The Obamacare rollout and the NFL's attempt to curb concussions both face a bit of an uphill climb in effective communication. No matter how much money or makeup they put on their problems, neither actually addresses the issue directly.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell recently attempted to gloss over the NFL's safety standards with expert TV show host Dr. Oz. The two were in Chicago recently, during the “Football Safety Clinic for Moms” performance. According to the AP, one doctor on the panel, made up mostly of former Chicago Bears players, said, “Boys like to hit things” and that without the ability to properly channel their aggression, could end up driving too fast or drinking too much. When a mother asked if a 5-year-old is too young to play football, the panel seemed unsure, saying it was up to each parent to decide for themselves, a strange response given the research. “No questions,” is what a security guard told a reporter attempting to ask Goodell about the vague, lack of solid medical facts for those in attendance.
The farce continued.
Instructors got on the field to demonstrate proper tackling. "I line up my front foot right in the middle of my target, and why?" One of the instructors reportedly asked during a demonstration. "So I can put my head to the side and make the tackle safely."
What kind of Jedi mind trick is that? It's the players' fault for not tackling properly?
The ridiculous assertion that a football player can simply put his foot directly in the middle of a 250 pound running back's path, or perfectly time a hit on a wideout running a 4.4 across the middle is as absurd as thinking our healthcare – which treats, rather than prevents – will make us a healthier society. Neither accounts for prevention of the most prevalent problems, merely solutions to make them more manageable.
For example, in DC, while our government is busy shutting down over how we implement healthcare, they subsidize the entities which make us less healthy. Our big farms and monoculture ways of growing pesticide-ridden crops are unhealthy for us and the environment, destroying the soil in which they grow, while we pay big oil companies to transport those same crops an average of 1,500 miles. This environmentally unsustainable system translates into unhealthy food being cheaper to buy, which wouldn’t be the case if people ate healthier, local foods. Research shows the key to many of our chronic conditions is diet.
But this typical in the game where it’s all about the money. If we don't need big oil as much, they have less money for politicians. If the NFL slows the game down, and actually becomes safer, requiring tackling to be less impactful, the result might not be as exciting, and ratings might (gasp) fall.
But these aren't the conversations we're having. Instead, we're fighting over the band aids. Obamacare will, at least, ensure more people, prevent some astronomical medical costs, and insure children. But politicians are doing everything they can, from withholding funding to rejecting federal exchanges, to make it as inefficient and ineffective as possible, rather than working with the law or the website to improve it. The NFL is much further behind, rolling out ludicrous puppet shows to cover up the fact that there is a concussion problem – with adults and for children – rather than facing it head on.
The rub is that there is an inevitable conclusion to the NFL's problem. Parents are already beginning to steer clear of football as more learn about injuries and long-term symptoms. And soccer, the second most-popular sport behind football, for males 18-24, is gaining mainstream support, moving parents to likely choose the safer activity.
And in the political realm, there is a ray of light in this puddle of unhealthy mud. In Kentucky, Governor Steve Beshear dodged his state representatives' attempt to defund office space he’d lined up to implement Obamacare. He created his own version of the Obamacare website, taking all the gloss and marketing from the main, major, issue-burdened version. Stripping it down and rewriting the text to a sixth grade level, the simpler site moved nearly half of Kentucky's uninsured citizens to check out the market, making it by far, the most successful run in the country.
Common sense will always override idiots and confusion. If parents can decide what’s best for their children, and rogue governors are brave and proactive enough to make visionary moves, then maybe there’s hope for health in America.
Or perhaps they're all just hoping we played football when we were five years-old.