Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Carnival of Sports

Not that long ago, St. Louis was named the top sports city in the nation. St. Louisans are known for their enthusiastic support of its sports teams, especially when it comes to the baseball Cardinals. Many other sports have thrived in the region, generating significant economic activity for the city and surrounding areas. Log onto the St. Louis Sports Commission's website and you will see just how supportive St. Louis is, and has been, of athletics, from the 1904 Olympics to the 2009 NCAA Women's Final Four. Golf and tennis, respectively, owe major cups – the Walker and the Davis – to the city, as both were established by St. Louisans. Even in the era of the football Cardinals, with their dismal play and apathetic ownership, fans showed their support in droves year after year. A majority were even saddened when they left the city for the Arizona desert. Sports are a tradition in this city, and will always be a part of its future.

Remember, though, when you used to go to sporting events to see live action, and athletes were worshipped more than the gods themselves? Remember when your parent, or maybe even your grandparent, taught you how to score runs, hits and errors on the scorecard? There was a time when people went to the amusement park to be amused and the sports arena to watch . . . well, sports. Nowadays, the two are seemingly indistinguishable from each other, and its occurring at an exponential rate. Sadly, it has taken away the amusement of the original intent of the venue – the sporting event itself.

Lockouts and scandals have made it so, forcing owners to do anything to fill arenas. Attractions/distractions are thrown at fans as they make their way along the trail to their grazing spot, only to be hounded further by purveyors of consumptive consumerism. All of this to satisfy the adult-child that willingly opens the pocketbook – if only to quiet the real child that needs yet another "toy" to break or collect dust. Meanwhile, the apparent poverty-stricken manor lords gouge the ordinary fan at the ticket booth and vending to compensate for their "losses," while playing hardball with their respective city halls to garner the best deal for a new stadium in order to compete with larger markets.

The self-serving athletes we are expected to hold in esteem in spite of their mediocre play and indignant attitude make the problem no better. Are we as spectators supposed to feel sorry for multi-million dollar athletes who cry foul over salaries that offer only three million a year and not five million – not including a signing bonus – when there are average people who cannot afford a meal, health insurance or housing? Granted, these "warriors of the gridiron" can do more with a bat, ball, or puck than the average person, but where does it end? When Johnny-come-lately athletes command a trade or higher salary without the backing of a justifiable performance, it makes one ponder the objective of sports – the pursuit of selfless victory or self-indulgent promotion?

©2007 Steve Sagarra

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Till Sickness Comes

Without healthy, educated individuals, there cannot be a healthy, educated society. Moreover, without the ability to defend that society, there cannot be a strong nation. These are the main issues that should occupy the forefront of any national policy-making. Education and national defense are frequent topics of debate, while health care consistently wavers and lags behind until politically fashionable.

The problem with health care is not the care part. The majority of medical professionals are dedicated in their jobs to treat patients, and they do it well because that is what they have trained to do. Like in anything, one gets what one pays for. That is the problem – paying for it. The cost of many health-related services have soared in recent years, with trillions of dollars paid annually for insurance, doctor visits, hospital stays and medicines. Staying healthy – and getting the care when otherwise – costs money, but it should not cost an arm and a leg.

There is also the bureaucracy, which has created an inefficient system of poor management and excessive costs. Buried in paperwork and regulations, patients face a myriad of obstacles from the varied individuals and entities, with enrollment rules just as diverse, that comprise the health care system. A multitude of insurance plans, each with their own rules on coverage and eligibility, forces providers and patients alike to determine coverage for particular services. As such, individual insurers erect administrative barriers that discourage some from even making a claim. Administrative fees and overhead alone from this complex and fragmented structure has been a main cause of increased spending over the years. The situation only worsens once the bill is itemized and tallied.

According to the latest data, the majority of Americans have health insurance, either through their employer or self-purchased. For those under- or uninsured – the elderly, disabled and the poor – there are programs that provide public funding for medical services. Federal law also requires access to emergency services for all regardless of one's ability to pay. Even so, those without health insurance are expected to personally pay for services if they do not qualify for financial assistance – and numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau indicate that approximately 45 million people, or 15% of the population, are currently uninsured, a slight rise in recent years. A number of polls show that 70% of those surveyed feel the federal government, as part of its responsibility toward its citizens, should ensure that all Americans have universal health care coverage.

Solving the health care debate means simplifying its dysfunctionally convoluted administration, lowering its cost and, most importantly, making it available to everyone. The health of the nation depends on it.

©2007 Steve Sagarra

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Sacrifice and the Toll of War

Here is an accounting of the toll war has taken on the United States since 1775. The numbers provide good insight into the sacrifice we were once willing to pay as compared to present-day "cut-and-run" policies by some politicians.

For example:

World War I (1917-1918)
Battle Deaths.................................................53,402

World War II (1941-1945)
Battle Deaths................................................291,557

Global War on Terror (as of May 31, 2007)
Battle Deaths...................................................3,842

In the two world wars alone, spanning five years total, close to 345,000 military personnel lost their lives as a direct result of the conflicts. Some of these fatalities resulted from massive operations that saw thousands die in a single day. We have been actively fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq for close to six years, and fatalities are just under 4,000. Compare that to the 4,435 who died fighting over a period of eight years during the American Revolution.

From such a perspective, one can see that the price for freedom and democratic principles has dramatically changed - and to those opposed to an alleged "unjust war" is too high a cost - since the founding of this nation, and even more so since World War Two. It is sad that over 200 hundred years ago, 4,435 patriots died for their beliefs, and now some cannot stomach one fatality in defense of those beliefs while simultaneously voicing opposition under the very umbrella of freedom for which those patriots past, present, and hopefully, future, fought and died.

Fact Sheet: America's Wars

Operation Enduring Freedom & Operation Iraqi Freedom

©2007 Steve Sagarra