bad economy, poor promotion by the city, gremlins, or for whatever other reasons, the play was allowed to spiral into near foreclosure, only to have its fat pulled out of the fire it should never have been in in the first place, by someone who knows how to get things done (like raising large amounts of money) for good causes on a professional basis, Randall Christy.

There is an interesting bias in our culture against experts, and nowhere is it stronger than here in Eureka. We have attended many a meeting in city hall where someone or other has ranted and raved against trusting experts because they are experts.

The other side of that coin is the idea that any regular joe off the street has a realistic chance of walking in and doing as good or better a job than people who do that job professionally.

While you don't have to be a carpenter to recognize a table with a crooked leg, to quote Ben Franklin, fixing that leg takes expertise, and the Passion Play definitely had a crooked leg. Busted is more like it.

It needed dramatically different management for a long time, and now it will have that, with any luck at all.

Both these Hail Mary passes paid off as well as they did because in both cases, concerned people with common goals were willing to work together and to put a higher goal above their own personal issues. Congressmen voted together even when they didn't entirely agree, for the common good; people who cared about the Passion Play put a higher goal above money, and gave and gave.

We all benefit by their actions and need to remember not only the value of sacrifice but also of cooperation and working toward common good. We can't always rely on last-minute saves, but it sure is nice when they come along.