Fumbles and Follies……Napa County Board of Supervisors do you hear me yet?


napa valleyAs printed in the St. Helena Star and the Weekly Calistogan on Feb. 4, 2016.


Fumbles and Follies by Donald Williams


Sunday’s Super Bowl, the year’s premier sporting event, could hardly have been bigger. It succeeded because of the high quality of performance, the marketing, and the public satisfaction intrinsic in experiencing a superior product (come to think of it, rather like Napa wines).

Curiously, the contest succeeded also because it is highly regulated. Consider all its rules.  No motion before the snap.  Only 22 players on the gridiron at one time.   The rules are strictly and fairly enforced, infractions swiftly punished.  (Leniency?—ludicrous.)

As for the players, they are well-compensated and at the apex of their careers

Here’s a thought. Perhaps the event should be modified so that even more players can achieve that success.  How about allowing 52 players on the field at one time?  Then an additional 30 men will be financially handsomely rewarded, which will enhance their local economies and shower their communities with acclaim.

True, the football field will be more crowded accommodating the additional players; but their increased wealth will be worth it!

How far would proposals for such an insane change get with the public and the owners?

Correct: nowhere, because the game already succeeds brilliantly with present rules and limits.  To maintain football’s beautiful integrity, the appeals of the additional 30 worthy players must be denied.

However, those players have options. They can play elsewhere, still make money, and aspire to the Super Bowl when the present players step aside.  They just can’t play at the same time, because the field would be too crowded.

Alas. If only this parable were false.

For a better chance of entering the field they covet, the 30 players should try appealing to the Napa County Board of Supervisors. Rules notwithstanding, our Board is famously sympathetic to requests for more activity—increased winery production, more visitors, more events.  As of December its Planning Department listed 51 new proposals entailing 667,000 additional visitors to the rural Napa Valley.  Though caretakers of the rules of engagement in Napa County—i.e. a General Plan that honors agriculture before tourism—the Board of Supervisors and its Planning Commission can overlook them.  When for example Reverie Winery in Calistoga frankly acknowledged transgressing its legal limits, and then asked to continue operating beyond its existing permits, the Board meekly consented.  Imagine the NFL indulging a player that way! 

As Napa County becomes increasingly congested with eager, talented players, the Board (apparently believing the valley is infinitely rural) continues to sympathetically hear their earnest applications to build or expand another winery, entertain more tourists, redefine agriculture, or allow another zoning exception, so the players can fulfill their dreams, make more money, or work unencumbered by useful regulations.

Football, by contrast, respects its essential identity and rules; rebukes violators; and regulates participation on its limited field. It still makes plenty of money.

Our county could learn a lesson.