OPINION COLUMNS

It’s never been easy to stay on top

By Bob Buckel | Published Saturday, October 6, 2012

In June of 2010, just a little over two years ago, Michael Young became the Texas Rangers’ all-time hits leader. I remember the Star-Telegram doing an interview with Young shortly thereafter, and they asked him to name the most exciting game he’d ever experienced in a Rangers uniform.

He picked a game played Sept. 24, 2004, when David Delucci had a game-winning hit against the Oakland A’s to pull Texas to within two games of first with 10 games to play.

At the time of that interview, the Rangers’ all-time hits leader had never played in a postseason game.

Since then, he’s played in two World Series.

This year, the Rangers lost their season-long division lead to the A’s on the last day of the season. They’re still in the playoffs at this writing, but fans were bitterly disappointed they didn’t win their third straight division title.

How quickly expectations can change!

Then there’s the Cowboys. The franchise has been to the NFL’s championship game eight times and won five rings, but did you know that in the last 16 seasons, they’ve been to the postseason only seven times, and they’re 2-7? There are 16-year-olds who can’t understand why everybody still makes such a big deal about ‘dem Cowboys – a mediocre team that usually misses the playoffs or exits early.

Why is the expectation of success still so strong, after all these years?

One of the beauties of sports is to supply us with lessons we can apply to other areas of life.

In the perspective of history, the U.S. being the world’s economic leader is a fairly recent development. We began to emerge early in the 20th century, but only came into our own during and after World War II, when Europe lay in ruins and half of it was under Soviet dominion.

The United States led the world’s recovery from war. We rebuilt Germany and Japan, and the world looked to us for leadership. It seemed that all roads to prosperity ran through this country.

The landscape has changed a lot since then, and it changes faster today than ever.

Recently in an annual listing of the world’s “most competitive” economies, the U.S. slipped again – to seventh place. We trail Switzerland, Singapore, Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands and Germany.

As recently as four years ago, we led this list. Now places like Hong Kong (9th) and Japan (10th) are gaining on us, and Brazil, India and Russia are moving up quickly.

The U.S. is still a huge economy. But the world doesn’t look like it did in 1945, any more than today’s Cowboys still look like the ‘Boys Tom Landry coached.

Neither teams, nor countries, can afford to ride past glories into the future.

Here’s where the U.S. ranks in a few more categories:

  • Starting a business? We’re 13th, according to the World Bank.
  • Freedom of the press? We rank 47th.
  • International trade? 20th
  • Economic freedom? We’re 10th according to The Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal.

The list goes on. We’re 25th among 43 developing countries for the best place to be a mother, and we’re only the 11th-happiest country in the world. There are 21 countries better than America in freedom from corruption, and the U.S. was ranked 24th in perceived honesty. America also ranked 39th in income inequality and only 47th in infant survival.

We’re 50th in life expectancy and our GDP growth rate is ranked 169th out of 216 countries.

Why all the bad news? It’s not because I don’t love my country, but because I do. I just feel compelled to remind everyone, here at election time, that in nations as well as in sports, it truly is a “What-have-you-done-for-me-lately?” world.

I certainly don’t want the U.S.A. to become the next Cowboys.

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