Why Sports (Seem to) Matter More Than Healthcare
By Greg Hood, MD, Internal Medicine, from Medscape
It’s snowing today. It’s early in flu season. Soon ice will be covering sidewalks resulting in people suffering life changing hip fractures. Medicare payments and the solvency of healthcare in America remain very much in limbo.
Naturally, the number one thing on the collective mind of America appears to be… sports.
We’ve just had a slugfest of a Kentucky – Louisville basketball game and enough football games to put pigs on the endangered species list if their skins were used for the old pigskin.
Sports, sports personalities and every level of minutiae about sports are covered 24/7 on TV and the internet. And yet, America’s appetite for sports remains unsatiated.
By contrast, even though healthcare expenditures threaten to bankrupt this country, no constructive, ongoing dialogue appears sustainable in our society.
According to 2008 data the US spends $7,164 per capita on healthcare. Some of this figure can certainly be ascribed to bureaucracy and inefficiency. Some can be ascribed to vanity and other optional expenditures.
If the efficiency of healthcare can be addressed successfully then perhaps the continued upwards growth of this total can be stemmed. In another area of American life, sports, there does not seem to be any stemming of interest or expenditures.
Of course, anyone who has been to a major sports event recently will also notice that health insurance companies are spending many millions to advertise their companies to the patrons of sports.
Therefore, the problem with discussing healthcare is clearly not an American aversion to discussing such large amounts of money. Neither is it a problem understanding and discussing statistics. In sports, individual salaries, corporate budgets, personnel issues, and long range planning as well as obscure and inane statistical analyses of individual performance are debated online ad nauseum, with many thousands of comments linked to articles and blog posts day upon day, without end.
Imagine if speculation about the job performance of the medical director of a Blue Cross entity resulted in the activities that have recently surrounded Mr. Ireland, the general manager of the Miami Dolphins.
This weekend individual fans pooled their money and rented a plane to fly a message over the Dolphins-Jets pregame, urging that he be fired.
COST OF SPORTS ADVERTISING
Nationally, sports advertising, such as $30-40 million dollar Super Bowl commercials, and advertising during March Madness or even at the local youth baseball park are pervasive, garnering a tidy sum.
Pay-per-view events, such as WrestleMania and UFC, generate $10 billion dollars a year in viewership fees.
EXAMPLE OF SUPER BOWL COMMERCIAL
Even if full online statistical disclosure of physician activity and performance becomes a reality I doubt if the performance of even the best known physicians will be as scrutinized as the third-string third baseman for the AAA league Pawtucket RedSox baseball team.
If Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys, and a polarizing figure in his own right, had undertaken moves to address the solvency and future of his franchise that, potential merits aside, carried with them approval ratings as low as the financial bailouts and healthcare reform measures have been cited as having for the current and previous D.C. administrations then it would not be difficult to imagine a massive revolt in Cowboy country. Think anarchy and national guard level responses. By contrast, the vitriol over healthcare reform would seem rather tame.
Sports have the potential to be polarizing. There is an us-versus-them phenomenon.
Kentucky, for example is a state divided into blue and red, for sports as well as politics. However, the tone of discourse in sports is different. Americans have built massive temples for our sports teams, such as the Yum! Center and Cowboy stadium.
TOLERANCE OF OPPOSING VIEWS
However, there is a tolerance of the opposing points of view (except by a few extremist fans) that is rarely found any more in political discourse.
Perhaps it is because there are basically only two teams in politics. In sports there is no way your team will become the majority (>50%) supported team in the country. Even when the Dallas Cowboys were “Americas team” it was by a pleurality, never a majority. Perhaps it is because it is a safe arena in which we can vent our frustrations and “leave it on the field”.
The likely conclusion for a visitor from another planet, observing our broadcasts and our behavior, is that sports matters more to us than our own individual health.
We pay more attention mentally, and physically, to the athletic participation of a select few, than to ourselves. We spectate rather than participate. We divert our attention rather than solving the hard problems. As individuals our health may suffer and our lives may end prematurely, but at least we have the comfort that our favorite sports franchises survive.
Dr. Pinna says:
All sport is a substitute for mortal combat. Deep in our sub-conscious mind, we are still fantasizing about fighting to the death against our enemies. During the Roman Era, gladiators fought each other or animals until someone was killed. The public loved witnessing this combat because they were inwardly participating in the same fight. Thousands of years ago, such fighting was necessary for survival.
The mere thought of combat sends our nervous system into a frenzy. In terms of health, being a spectator is not good. An exciting game simply raises our blood pressure.
The best way to benefit from sport is to participate. Running and swimming are forms of escaping from a battle. Of the two, swimming is more beneficial because it does not damage the skeletal system. Also, swimming only requires one person.
Of all sports, American sports: American Football and Baseball are almost a waste of time, since they require many players.
THE BEST TEAM SPORT IS SOCCER!
All that is needed is a ball, space and any number of players. Yet, the better sport is one in which only two players are needed. Such sports can be played daily since only two players are needed.
Tennis and racquetball and handball are my favorites. However, these sports are damaging to the skeletal system. Most older players end up with damage to the knees, hips and spinal column.
Sports are excellent for your mind and your body. They release pent-up psychic energy, and they reduce glucose and fat levels in your blood stream.
Athletes live longer than the average person. They also have more stable family lives. Because they rid their sub-conscious of anxiety and hate, athletes also perform better in intrapersonal relationships, such as business and marriage.