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Jocks and Stem Cells Don't Mix

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I'm so relieved we have sports figures like football quarterbacks and baseball pitchers to set us straight on grave matters of public policy! Who better to advise the ignorant masses on stem cell research than two dudes whose knowledge of genetics and neurological disease amounts to zip?

I am speaking, of course, of Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner and St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Jeff Suppan. Both jocks threw their helmets/caps into the ring by appearing in a TV spot opposing a proposed constitutional amendment in Missouri that would guarantee federal funds for stem cell research.

The spot emerged faster than a 90 mph pitch following Michael J. Fox's heartbreaking ad urging Missourians to support the amendment. It is the pivotal issue in the U.S. Senate race there. Fox did the ad to support Democratic candidate Claire McCaskill. And I guess they needed some big ammunition to take down the severely impaired actor. It's a dirty job but somebody's got to do it. So why not a football player and self-professed Christian like Warner?

Warner doesn't live in Missouri. But he did lead the St. Louis Rams to two Super Bowls. So now he thinks that qualifies him to tell the good but, unfortunately, dim-witted folks there how they should vote on this issue.

To wit, here's what he told the Associated Press:

"I still feel a heavy responsibility for the people of Missouri because of the respect they have for me but also the things they've done for me, and I don't want them to make an uninformed decision on something that can change their constitution in the long term and can have lasting effects not only in the state but I think also nationally."

And here's his objection to stem cell research that would use discarded embryos:

"I think life is too sacred to ever take it in any circumstances, even for the cure of a disease or something like that."

Or something like that.

Why are so-called "pro-lifers"like Warner so willing to ignore the rights of the living versus the fate of a cell that will never turn into an actual person? How can they so blithely ignore the wisdom of hundreds of scientists? Scientists who actually know what they're talking about as opposed to jocks who never got beyond high school physiology?

My father was an alum of OU and a fanatic about football. When I was a young jockette he was also the doctor for some of the San Diego Chargers. But I don't recall him ever pulling aside Jack Kemp and saying, "Hey, Jack, what were you thinking when you threw that pass in the last ten seconds of the fourth quarter?" He'd no more have advised the Chargers how to run a their game than he would have cottoned a football player telling him how to diagnose and treat his patients or lecture him on medical ethics.

My father revered medicine and the hard deliberate science behind finding cures for disease. He also happened to be a Goldwater Republican. Were he alive today, he would have been infuriated by the intrusion of religion into government and medical matters.

Not to mention the sullying of his favorite sport.

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