Cockfighting big distraction for chicken

Ned Cantwell: CNJ columnist

Don’t get me wrong. If I had a name to drop, I’d drop it in a New York minute. That is a quicker measurement of time, apparently, than a New Mexico minute, but I’ve not figured out why.

So the following is not to be critical of Bill Richardson. Rather, it is to acknowledge that I had breakfast recently with Dave Price, publisher of the Ruidoso News: state reps John Heaton of Carlsbad and Joe Cervantes of Las Cruces: Shelley Ratner, director of the state press association: Rocky Hayes, head honcho at the Carlsbad Current-Argus: Julie Aicher, New Mexico’s Associated Press bureau chief: and Bob Johnson, executive director of the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government.

Make no mistake, those are important folks, and I thank them for letting me join the table. But they are not going to get you invited to parties in Tinsel Town. Famous, they are not. Granted, Rep. Heaton insists he is a dead ringer for Tom Brokaw and says he is often stopped at airports. That is true, I’m sure, but I suspect those stopping John are wearing badges.

Here’s the point, and you have to be wondering if there is one: My tablemates and I sat there listening to remarks by Gov. Richardson, and I could not repress pangs of pure jealousy when The Bill mentioned in the space of three sentences that he had just come back from visiting with George Strait, that Don Imus almost made him late for his plane that morning, and that he had recently chatted with Robert Redford.

Well, big danged old deal, you say. Nonetheless, when you sit there and listen to the governor tick off the names of his celebrity buddies and all you have to brag about is Dave Price … well, it’s embarrassing, that’s all.

Gov. Bill was in pretty good form, but probably not all that comfortable with a question by Ray Sullivan, publisher of the Clovis News Journal. Ray wanted to know if Richardson is concerned about a film industry boycott should the state not outlaw cockfighting.

Big Bill said the boycott threat is immature and that Bob Redford told him not to worry about it. Truth is, the governor doesn’t want to deal with cockfighting. He said it is a “distraction.” Had I not been too shy, I would have pointed out to the governor that it is especially distracting to the chicken.

Just when it appeared the governor was going to rattle off the names of three or four more celebrities, the meeting adjourned and my big moment was about to take place.

Reader alert: I am about to gloat. Billy Sparks came over and shook my hand. I am speaking of Billy Sparks, the governor’s press guy who once would not return my phone calls because he was too busy talking with Wolf Blitzer.
In previous columns I had been somewhat critical of Billy, and he wanted to talk about that. It was difficult to clearly make out what he was saying over the crowd noise, but it sounded like he called me a “real lasso.”

I’m pretty sure that is a cowboy term of affection, but I’ll have to check.

Ned Cantwell is a syndicated columnist living in Ruidoso. He collects autographs. Contact him at: