It all started when my sister and I got to talking about the up-coming Olympics. I used to enjoy them when ABC presented each day’s events as a tightly packaged three-hour narrative, complete with villains (usually the Russian, French, or East German judges) and myriad heroes, whether they were the known champions who saw years of hard work paying off, or the dark horses who surprised everyone by appearing out of nowhere. While I may not like my news packaged, I don’t mind it at all when it comes to my Olympics.
Now that the Olympics seem to be 24 hours a day, with a fairly random presentation, I’m overwhelmed and, barring something spectacular (such as Michael Phelps’ amazing run of gold medals), I don’t have the patience for it.
Having determined to our mutual satisfaction that we both feel the same way about the Olympics, my sister offered me an interesting factual tidbit: “I’ve heard,” she said, “that they’re thinking of adding Mixed Martial Arts to the Olympics, but the people opposing it say that it’s little better than dog fighting.”
My hackles went up instantly — not at her, but at the people who would say that.
“First off,” I said, “professional MMA is a voluntary activity.
“Second, these guys perceive themselves as warriors
victims, not victims warriors. [That was a heck of a dyslexic mistake, wasn't it?]
“And third, while they get a lot of injuries, I bet the injuries are less serious than football. It’s the whole ‘moral hazard’ thing — the more you insulate people from known risks, the more dangerous their behavior is.
“Think of the difference between football and rugby. The rugby guys get seriously trashed with superficial injuries to most parts of their bodies, but the lack of helmets mean that they don’t lead with their heads. You therefore don’t hear about head and spine injuries with rugby players.
“With football players, though, the helmets and padding mean that the league has relied on increasingly large players, who use increasingly aggressive pressure on the opposition. The injuries can be deep and profound.
“MMA’s the same thing — the guys tear up their knees and shoulders, which is a bad thing, but not life threatening. It’s a risk they ought be allowed to take. And they’re grown men, which means that they’re probably getting a lot less trashed than all those little gymnastics, who have been taking enormous risks with aerial activities, not to mention the bone stress and eating disorders.”
Clearly, I was on a roll. Fortunately, I was preaching to the choir, since my sister just said, “Well, you know that the safest communities are those with the least police presence.”
“That sounds right to me,” I responded. “After all, no one is going to care as much about protecting you and your loved ones as you are. Provided, of course, that the authorities haven’t taken your weapons away. You know that old saying: when seconds count, the police are minutes away.”
“Yeah,” she answered. “Look at Chicago. They have this insane crime rate and they already have one of highest ratios of police officers per citizen in America. So the City is going to hire more than a thousand police officers, as if that’s going to work.”
“It’s just like teachers, isn’t it?” I offered. “We keep being told that our failing schools will get better if we hire more teachers, even though there’s no evidence that this approach works. More than that, it ignores the fact that, back in the day when you and I were in school, our classrooms routinely had 35-40 students per teacher, and our test scores and overall education was just as high as now, if not higher.”
“That’s right,” said my sister. “They never look at whether the teachers are teaching a smart way, or whether politics is interfering with education.”
She and I ended our conversation then, quite satisfied with each other.
But here’s the problem: Were we right about anything we said? Is rugby safer than football when it comes to serious (brain and spine) injuries versus superficial (teeth, nose, elbows, knees, etc.) injuries? Are the safest communities in America those with the least police presence? Does Chicago really have one of the highest rates of police per citizen? And do today’s students really know less than students in the 60s and 70s, or have our expectations gone up since then?
These are good questions and we probably should have known the answers before we started talking. As it is, I’m simply too lazy today to check whether my facts are right. And in keeping with my previous post, “When ignorance is bliss, ’tis folly to be wise.” Since every issue resolved itself so neatly, why in the world would I want to mess up my nice little conversation with actual, possibly different, facts?