It is still the beautiful game, despite the stunted, amoral people who run FIFA. The headquarters will be fumigated, but the sport prevails, still capable of spontaneous beauty. .
Don’t confuse the larceny of the executives, now exposed by the American – American! – justice system, with the talents exhibited in front of the world. Americans used to observe the violence in the stands and streets and blame it on a sport in which ten players cannot use their hands. Now they know better. And their legal system is dredging up the real problem with the world's favorite sport. .
The game belongs to the Messis and the Iniestas, the Moratas and the Pirlos, the sprites and playmakers who make a ball do tricks. The game belongs to the young men and women who would play like the world stars. Far too many so-called leaders in FIFA have apparently kited revenue that belonged to the children of the earth.
But the game will go on, with the men taking a very brief rest from the ruinous schedule approved by FIFA. The women take over for their World Cup, under way in Canada.
The Champions League final in Berlin on Saturday was a fitting way to end this tumultuous season. In the morning, I heard from friends all over the soccer diaspora, gearing up for the game. Most of us figured Barcelona, with its three wriggly forwards and all those weapons behind,would win the title. What’s not to like about Barca?
Still, my wannabe Italian made me lean toward Juventus, even after watching La Vecchia Signora getting all kinds of strange calls from referees in far too many 89th minutes of Serie A over the years. With no personal favorite club in world soccer, I found myself rooting for Juve's charismatic keeper, Gigi Buffon, and its stoic bearded midfielder Andrea Pirlo who makes better passes and free kicks than just about anybody I have ever seen. I confess this to friends who root for Roma and Fiorentina and AC Milan and all the rest. Mi dispiace.
Then they played the game, with Barcelona performing the weave offense like some old-time basketball team in the black-and-white newsreels. Remember, this is the sport that was maligned, a generation ago, in the United States for its reliance on feet. Iniesta and Messi and the rest control a ball with their feet better than I peck away on my strange new iPhone. They wore down Juve, and won, 3-1.
Now, while the lads take their mini-vacations, the women play on artificial turf -- an insult from the home office in Zurich. Who got paid what for that decision?
By some strange form of FIFA bureaucracy, Sepp Blatter still works out of the Zurich bunker while FIFA seeks new leaders who can be trusted with the world sport. There is no lack of charisma and skill. Soccer’s deficit would seem to be honesty.
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.