Wednesday, February 21, 2018
News Roundup

Monday's Quick Hits: Problems with coal, memories of Bill Hope and Nature Coast's overtime victory

One of many things wrong with coal ...

Duke Energy's decision to abandon the nuclear generator at its Crystal River complex was probably inevitable, but it does leave more people dependent on the four remaining units at Crystal River, which are powered exclusively by coal.

When I pointed this out to a friend recently, his response was, "What's wrong with coal?"

Well, forget for a moment about mining practices that level mountains and fill streams with silt. Put aside that coal puts out nearly twice as much carbon, per amount of energy produced, as natural gas. Let's look at its more immediate and local impact.

On a recent trip on the Withlacoochee River — three hours long, in perfect weather, during the height of the Florida tourism season — I saw only two boats with people fishing. Why weren't there more?

No doubt it's partly because you can't eat bass caught from the Withlacoochee, or at least not more than once a month. That's the state Department of Health's recommendation based on mercury levels found in the river's fish, which effectively puts a prime source of recreation and potential tourism draw off limits.

If you didn't know already, you've probably guessed the main source of this pollution: burning coal.

Another sad fishing story ...

The day in my working life that felt the least like work was probably the one nearly 20 years ago spent in the saltwater flats near the mouth of the Chassahowitzka River with fishing guide Bill Hope.

His clients included retired baseball players such as Tom Seaver and pro football stars such as Art Monk, and even a guy who was both a baseball player and football star, Deion Sanders — who had been joined on his trip with Hope by rapper MC Hammer.

Hope, a member of the first family to settle in Hernando County, knew the water the way people do only if they've spent their entire life on it, which Hope had done except for stints working in insurance and health care.

He was relaxed, funny and patient, and respected enough that the client he was fishing with when I joined him back in 1995 had flown in from a job in Hungary to spend a couple of days with Hope — and brought him a monstrous, expensive Dominican cigar he'd picked up duty-free.

Hope, 75, died suddenly last week at his home in Brooksville. It's good news only for fish. Every person I talked to about it was shocked and saddened.

A less peaceful sporting pursuit ...

In fact, one of the least peaceful I've ever witnessed, was Friday night's district championship game between Nature Coast Technical High School and one of its main rivals in recent years, Eustis High.

Fans were screaming at refs, at players, at each other. There were technical fouls that gave Eustis a chance to come back from a 13-point fourth-quarter deficit. There was a thunderous dunk by Eustis at the end of regulation to put the game into overtime and a clutch three-pointer with three seconds remaining in O.T. by Nature Coast's Vic Davila to win it.

One more reminder of why I like watching high school sports: A prime seat for all these wild goings-on, right behind the Nature Coast bench, cost $6.

This Nature Coast team doesn't have a player as dominant as 2012 graduate Tyler Bergantino, but it plays with teamwork and spirit if not, judging from Friday night's performance, a whole lot of discipline.

In case you want to check the team out, which I'd recommend, they play Anclote High School on Thursday evening at home.

Lots of good stuff in Sunday's Perspective section ...

including Bill Maxwell's column on the demise of brick-and-mortar bookstores, gathering places for thoughtful folks who share a love of reading.

All true, though I would like to add the point of view of someone who doesn't live within a convenient drive of a bookstore. I have read much more and pumped far more money into the publishing business since I got my e-reader a few years ago.

I don't think I'm alone. So if there's not much of a future for bookstores, hopefully there is one for books.

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