Rules of the game

by Mike KnottsDirector of Government Relations

Sport is a great metaphor for life and does a fantastic job of relating important lessons. Not only does participating in your favorite game provide needed physical exercise for your body, sport also feeds our minds and satisfies the natural human need for competition. During the game, our brain, without even realizing it, works hard to analyze and react to multiple situations that are occurring at a rapid pace. We make decisions in the blink of an eye. We don’t agonize over the potential negative consequences of a mistake. We just play.

This is especially true of team sports. The added interaction with teammates and opposing players alike only magnifies the positive attributes of sport. Understanding that your actions affect others and can make their experience either better or worse can teach us a lot about considering others in the way we live. It takes nine players to field a baseball team. Counting both teams, 22 square off on the football field. Each player has a role to fulfill, and subtracting just one from the total can result in an embarrassing result or even a complete forfeit.

But we don’t usually participate in sport because of its mental stimulation or because “it’s good for us.” We do it because it is fun and we want to win. Tennessee has for two straight years been represented in the Little League World Series, the best-known and most widely viewed youth athletic event. Do you think those 12-year-olds are worried about how the game is maturing their minds and molding their personalities? Of course not!

And whether on the golf course or at church-league basketball, there are rules we have to follow. Albert Einstein aptly simplified this: “You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else.”

But what if those rules change? For instance, this past year the National Football League moved up the spot where the kicker places the ball to kick off to the opposing team (effectively eliminating the kickoff return as a part of the game — regrettably, in my opinion). How does that change affect the way we play the game? Continuing my example of the NFL kickoff, the rule change was made well in advance of the season, and teams altered their strategies and tactics to compensate. But what if the change were made in the middle of the game? That would be unfair, and the teams would certainly protest. How can you expect to be successful if the rules change as you play?

And what if the rule change was so unreasonable it made the game unplayable? Suppose a study concluded that a 20-inch-wide basketball would reduce the risk of injury in the game, so your church league decided that all basketballs would now be that size. Since the larger ball seems to be a safer alternative, how could anyone oppose such a sensible change? The obvious answer to my question is that a 20-inch ball couldn’t possibly work in the game of basketball because the hoop is only 18 inches in diameter.

You might be thinking that these examples are a little far-fetched. But in today’s political and regulatory environment, changing the rules midstream happens all the time. While Congress may be struggling to legislate these days, the rulemaking apparatus of the federal government continues to churn out regulations that carry the force of law but lack the accountability that an elected official faces through the election process. These rules are often contradictory and change the way our industry produces its product and conducts its business. More frequently than ever, these rule changes are being implemented to accomplish what appears to be a well-meaning purpose, but the new requirements may be so onerous that the easiest decision may be to simply quit the game. Or, in one case that affects your cooperative, the mandate is to utilize a technology that doesn’t even exist.

While some of these new “rules of the game” may sound good inside the marble meeting rooms of Washington, D.C., they often conflict with the harsh reality of the real world. And when you consider the billions of dollars, millions of man-hours and thousands of pieces of equipment that are required to power the lifestyle that separates our society from the 19th century, the electric power industry does not have the luxury of guessing what “might” work. Our job is to deliver a 21st-century lifestyle and do it 99.999 percent of the time.

That is why we take so much time and effort to monitor and influence the decisions made by our state and federal governments that affect your co-op. Simply put, our product is too important to society to quit the game. So we will fight to be sure the rules are fair.

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