By Dr. Jim Ferguson

Friends invited Becky and me to the recent UT-Vandy game. It had been several years since our last visit to Neyland Stadium. Becky and I are both graduates of UT, and she was a cheerleader! Both of us still cheer for our Vols, and when they win it’s good for the fans and our community.

Our friends went elsewhere to college, and wanted to know if the pomp and pageantry surrounding current football games was different in 1969. “Oh yes,” I said. “Only Neyland’s gridiron remains similar.” When we were in college we went to football games in coat and tie, if not suits, and at Homecoming our dates wore orange and white corsages. The public address system was used to announce the down and yardage and to page doctors to call the doctor’s exchange because there were no pagers or cell phones in those days.

Today’s Neyland Stadium sports a booming sound system and Jumbotron so emblematic of our modern era. We went to a Tennessee Titan’s game about ten years ago and I was struck by the long TV delays which disrupted the flow of the game. I never noticed this as a TV viewer, perhaps because I was running to the refrigerator or the loo during commercial breaks. Similarly, it seems awkward watching the Vols standing around during TV delays. The obvious influence of lucrative TV coverage caused me to reconsider how professional are UT sports; this is anything but “amateur” athletics.

Sports are big business at UT – at least with football and basketball programs. One could argue that these sports are the minor leagues of professional football and basketball. The students may not receive a paycheck, but they receive payment in-kind. I googled tuition at UT Knoxville. Along with room and board and other expenses it costs $28,000 a year if you are a resident of Tennessee and $46,000 a year if you are out-of-state. Many athletes are given full scholarships and can graduate with an education and little or no debt. And a few gain enough experience to become “real” professionals.

Education is big business everywhere these days. The admonition is for everyone to at least attend junior college or community college, sometimes to learn what they failed to learn in high school. Pitches to attend online universities or to pursue an MBA (masters in business administration) are ubiquitous. But, are there jobs available for these students when they graduate? And can you earn a living with a degree in psychology? Will students be able to pay off their educational loans or will the one trillion dollar student debt have to be “forgiven” and transferred to the 19 trillion dollar national debt? Obama was once asked this question by a young black female medical student. He gave no answer.

I counted seven cranes over UT the other day. It seems our university, like local banks, has plenty of money to build in an otherwise limping economy. Willie Horton robbed banks because he said, “That where the money is.” Perhaps it’s the same with universities supported by students taking loans they may never be able to repay.

Have you seen the scaffolding over the Capitol in Washington DC? Perhaps  they’re using some of the 780 billion dollars from Obama’s Stimulus program in this “infrastructure” work. Nah, that money has long gone into non-existent “shovel ready” jobs and into the pockets and coffers of cronies. The refurbishing of our Capitol may have been necessary. I just wish that some of the money had been used to refurbish the broken system and scoundrels within, especially the reprobate Senate.

To me, Washington DC is much like Panem, the fictitious and corrupt capitol in the Hunger Games trilogy. All the labors of the nation pour into the seat of power and corruption which has become Washington.

A facade is a false front on a building or one’s persona. An example is a Hollywood star’s pretty face. The screen face does not necessarily equate with reality. Someone can be fetching, yet vacuous. Similarly, a person’s appearance might cause you to pre-judge them such as with Susan Boyle, the lady who blew away everyone with her magnificent rendition of “I had a Dream” from Les Mis.

These days we see the results of liberal-progressive political correctness run amok on college campuses. Our “children” can no longer stand to hear opinions contrary to those taught by utopian dons. True liberalism is not opposed to new ideas or ways that might be non-traditional. The delicate students at Princeton, Yale and Mizzou require “safe zones” where they can flee to escape what they deem “hurtful” language or opinions. These students have been educated with the facade of reality. Apparently, they were never taught that, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” However, they did learn the lessons of intolerance and illiberalism.

Medicine is not immune to the facade of care. An example is the annual wellness visit. In fact, an entire cottage industry has been built for data collection by physician extenders on the guise of better care. Patient information which was previously collected by those physicians worth their salt, is now collected and recorded by para-medical personnel at huge expense, and then posted to electronic records for our government to peruse. I was a founder of a large medical group some years ago. The required participation in the government mandated annual wellness program was the last straw which drove me into semi-retirement and a concierge medical practice “off the grid.”

I’ve been thinking about conscience lately, which C.S. Lewis called the sense of “ought.” Why do I care about others or our country? I believe conscience is the answer and is another manifestation of God (see other manifestations in my essay, Quaking, October 12, 2015).

Francis Collins was the head of the Human Genome Project and now heads the National Institutes of Health. In his book The Language of God he posits that conscience is written upon our DNA. But how did this happen? It is beyond simple evolutionary explanations. A soldier does not throw himself on a grenade to save his comrade’s progeny as atheists have posited.

The Master’s touch is not a facade like those of man. It is real and there for those with eyes to see. And it is the reason for the season.