Tuesday, October 30, 2012

'Thank You' Is Not Enough

DATELINE: WATCHING SANDY’S FALLOUT, AWESTRUCK – I am nowhere near the east coast, yet I have found myself watching what is happening there, worried about friends, acquaintances, their families, strangers... and am in awe of the men and women who, when logic says to stay inside and hunker down, are out there fighting the fires, rescuing the stranded, evacuating hospitals.

There was a storm surge of appreciation for first responders after 9-11, as there should have been. From time to time, after that, when there have been disasters of smaller magnitude, we remember them again. When we watch flag-draped coffins coming home from the Middle East, we pause for a moment, but maybe it’s time to do more than shed a tear and say thank you. In fact, there is no maybe about it.

For the past several months, we have been inundated with billions of dollars worth of election campaign ads. We have listened to the travails of the poor NHL players and team owners, as they work out multi-million dollar deals as if they are talking about chump change. How many hockey players were prepared to run into the World Trade Center, wearing full gear, knowing they had to go up every one of those steps while the building was burning, aware that the odds of coming out alive were, at best, marginal?

Last night, hospitals were evacuated under terrible conditions for everyone. Nurses, paramedics, firemen had to carry every patient out of the hospital, manually providing the breathing support or whatever else that person needed as they were lifted down many flights of stairs. This morning, in Maryland, there is a lake of raw sewage to be cleaned up – something that by itself would be a major disaster. You will not see Gary Bettman or his ilk in there helping.

Floyd Mayweather is a boxer. He earned $85 million dollars last year. What the hell did he do to earn that? Tiger Woods made $4.4M but also received $55M in endorsements last year... for walking around a field, hitting a little ball with a club. Since we are on the subject of hitting balls with sticks, ARod, #18 on the Forbes list of highest paid athletes of 2012, received $33 Million dollars... and they didn’t even make it to the Series. Yes, I do enjoy watching a baseball game. I see NOTHING done on that field that merits more payment to those men on the diamond than what the backbone of the military or the first responders receive, though.

Why are these athletes heroes? What the hell is wrong with our priorities that we place such an insane, obscene value on people who play a game, while those who pull on a uniform every day, without hesitation, then pick up a gun and stand a post to ensure the freedom and safety of the people of their country linger around the poverty line? Why the hell are these people, after dedicating their lives and their youth, and in many cases, their health, to the public good then forgotten, abandoned when they come home, because it might cost too much to give them what they need to survive?

Think about what the budget from just ONE NHL team could do to help those in need. Think about the children who could be fed. Think about the extra staff that could be hired for a hospital, or the books that could be bought for a school. What the hell does someone like Gary Bettman do for his $8M annually? Yes, sports are entertaining, but we need some fecking perspective. How does anyone justify riots in the streets because of a baseball win or a hockey loss? How does a team losing a game in any way equate to police cars being burned, buses being turned over, businesses being looted? We are this distraught over a god damned game yet we shrug when we hear of another soldier perishing while on duty.

While you watch the mudslinging this next week – and believe me, there will be billions of dollars worth of mud flying on the airwaves – or while you watch the latest update of the NHL strike, please take just one minute and think about the waste of money, the misguided values, the greed involved. Then, remember those who have died for you – who died for you without even knowing who you are, but knowing that the ideal of a free society is worth at least that, and did so knowing they would be paid barely enough to maintain a home. Remember the first responders who answered calls last night, who worked through the storm to help those who did not or could not help themselves, how they were prepared to do that for the greater good. Don’t waste your tears on missed hockey games. There are much more substantial issues, and people, to cry over.

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