It has taken nearly a month of mourning, but I am finally paying attention to baseball again.
The World Series has gotten interesting, after five games. Anything can happen, just like in real life.
Of course, my avid interest in the fifth game may have come from fear and withdrawal, because of the assorted ghouls floating in late October air -- fright masks of Donald Trump and Anthony Weiner, perfectly matched, like twin Rasputins, scoundrels that never go away.
Seeing Weiner crawl out of the crypt (with help from the FBI) to invigorate his soul brother from the other party drove me to watch the fifth game Sunday night.
Before the Series began, I wrote on another site that I had no dog in this fight,
since the gallant Mets went down in the wild-card game. That still goes.
(Hard to feel much sympathy for a franchise that traded Lou Brock or a franchise that traded Rocky Colavito. Then again, I root for a franchise that, gulp, traded Nolan Ryan.)
It would be easy to rationalize being a National League fan and root for a team that has not won a World Series since 1908, but what’s another year or 20? I also root for the Rust Belt, for old river towns like Pittsburgh and Cincinnati -- and Cleveland would qualify for underdog status ahead of Chicago.
But that’s not the point. Escapism is the point.
Things I have noticed about this Series:
Jason Kipnis of Cleveland personified the ambiguities of this Series after his three-run homer Saturday. He’s from a Chicago suburb, and would not exult on TV about what it would mean to win a World Series. He’s going home, either way, after the Series, and did not want to insult his home town. Nice guy.
I love the antiquity of Wrigley Field (blessedly still named after the chewing-gum family that used to own the team, not cursed anew with some geeky corporate logo.)
Wrigley is one of only four ball parks in which pitchers warm up in foul territory, bless its heart. The Cleveland bullpen was slow to clear out for Jason Heyward to chase a wind-blown popup in the first inning Sunday night.
I flashed back to Pat Pieper, the public-address announcer for half a century, who worked on the field, behind home plate. And I noticed the low-slung brick wall behind home plate from when my Brooklyn Dodgers traveled to meet Bill (Swish) Nicholson back in the day.
I love Wrigley the way I love Fenway Park – a reminder of the past. But that doesn’t mean I am rooting for the Cubs.
Pardon my smirk, but I love the two recent Yankees dominating out of the bullpen – lefty Andrew Miller of the Indians and righty Aroldis Chapman of the Reds.
This is the time of year for Mr. October (Reggie) and Mr. November (Derek.) Now these two ex-Bronxites will be rested for longish duty in the sixth game. The Yankees won’t know if they made good deals, unloading these relievers for young talent, for several years, so this Series must be a lot of fun for Yankee fans, what with A-Rod preening in the overcrowded Fox gallery.
(How I miss the Mets’ broadcasters, known commodities, not overloading the listener with detail and gab.)
Any World Series only gets really interesting when it goes to a sixth game, full of developed plot lines, when anything can happen from here on in. For somebody who has been taking a month off in sympathy for the injured Mets, these are fresh faces, fresh arms.
Thanks to long-suffering Cleveland and long-suffering Chicago and the long slog of post-season baseball for prolonging the World Series, for giving another day or three of diversion from twin Halloween horrors.
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.