The level of soccer expertise is rising all over this huge country. In the past two days, while plugging my new soccer book – Eight World Cups -- I have done over 20 phone interviews with broadcasters from coast to coast – Richmond to Tulsa, Seattle to Orlando.
The level of knowledge and experience was high. Gone are the days of raising the hoary sportswriter cliché that Americans will never go for a sport in which players don’t use their hands. It’s a new generation, thanks to cable and the web, plus MLS and our men’s and women’s teams, and the great leagues of Europe.
Plus, we are acknowledging our own soccer heritage, now going back generations. For your enjoyment, here is a link to a lovely article by R.J. Young, an e-mail buddy of mine, in This Land Magazine, about Charlie Mitchell, the first player signed by the Tulsa Roughnecks of the NASL, and later the coach of the Tulsa team that beat the Cosmos in 1983 and then won the next-to-last title in that doomed league.
In recent days, broadcasters around the country told me about matches they have seen. I was too busy babbling to take notes and names, but one recalled his first match (scoreless, Swindon Town at Sunderland) and another recalled getting hooked on a match at West Ham. Another compared notes with me about the Honduras-USA match in Soldiers Field in Chicago in 2009 – how the crowd was easily half Honduran (or maybe that was just the decibel count.)
Everybody wanted to talk about Jürgen Klinsmann’s omission of Landon Donovan from the USA squad. (Most think Klinsi is flat wrong.)
And just about everybody wanted to know about the “dark side” of my subtitle – FIFA’s greasy stewardship, the messy awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, and whether the tournament would be moved to, oh, say, the USA. (No way, I said, read my book as to why.)
It’s a new age. Americans have absorbed soccer. At the very least, America is preparing for its giant quadrennial party. And as soccer keeps growing, many commentators will keep people informed
(URGENT AS OF FRIDAY PM: The Steve Kornacki show had to cancel for Saturday because hard news raised its head. We hope to reschedule.
On Saturday I am taping an interview with Al-Jazeera. More information to come.
However, while in Boston I had a great interview with Bill Littlefield of Only a Game on WBUR. I am told it will air sometime Saturday, at different times on NPR. Please consult local listings.)
And on Monday, I am taping an appearance with John Schaefer of WNYC, the host of the stimulating New Sounds show. What do I have to do with music? Good question.
Please consult the Appearances box, to the left, for other appearances.)
Measuring Covid Deaths, by David Leonhardt. July 17, 2023. NYT online.
The United States has reached a milestone in the long struggle against Covid: The total number of Americans dying each day — from any cause — is no longer historically abnormal….
After three horrific years, in which Covid has killed more than one million Americans and transformed parts of daily life, the virus has turned into an ordinary illness.
The progress stems mostly from three factors:
First, about three-quarters of U.S. adults have received at least one vaccine shot.
Second, more than three-quarters of Americans have been infected with Covid, providing natural immunity from future symptoms. (About 97 percent of adults fall into at least one of those first two categories.)
Third, post-infection treatments like Paxlovid, which can reduce the severity of symptoms, became widely available last year.
“Nearly every death is preventable,” Dr. Ashish Jha, who was until recently President Biden’s top Covid adviser, told me. “We are at a point where almost everybody who’s up to date on their vaccines and gets treated if they have Covid, they rarely end up in the hospital, they almost never die.”
That is also true for most high-risk people, Jha pointed out, including older adults — like his parents, who are in their 80s — and people whose immune systems are compromised. “Even for most — not all but most —immuno-compromised people, vaccines are actually still quite effective at preventing against serious illness,” he said. “There has been a lot of bad information out there that somehow if you’re immuno-compromised that vaccines don’t work.”
That excess deaths have fallen close to zero helps make this point: If Covid were still a dire threat to large numbers of people, that would show up in the data.
One point of confusion, I think, has been the way that many Americans — including we in the media — have talked about the immuno-compromised. They are a more diverse group than casual discussion often imagines.
Most immuno-compromised people are at little additional risk from Covid — even people with serious conditions, such as multiple sclerosis or a history of many cancers. A much smaller group, such as people who have received kidney transplants or are undergoing active chemotherapy, face higher risks.
Covid’s toll, to be clear, has not fallen to zero. The C.D.C.’s main Covid webpage estimates that about 80 people per day have been dying from the virus in recent weeks, which is equal to about 1 percent of overall daily deaths.
The official number is probably an exaggeration because it includes some people who had virus when they died even though it was not the underlying cause of death. Other C.D.C. data suggests that almost one-third of official recent Covid deaths have fallen into this category. A study published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases came to similar conclusions.
Dr. Shira Doron, the chief infection control officer at Tufts Medicine in Massachusetts, told me that “age is clearly the most substantial risk factor.” Covid’s victims are both older and disproportionately unvaccinated. Given the politics of vaccination, the recent victims are also disproportionately
Republican and white.
Each of these deaths is a tragedy. The deaths that were preventable — because somebody had not received available vaccines and treatments — seem particularly tragic. (Here’s a Times guide to help you think about when to get your next booster shot.)
From the great Maureen Dowd:
As I write this, I’m in a deserted newsroom in The Times’s D.C. office. After working at home for two years during Covid, I was elated to get back, so I could wander around and pick up the latest scoop.
But in the last year, there has been only a smattering of people whenever I’m here, with row upon row of empty desks. Sometimes a larger group gets lured in for a meeting with a platter of bagels."
--- Dowd writes about the lost world of journalists clustered in newsrooms at all hours, smoking, drinking, gossipping, making phone calls, typing, editing.
"Putting out the paper," we called it.
Much more than nostalgia.