Last week, the Milwaukee Brewers' Class A minor-league affiliate, the Brevard County (Florida) Manatees, changed the name of batting practice to "hitting rehearsal." Batting practice, as you may know, is commonly called "BP." According to a team spokesman, the move was made "to send a message to the community that we are definitely worried with the pollution that is in the waters off the Gulf Coast and its potential impact on the beaches here in Brevard County."
That'll show 'em.
Symbolic moves such as the one made by the Manatees may make us feel better, but when examined rationally, they often don't make much sense. For example, Facebook has a group called "Boycott BP" with more than 400,000 members. Presumably, this means they won't buy gas at a BP station. But as Bianca Phillips reports (p. 9), boycotting your local BP station makes about as much sense as changing the name of batting practice to "HR."
BP owns around 100 stations nationally. The rest are operated by local owners. Because of the way gas is distributed, you are as likely to buy gas from a BP well at a Mobil station as you are at one with a BP sign. And vice-versa.
That won't show 'em. Sorry, Facebook.
I read and hear a lot from people who want President Obama to "take charge" or get mad and "kick BP's ass." And, I admit, his professorial tone can be frustrating. But this president doesn't do "angry" well. It comes across as acting, like someone who says "that's funny," instead of laughing at a joke.
So as good as it would make me feel to have Obama bitch-slap BP CEO Tony Hayward for his tone-deaf and insensitive remarks ("I want my life back"), I'd prefer to have him rationally and urgently attacking the problem. I believe he is, if only because it's in his best interest to do so. He doesn't want this ecological disaster to define — or derail — his presidency.
The latest reports are that the oil is dispersing rather than staying in dense columns, which means we won't have many of the kind of black surges of oil rolling onto Florida beaches that we saw in parts of Louisiana. We will be seeing glops of oil and tar balls at landfalls for the next couple of years. Fishing will be impacted. Gulf tourism will suffer a down year.
Ideally, the BP Deep Horizon incident should serve as a wake-up call for all of us, another horrific reminder that we need to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. But that would make it symbolic, right?