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Other Voices: What Texas editors are saying

Longview News-Journal - 12/29/2017

U.S. slipping backward

Nothing is more important than health, so consider this our recommendation for a nationwide New Year's resolution: End unnecessary deaths.

It has long been a given for advanced societies like the United States that our life expectancy will continue to improve. Each generation, as far as we've known, has a longer life span than the last one. In the popular mind, decreased life expectancy is tied to Third World countries battling epidemics or post-Soviet states reeling from collapse.

However, recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention should rock us out of our complacency. The average life expectancy in the United States declined in 2016 for the second consecutive year. That hasn't happened in more than a century.

"If you look at the other developed countries in the world, they're not seeing this kind of thing," said Bob Anderson, chief of the Mortality Statistics Branch at the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics. "Life expectancy is going up."

The CDC report shows that deaths caused by "unintentional injuries" were a key factor in pushing down life expectancy. A separate CDC report issued the same day made the cause of declining life expectancy clearer. Drug overdoses, particularly from opioids, increased by 21 percent between 2015 and 2016.

At current rates, more than 650,000 Americans will die of opioid overdoses in the coming decade.

That doesn't have to happen. The opioid issue is a public health crisis, and our nation has a long history of successfully combating public health crises, from polio to auto accidents to AIDS.

The fight against the opioid scourge must address two broad challenges: treating those already addicted and preventing future addiction. In what has been a bipartisan failure, we have not yet responded aggressively on either front. ...

More regulation and additional treatment are just part of the massive response required to address what is becoming a public health catastrophe in this country. The challenge is daunting, but solutions are feasible. Continuing on our current path is a death sentence for hundreds of thousands of our fellow Americans.

Cy-Fair's Christmas gift

Yes, Texas loves high school football, and sometimes with a passion that defies reason. Districts investing in palatial stadiums and handsomely paid coaches might face some tough questions in this era of state budget reductions.

Sometimes, though, a hometown team can unite a community like nothing else. And once in a blue moon, there's a game for the history books, a game to answer prayers, a game to make grown men weep tears of joy.

On Saturday, that game was played at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. The result: A Texas community still struggling to rebuild after Hurricane Harvey won the first state football title in its 78-year history.

The Bobcats of Cypress Fairbanks High beat Waco Midway to win the state's 6A Division II title. It was a Christmas weekend miracle for a school district that desperately needed a break.

The Bobcats had to cancel their first game of the season after floodwaters spawned by Harvey ruined entire neighborhoods served by the school district. Some school facilities were pressed into service as temporary shelters; others served free meals to students whose families were struggling to clean up and rebuild. ...

As the Bobcats started piling up wins this fall, everybody paid attention - even people who don't ordinarily follow high school football, and certainly folks with more pressing problems to worry about.

They watched and hoped and hung on every play. Neighbors spent grueling days ripping out ruined drywall and sodden carpets, but when they gathered on the sidewalk, they talked Bobcats football. ...

AT&T Stadium, the Dallas Cowboys' spectacular home field, hosted 12 UIL championship games over the holiday weekend; the title winners included Allen and Highland Park.

But none was watched more anxiously or celebrated more joyfully than the Bobcats' 51-35 victory. From start to finish, the showdown with Midway was dominated by the boys from Cy-Fair.

It was the first championship not only for the school, but for its 12-school home district. And it came, in the way a once-in-a-lifetime moment can, when it was needed the most.

"This championship wasn't just about football," cornerback Erick Hallett told the Houston Chronicle. "It was for everybody in Cypress."

No, a game won't restore your lost possessions or reopen your ruined business. It won't build you a new house.

It's just possible, though, that a high school football game can heal a lot of hearts. It was the Christmas present one Texas town needed most.



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