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Sunday, Jan 13 2013 11:00 PM

HITS & MISSES: Can we call them heroes? Absolutely

By The Bakersfield Californian

HIT: A quick-thinking pair of Taft Union High School employees, science teacher Ryan Heber and campus supervisor Kim Fields, averted what could have been a much broader tragedy Jan. 10 when they convinced a student to stop and put down the shotgun he had brought into the school.

The student had already shot one boy and apparently intended to shoot another. Heber was grazed by a pellet but managed to engage the shooter in calming conversation, which ultimately led to the shooter's surrender.

Few people enter the education profession ever anticipating they'll be the only barrier between a roomful of students and a troubled young man with a loaded firearm. In an incredibly frightening and tense situation, Fields and Heber showed admirable courage and likely prevented a worse tragedy from happening. Americans throw around the word "hero" much too often, but it's hard to deny that these two school employees qualified.

HIT: A state budget that pencils out

Jerry Brown unveiled a balanced budget last week that he said finally spends less money than the state takes in. But perhaps the biggest sign that the state has reached a point of fiscal stability lies less in the numbers and more in the fact that Republicans and Democrats both showed support for the budget -- a rarity for a January budget release. Let's hope a final budget deal will proceed as collegially as the unveiling of Brown's preliminary budget and result in a similarly responsible spending plan.

MISS: The violence of the NFL revealed

The revelation last week that former NFL linebacker Junior Seau had a brain disease caused by two decades of repeated hits to the head again underscores the reason sports medicine must remain focused on ways to improve safety in football. More than 30 NFL players have been diagnosed with the disease in recent years and about 4,000 retired players filed lawsuits against the National Football League last year for its alleged failure to protect players from brain injuries. Concern is also high among high school athletes. The suicide of the charismatic Seau is a tragedy that we must take as a warning: The long-term effects of contact sports is a medical issue that demands continued research.

HIT: Spared a flu spike, so far

Flu season deaths nationwide reached epidemic levels last Friday, the federal government announced, but, thankfully, California has so far avoided a dramatic uptick in cases. Some regions of the south and northeast have seen widespread flu outbreaks. While California cases have peaked in the past couple of weeks, that's normal for this time of year, officials said. It's not too late to get a flu shot -- so get one if you haven't already.

MISS: Baseball's sad steroid era

It's a sad state of affairs when the nation's pastime can't get one player elected to its Hall of Fame. But no one was too surprised when the votes came in this year and stars like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens failed to garner enough support for induction. Despite all the scandal and court hearings, nothing quite summed up the collective sentiment of baseball's steroid era than the rejection of guys once considered heroes of the sport. Maybe in the end, cheaters don't win.

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