We’re Number Three!!!

On February 17, 2014, in Past Morning Briefs, by David

Medal Ceremony - Winter Olympics Day 9I’m a sports fan. I played everything growing up in St. Louis, and I love playing or even watching a great contest, I’m inspired by the best, and worst, or us in action, and am a huge fan of what sports can teach us about the rest of our lives.

So I’ve been watching the Winter Olympics in Sochi with interest, and there are a few takeaways that I’d like to share. First, and foremost, the trend I’ve noticed in watching the broadcast, and this is viewed through the prism of NBC’s coverage, is that it’s all about US. That is, it’s America against the world. As if we as a country are always facing down the world’s challenges, and are expected to come out victorious.

Granted, the NBC coverage is geared toward an American audience. But the Olympics is a forum for all countries to compete, and the stories of victory, and defeat, are all equally interesting to me no matter which country generates them. I’m sitting here watching the Bode Miller show, I mean the Men’s Super-G Alpine event, and I now know more about Morgan, Bode’s wife, than I do about the two people who somehow by accident managed to beat the greatest skier in the history of the universe.

All due respect to Bode, who has won as many Alpine medals as any Olympian ever, and is now the oldest person to win an Alpine medal, but it would have been nice to have learned a little something about the WINNER Kjetil Jansrud of Norway, and silver medalist, also an American, Andrew Weibrecht. Not to mention Jan Hudec, the Canadian who had the nerve to TIE Bode for the bronze. How emasculating!

By the way, how cool is it to watch the racers super-imposed on top of one another as if they’re racing the course at the same time. You can see who’s ahead at one point, and when someone overtakes them on the way. Awesome!

There are parallels here to the world outside of sports. American media, almost without exception is rigorously focused on the U.S. as the center of the universe. And I’m sorry, we’re just not. In fact, we’ve been pretty much screwing the entire planet non-stop since the turn of the millennium.

When I go to Europe and get a healthy dollop of BBC and al-Jazeera World News, I learn so much more about the actual News of the World than on any broadcast in the U.S. I don’t think this is good for us here in America because let’s face it folks, we’re slipping.

Bode’s tie for the Bronze may ultimately be a satisfying achievement, but I know that the medal standings with America Number 3 isn’t nearly good enough for the America first-ers who expect us to be the best of everything because, well, America is just THE BEST. Except that, we’re not.

And while I’m absolutely fine to see America where we are in the Winter Olympics “standings” – The Olympics aren’t really a team sport in and of themselves – it’s cool that the Netherlands has the most medals (because I love Holland!), and host Russia is doing well , too (because the Russians are cheaters and the spy on everyone…no, wait…).

Being the best at the Winter Olympics isn’t really the leadership I think it most important for this country to achieve. In fact, being Number Three is absolutely fine and something we should strive for in a handful of other disciplines, especially ones that count for a lot more than The Olympics. Or any sport for that matter.

Did you know that in 2013 America was ranked 17th in the world out of the best countries for education, according to a global report by the education firm Pearson. Can you imagine if we were 17th in the standings at the Winter Olympics? Or the Summer Olympics? The sky would be falling for sure. What’s wrong with America? But 17th in education, not a peep.

Where do you think America stands in a recent Bloomberg study of the world’s most efficient health care systems? How about 46th out of 48? How do you feel about that? The Bloomberg study isn’t talking about the best health care, but quality as a function of cost.

As a country, we spend the most money as a percentage of our GDP (a jaw-dropping 17.2 percent; finally, something we’re the best at), and the second most money per capita (just behind the Swiss). But what we get for all that money: 46 out of 48. Just when you were feeling sorry for those poor doctors who worked so hard to get through medical school for a mediocre $400,000 median income.

And then there’s that little nugget that health care is the number one cause of bankruptcy in the United States, in years when we weren’t crashing the world economy with our Too Big to Fail Recession and foreclosures led the pack. All indications are that those bankruptcies do not include any doctors who have been victimized by the impending socialization of their profession.

There are some who say that Obamacare is the worst thing to happen to the free world since the Nazis invaded Poland. And there are others who say that while the Affordable Care Act is imperfect, it’s an important start. A start on the long road to fixing our incredibly low standing in the world in a category that counts a heck of a lot more than Shaun White crashing in the Half-pipe.

No time like the present to get our priorities in order.

Next week – the socio-political significance of Bob Costas’ pink eyes.


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