Leaf blowers, like a lot of other things David McGrath would like to say good riddance to in 2019, do more harm than good. | Sun-Times file photo

Let’s say good riddance to leaf blowers, AR-15’s and home plate umpires in 2019

SHARE Let’s say good riddance to leaf blowers, AR-15’s and home plate umpires in 2019
SHARE Let’s say good riddance to leaf blowers, AR-15’s and home plate umpires in 2019

Every New Year’s Day, we read stories and columns about resolutions and predictions for the coming year.

Resolutions are seldom kept, though, and predictions are notoriously inaccurate.

Rather than make up a list of far-fetched predictions and doomed resolutions, I’d like to offer a list of human contrivances, both concrete and abstract, that I think most of us would like to say “good riddance” to in 2019.


To begin with, who, besides the CEO of Toro, would object to a total ban on leaf blowers? These obnoxious, counter-intuitive machines, which make about as much sense as a vacuum cleaner blowing dirt to the other side of your living room. They foul the air, cause permanent hearing loss, and make bucolic suburban Saturday mornings a thing of the past. They are nearly as universally reviled as the AR-15 assault rifle.

Speaking of which, let’s capitalize on the momentum created by Ed Stack, CEO of Dick’s Sporting Goods, who abruptly halted the sale of assault rifles to civilians, following the AR-15’s use in multiple mass shootings. With a new Democratic majority controlling the House of Representatives, it is the opportune time, once and for all, to outlaw private ownership of a weapon manufactured neither for hunting nor target shooting. It originally was mass produced for American soldiers in Vietnam, with the sole purpose of efficiently and quickly mowing down massive numbers of women, children and men.

And as long as we’re lessening suffering, we should show some love to man’s best friend by melting for scrap every prong and electric shock collar ever made for torturing furry yellow labs and Golden Retrievers in the name of discipline and training. Prong collars, sharp-edged chains which penetrate a puppy’s neck when yanked on, and shock collars that electrically torture our furry friends with a painful 4,500 volts at the push of the button, should be banned outright or sold with the requirement that the dog’s owner also must wear one.

Next, since the state of Florida has again demonstrated its incompetence and unreliability on Election Day, it is time to close down their polling places and mandate that all voting in the Sunshine State be conducted by snail mail, as has been done in Oregon, with huge cost savings, and an astonishing absence of mistakes, fraud or overtime. Can you imagine how warmly Floridians will embrace an idea that makes use of a ballpoint pen, a stamp and an envelope — in the state with the most residents over the age of 65?

Let’s additionally start the dismantling of overhead power lines, blamed for the recent deadly California Camp Fire, and whose destruction from hurricanes and rain, ice and snow storms, result in power outages for millions of citizens. Spend the repair money, instead, on burying all future power lines, ending the cycle of destruction, blackouts and the temporary Sisyphean fixes.

How about we finally answer the call not to kill the umpire, but to gently retire him, or at least the one behind home plate. His only role in the era of modern baseball is to call three out of every 10 pitches a ball or a strike erroneously, according to an analysis by HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.

This is no surprise to Major League Baseball TV viewers, who repeatedly witness the fallibility of the masked man calling pitches with human eyeballs that are no match for the television networks’ K-Zone. That’s the strike zone box made with special cameras and graphics, which assesses balls and strike with 99.9 percent accuracy.

We should also reform professional hockey by taking two of every five players off the ice. This would give the remaining players room on the rink to dazzle spectators with a ballet of speed and power and excitement, as they never fail to do in three-on-three overtime sessions. When ten men are fighting for puck possession, it resembles the wall-to-wall chaos of customers jostling for position at a Best Buy store on Black Friday.

Stop and desist, for heaven’s sake, with all use of the term “magazine” for those glossy paged, Chanel-scented, inch-thick oversize publications, which brim with display ads but have little to read. They are second only to disposable diapers in clogging America’s landfills. Call it what it is: an ad book.

Last but not least, the Federal Communications Commission in 2019 should order that the word “news” be deleted from the title of any network TV program that permits its “talent” to shill for politicians, prevaricators and narcissists, especially when all three roles are embodied in one individual, but whose name will not be trumpeted here, so as to keep this column from ending on a sour note and ruining your day, let alone your year, which, I declare, has got to be better than the previous.

Happy New Year!

College of Dupage Emeritus English professor David McGrath is author of THE TERRITORY. Write to him at: mcgrathd@dupage.edu

Send letters to: letters@suntimes.com.

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