As 2015 came screeching to a halt amid forty bowl games (yes, there were really 40 this year), with the championship game yet to come on January 11, my bloodshot eyes were awash in Visine®, my digestive tract clogged with the remnants of Hooters Wings, having ingested appetizers out the wazoo, and enough beer to float the Nimitz-class, nuclear-powered supercarrier, Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), I made it to 2016. Yet, I like millions of others, find myself anxiously anticipating the NFL battles to reach the Super Bowl just like a little kid in a candy story.
For a football junkie, it is the greatest spectacle of ruff-and-tumble athleticism since the Gladiator battles dating back to Pompeii. It is also pure escapism for we who are caught up in the day-to-day political/policy battle for the soul of America. Yes, there are many who take the sport of football (though today football should probably be relabeled to read “business of football”) so seriously, they are willing to risk their hard earned pay checks trying to outfox the gaming industry and each other, in their quest to get rich quicker than the proven path of hard, honest work and investment.
In the keenest sense of the word, football is a sport, yet when we hear sports broadcasters, color commentators, down-on-the-field sideline reporters, and news media spokespersons, who tell us the who, what, where, how, and when of the play-by-play action and recap of the games in their version of Spoken English, I am embarrassed by what I hear. More often than not, their use of the language is grammatically incorrect and painful to the ears of anyone who knows and understands the English language. These folks, for the most part, are college-educated for Chrissakes, and schooled at some of the finest institutions in America. It does not speak well for the quality of schooling students must be getting today.
These communicators often add insult to injury in their verbalization by telling us of the hardships and adversity the participants had to endure to reach the top of their game. For those of us who have served in the military, I cannot help but believing that these folks have no idea what true hardship and adversity entails. Working with Veterans who are recovering from their experience in the face of the enemy; those who face a log arduous physical therapy regimen; those who face years of learning to live with post traumatic stress disorder; and those who have returned home only to find relationships in shambles and unable to find a meaningful job, it makes a mockery out of the meaning of adversity and hardship.
Every time I listen to some announcer, coach, reporter, or player discuss either preparing for a big game or discussing the outcome of major game, the minute they throw around how much adversity so-and-so had to endure, I want to reach through my 60″ television and strangle those over-glorified Neanderthals. Most of them have no idea how blessed they are with the rare talents they posses, or that they were lucky to have been born in the United States where they have been able to capitalize on that talent.
I also find it sad that many of these fine athletes, obviously did not take full advantage of the scholarships they were given, to learn all they could for life after their playing days are over. In short, many are woefully unprepared for the future if they fall on hard times or have a career-ending injury. The diplomas they were give upon leaving college won’t even by a cup of coffee for many of these players.
According to Pablo S. Torre in a 2009 edition of Sports Illustrated, an estimated 78 percent of NFL players are bankrupt or facing serious financial stress within two years of ending their playing careers and that 60 percent of NBA players are broke within five years of retiring from the game. A starting lineup of financial-distress examples could include Terrell Owens, Lawrence Taylor, Michael Vick, Deuce McAllister and Bernie Kosar in football, Allen Iverson, Scottie Pippen, Latrell Sprewell and Antoine Walker in basketball, and a boat-load of others in Baseball.
While Americans for the most part, seem enamored by their favorite athletes and treat them like gods, few tributes are paid to those who make all the fortunes of America possible by their service in the military. But then those of us who have served were not looking for the accolades of our fellow citizens. We served because we were either called to serve (conscripted) or volunteered “to carry the load”.
I have been writing for a long time and in fact have been blessed to have authored several books including several more under contract at this date. I have witnessed much in my 71 years of life, but not much bothers me more than the treatment of our Veterans and meeting their needs, once they have returned to plain ordinary citizens. All those promises made by the recruiters: the potential for a full military career, life-long healthcare through the VA Hospital, and the distinction that comes from proudly wearing the uniform of our country.
While many have been able to build their careers in military service, what about the serviceman who is cut loose after 10, 12, or 16 years, because of cutbacks, as if he/she is some poor worthless and disposable schlub. The most productive years of their lives have been given for their country and now they must go out and start a career all over again. The military says sayonara and forget about the promises of a military pension.
They tell those who are cut that they still have the skills learned in the military (“killer” is not usually a marketable trade), but in hard economic times as we see today, well paying jobs are scarce. However there is always the VA . . . hmmmm . . . that isn’t so bright either . . . another one of Uncle Sam’s wet dream promises that may or may not be of value if you cannot get an appointment to see a doctor. Yes, this is a real promise made by those in Washington that was immediately forgotten by the bureaucrats who run the largest healthcare system in the U.S. and arguably the largest healthcare system in the world.
In December 2014, senior department officials at the VA in Washington had been made aware of serious problems at the VA hospital in Phoenix, according to filings before a federal administrative board. When full revelations were made, it blew the lid clean off the whole VA system, and not just the Phoenix location . . . it showed a system-wide failure. Records destroyed, lost or hidden; long waiting lines just to schedule an appointment; and the firing and punishment of employees who for years had openly reported such malfeasance to administration officials.
With seemingly every elected official in Washington and with the assurances of President Obama, the Veterans Administration promised to right a ship that was sinking in its duties to those who have often sacrificed dearly to defend this country and do the bidding to those who are often too quick to send our troops off to fight another war. After each and every time a promise has been made to fix the situation, things remain the same. Here we go into the 2016 election cycle and the Veteran remains a forgotten being.
According to the New York Times, “one year after outrage about those long waiting lists were revealed, the agency is facing a new crisis: The number of veterans on waiting lists of one month or more is now 50 percent higher than it was during the height of last year’s problems, department officials say. The department is also facing a nearly $3 billion budget shortfall, which could affect care for many veterans.
“The agency is considering furloughs, hiring freezes and other significant moves to reduce the gap. A proposal to address a shortage of funds for one drug — a new, more effective but more costly hepatitis C treatment — by possibly rationing new treatments among veterans and excluding certain patients who have advanced terminal diseases or suffer from a “persistent vegetative state or advanced dementia” is stirring bitter debate inside the department.”
As the fight over VA funding goes on, the battle seems to be more between Democrats wanting unbridled spending on every social issue one can imagine and Republicans who object to removing funds from a new program intended to allow certain veterans on waiting lists and in rural areas to choose taxpayer-paid care from private doctors outside the department’s health system. All this comes at a time when our country’s fiscal condition is need of resuscitation
The VA’s deputy secretary, Sloan D. Gibson, said in an interview. “Something has to give. We can’t leave this as the status quo. We are not meeting the needs of veterans, and veterans are signaling that to us by coming in for additional care, and we can’t deliver it as timely as we want to.”
Things don’t look to be corrected too soon from what we see on the horizon. Since the waiting-list scandals broke last year, the VA has “broadly expanded access to care. Its doctors and nurses have handled 2.7 million more appointments than in any previous year, while authorizing 900,000 additional patients to see outside physicians.” Some effort has been made, but the changes currently underway have a long way to go. Though capacity has increased by more than seven million patient visits per year — double what they originally thought they needed to fix shortcomings, demand has increase just as quickly, caused by aging Vietnam War veterans and service members from Iraq and Afghanistan.
The next time you hear some sports yahoo, a coach or some athlete begin his interview talking about adversity or hardship, take it for the worthless gibberish that is being used to embellish one’s accomplishment. Real adversity and hardship is faced every day by a Veteran or someone in the military, and I haven’t even brought up the adverse conditions they face on the battlefield. Surely seeking out terrorists under today’s politically correct rules of engagement, IED’s, along with dodging bullets, create more adversity and hardship than 95% of Americans will ever face.
Posted by Ed Mattson on January 4, 2016, With 1685 Reads Filed under Of Interest. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.