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I've watched a lot of sporting events, but seeing the bikers at the Amgen Tour of California zoom past at 45 mph may have been the most exciting 30 seconds of sports I've ever seen. Or maybe not.
I spent a half-hour at Seaside City Hall this morning, wandering around the starting gate, absorbing the festive atmosphere. One of the sponsors gave away cowbells, which en masse is about the last thing anyone needs to hear at 8 in the morning.
So I headed up to Gen. Jim Moore Boulevard and South Boundary Road, which was on the biker's route. I didn't realize until I got there that the intersection was actually the start of the race. The start at Seaside City Hall was simply a formality.
About a dozen folks were hanging out at the intersection to cheer the riders along. And it was indeed fun to watch them zoom by.
The roads were closed, of course, and there was a bit of a traffic backup on Gen. Jim Moore, just as The Herald warned in today's publication. So of course some snotty woman shows up at the blockade and starts whining to the officers that she had to get to work, as though the race was some big surprise to her. Sheesh.
So that's pretty much the highlights, at least from my perspective: nice city hall event, cowbells, bikers zooming by at the real start of the race and the whiny woman trying to get to work.
Whether the local hero is throwing TD passes on the football field or coordinating the elimination of Public Enemy No. 1, people love to root for the person they think they might have seen once on the rec trail.
So the sweeping expressions of local pride for Leon Panetta are understandable.
After someone has helped engineer an impressive feat on behalf of the citizens of the United States, the immediate reaction is to pay homage with an edificial monument.
Panetta has certainly earned the honor. He is, at the moment, the hero of the free world. Or, as Arjun Jaikumar of the Daily Kos tweeted Monday, "Leon Panetta's approval rating is 600 percent right now."
But I'm not sure renaming Monterey Peninsula Airport is the right thing to do. Not because it's cliche, but because it would be confusing.
As proposed by Jim Lauderdale in a letter to the editor Tuesday, the local airport ought to be renamed the Panetta Monterey Airport. Every inspiring local hero seems to have an airport named in his/her honor. Lindbergh Field. Reagan National. Bush Intercontinental. Mineta San Jose International.
No disrespect to Norm Mineta, a solid citizen in his own right, even if he didn't have a hand in finding Osama bin Laden, but Mineta is the problem.
Honoring Leon Panetta with an airport name might seem like an obvious choice, considering all the flight time he logs between Monterey and D.C. Unfortunately, the Panetta-Mineta thing is simply too confusing. Especially because San Jose is the major airport nearest Monterey.
Too many travelers are already baffled by the Monterey-Monterrey connection. Mineta-Panetta might be too much.
That is not to say Panetta should not have a public facility named in his honor. As far as locals go, he's about as famous as John Steinbeck, the noted author, and Monterey Jack, the noted cheese. Around here, he's one of the few we can identify without surname. Like Clint. And Dina.
Whether balancing an out-of-control federal budget or rooting out the source of terrorism, Panetta kicks butt and takes names. He's the guy who brings order to a planet gone mad.
He is a man of accomplishment, I believe, because he used to be a Republican and he must have a bit of Republican in him still. Old-school Republican. The sort of Republican who ignores the rigmarole and gets things done with an efficiency that inspires pride in government.
Used to be, you needed a Republican in office to make sure the trains run on time.
These days, you're made to feel like an unpatriotic nincompoop — or a Democrat — if you point out that the trains are coming off the tracks.
It should serve as more than a footnote that Panetta was in charge of the Office of Management and Budget back when budgets were balanced. Balanced budgets weren't a big issue three years ago, but now, suddenly, it's the source of much righteous bloviation. If he's not too busy running the CIA and preparing to oversee the military, maybe we can give Panetta a crack at that budget situation again.
Panetta is the ultimate envoy. He's the fixer. Put him in charge of something and check it off your worry list.
So, yes, Panetta's name deserves to be preserved for posterity, affixed to a public facility.
The airport isn't one of them. Unless we simply want to call it The Leon.