Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind

Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

Cape Cod

Random Thoughts 16 May 2010

Bob Ryan, the great Boston Globe sportswriter, is famous for a writing style in which he simply jots down short little “thoughlets”. He basically just throws out whatever’s on his mind, expanding on some thoughts, and just letting others dangle, tiny little flags sent up the flagpole. If you’ve ever read him, and if you pay attention, you notice that he occasionally revisits these “thoughtlets” with a much deeper examination.  This technique or style has been ripped off by countless other sportswriters, usually without attribution.

Over the course of my day-to-day life I find myself interested in countless little ideas, tiny thoughts, or random observations. Not all of them are worthy of the full attention of the “Restless Mind”, but I think a lot of them really  ARE interesting, and I really hate to lose  them. So I thought on occasion I, too, would steal this technique from Mr. Ryan, only I am going to openly acknowledge that it’s his, and openly thank him for giving me the idea. So, without further ado, here are some  random thoughts banging around between my ears…

1.)  Lacrosse.  I am absolutely up to my eyeballs in lacrosse this weekend, and loving every minute of it. My son Randy had a  game yesterday, and looking back I realized that I spent at least six hours in front of ESPNU watching NCAA lacrosse as well. It’s really a fantastic sport. I’m a little guy, and lacrosse would’ve been a great sport for me when I was younger. Unfortunately, I didn’t come upon lacroses until I was a high school junior, and I didn’t get a chance to actually play lacrosse until I was in college. I was a pretty typical football player turned lacrosse player — great wheels, no stick. I was a defensive midfielder before the position actually  existed. “Hey, Darrell, see that kid over there? Yeah, that one. The one who knows how to play lacrosse. Go beat the crap out of him and don’t let him score!” Yup, I was THAT guy.

When my oldest son, Danny, started playing in junior high school I rekindled my love for the game. I’ve been telling people for years that lacrosse is the perfect game for boys. You get to do everything your mother ever told you NOT to do: you get to run with a stick, and you get to HIT people with! Seriously, how good is THAT?! It’s funny, though, because it’s exactly this part of the sport that is putting this wonderful, lovely game at risk in our local public high school.

You see, our athletic director is concerned that lacrosse is inherently a dangerous sport. He’s concerned that the injury rate is, or will be, much higher than all other sports simply because it’s lacrosse. I don’t think that’s the case. As a matter of fact, after watching very high level lacrosse on television this weekend, I’m convinced it’s not the case. I say this after having watched my youngest son, Randy, get the snot beaten out of him in his last three games (Randy is an attackman who plays the “X.” position; he has the ball an awful lot making him an inviting target).

What the athletic director is actually seeing it is a rather unskilled version of the game. As such it’s really not any different from unskilled versions of any other contact sport. Who among us hasn’t seen an unskilled basketball team rough up the team made of five extremely skilled but rather slight hoopsters? Or the soccer team that consists of brutes, muscling their opponents off the ball? Or the classic example, the hockey team whose tactics consist largely of muggings on skates? No, it’s not the game. Lacrosse is no more or nor no less injury-prone than any other contact sport.

It’s really quite beautiful, and I have to make sure our athletic director realizes this.

2.)  Women’s lacrosse. If you love men’s lacrosse you’ve probably watched a game or two of women’s lacrosse. While I write this I’m watching the Virginia women beat Towson State in a playoff game. They have lacrosse sticks, they shoot at 6′ x 6′ goals, and the ball spends an awful lot of time in the air being passed from player to player. The similarities seem to end there, though. It’s a totally different game!

I’m I’m reminded of watching my sister play field hockey in high school. Man, talk about a game with lots and lots of rules, totally impenetrable to all but the chosen few who have been initiated in some secret athletic rite. I could never figure out why any whistle was blown in field hockey, and I have to confess that I’m just as bewildered watching women’s lacrosse. The women are very fast, clearly elite athletes, and they’re certainly holding lacrosse sticks and shooting at lacrosse goals.

I hope I figure out women’s lacrosse in less time than it took me to figure out field hockey!

3.) There was a  very insightful article, an interview of the great economist Gary Becker in the Wall Street Journal couple of weeks ago. Becker touched on all kinds of topics, and spent a little bit of time on one that’s very close to my world, namely healthcare economics. He’s a little frustrated, heck were ALL a little frustrated by the willful obfuscation foisted upon the great unwashed mass of humanity that doesn’t work inside the Washington DC beltway when it comes to health care economics.

A case in point is the effect of out-of-pocket expenses on the overall amount of money that is spent on healthcare in any given country. In the United States we presently spend about 17% of our GDP on healthcare. Out-of-pocket expenses make up only about 12% of total health-care spending. In Switzerland, however, a country widely acclaimed for a very effective health care system, and equally acclaimed for spending only 11% of GDP on healthcare, the Swiss have out-of-pocket expenses equal to about 31% of total spending.

Swiss consumers of medical care are assumed to  have the ability to make complex medical decisions on their own behalf. Do you think maybe, just MAYBE there is a correlation here? Do you think that perhaps the fact that Swiss patients individually own 31% of the skin in the game has anything to do with driving overall healthcare costs lower? That perhaps the fact that every healthcare transaction is roughly 1/3 the responsibility of a patient, thereby involving every single patient in the financial aspects of every single health care decision, might be in part responsible for a lower percentage of the GDP being spent on healthcare?

Nah. Couldn’t be that.

4.)  Aches and pains. My partner Greg Kaye turned 41 years old this week. Greg actually handled the “turning 41” part much better than I did 50, only finding it difficult over the last month or so. Greg is also a former athlete, just a little less  “former” then yours truly. But Greg has struggled over the last month or so because of a couple of nagging injuries which have limited his athletic exploits, and consequently reminded him that he is no longer 21.

I’ve got pretty much the same chronic infirmities that I’ve had for several years. I’ve made my peace with them, at least I think I have. The difference for me now is that every time something new crops up I’m having a hard time putting aside the thought that it’s not just a little niggling effect of being 50 years old, but that it might actually be something serious. I’m starting to see friends, and friends of friends die. Some of them are dying from common things, and some of them are dying from relatively uncommon, weird things. I have a little bruise on my trachea right now. In all likelihood that’s all it is. The good news: I probably won’t put a tie on for a week or so. The bad news: until I put a tie back on I’m going to be wondering.

We used to call this “medical students disease”, the phenomenon where every medical student came down with whatever disease we happen to be studying at the time. I apparently was never cured of “medical students disease”!

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