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Daily Mail: Short takes - Aug. 9, 2014

The New Orleans Saints brought more than an NFL team, coaches, equipment and everything related to football training to The Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs.

They also brought fans, as in thousands of people to come watch them practice. And the economic effect goes beyond the posh resort.

“We didn’t know what to expect,” Mary Cole Deitz, manager of the Greenbrier Valley Visitors Center told the Register Herald’s Tina Alvey.

“I’ve really been amazed and pleasantly surprised by how many inquiries we’ve gotten. Everywhere you look, there are people wearing Saints hats and T-shirts.”

Fans from Louisiana, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and many other states have converged on the “Coolest Small Town in America” to watch their Saints practice, filling local restaurants and shops.

“They’ve been looking and buying,” said Denny Brown, owner of the Pepper Shed, regarding an increased number of walk in customers. “It has definitely helped business.”

The Saints are committed to summer camp at The Greenbrier for two more years, and owner Jim Justice is hinting that other football related events will be coming.

Justice arranged for The Greenbrier to build a $30 million practice facility to accommodate the Saints. The investment may qualify for certain tax credits if several conditions are met.

Some critics are mad as the devil at Justice for the potential tax credits. But area business owners realizing a booming business from the NFL training camp, the Greenbrier Classic PGA tournament and other activities that bring tourists and positive exposure to southern West Virginia may consider the big owner as rather Saintly.

***

Another NFL team — or at least an NFL team member — is making a big impact in another West Virginia community.

The Dunbar Bullpups youth league football team received a big contribution this week from an alumnus — New England Patriots wide receiver and Marshall University and South Charleston High School grad Aaron Dobson.

Dobson contributed 200 new football jerseys to the team, 100 for home games and 100 for away games, for players to wear through the 2014 season.

“It’s where he started playing football at about 6 years old,” Aaron’s father, Bobby Dobson, told Eyewitness News.

“He’s always given back to the community.”

“The kids will eat it up,” said League President Jim Preast. “I mean, they see that somebody from where they are made it to where they see them on TV every week. It gives them that inspiration that they can do it too.”

***

While the Saints players and Aaron Dobson are heroes to their fans, another group of HEROs is heading out to West Virginia communities to encourage students to further their education beyond graduation.

Five high schools sent teams of students to participate in a leadership academy and become Higher Education Readiness Officers (HEROs).

“They will go back to their communities and they will serve as the change agents that we know they can be to help more students get into education and training beyond high school,” Adam Green, vice chancellor for student affairs at the W.Va. Higher Education Policy Commission, told West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s Glynis Board.

These HEROs received their training during the fourth annual Student Success Summit sponsored by the HEPC and the Department of Education.

The purpose is to improve the statewide percentage of high school graduates who seek further education.

“We know that 51 percent of jobs by 2020 are going to require some sort of credential after high school,” Green said. “Less than 30 percent in the state of West Virginia have some sort of credential beyond high school. We have a lot of ground to make up.”

Green said re-framing the discussion of what “college” means is an important way to make progress. A bachelor’s degree from a four-year institution is only one definition.

***

Comic strip and children’s television characters are often considered heroes to kids, but the actions of some such characters on the streets of New York City are anything but heroic.

Elmo, Cookie Monster and Statue of Liberty impersonators in Times Square are becoming a nuisance by pressuring tourists to pose for photos in exchange for money.

The Associated Press reports the city wants to rein in a summertime spike in badly behaving characters, such as the Spider-Man accused of punching a police officer recently.

“This has gone too far,” said frustrated Mayor Bill de Blasio. “It’s time to take some real steps to regulate this reality.”

That’s easier said than done, say legal experts. At issue is whether the characters can be considered street performers protected by the First Amendment or are engaged in commercial activities subject to regulation.

The bad Spidey was unhappy that a tourist offered him only $1. He thought he deserved $10. The police officer intervened and bam — got hit.

There was no word whether Peter Parker bailed Spiderman out.


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