So many players, so few roster spaces.
This is the enviable position of the once and future kings of soccer, as Brazil prepares to hold the 2014 World Cup.
So blessed in talent is Brazil that it could afford to leave its old guard – Ronaldinho, Kaká and Robinho, with a total of 276 international matches -- off the 23-player roster when Brazil filed its list on Wednesday, well before deadline.
Luiz Felipe Scolari did not feel the need to include a couple of the oldies for their vestigial wisdom, the muscle memory of how to win a World Cup game.
Contrast this – and you knew where I was heading on this – with the United States, which is still dithering in the weeks before fail-safe time. Coach Jürgen Klinsmann was originally going to camp with only 23 players but now he has invited 30 players to the final training session before he has to commit. Prudent, admirable, pragmatic – and telling.
Whereas Big Phil can stock up his front line with Bernard (Shakhtar Donetsk of Ukraine), Fred (Fluminense of Brazil), Hulk (Zenit Saint-Petersburg of Russia), Jo (Atletico Mineiro of Brazil), and Neymar (Barcelona of Spain), and say “Muito Obrigado” to the aforementioned elders, Klinsmann is taking a long, last look at his talent pool.
This long lingering – poking at the tomatoes in the green- grocer’s display case – indicates Klinsmann is not comfortable with the backbone of the team that produced the epic 91st-minute goal against Algeria in the 2010 World Cup. The USA -- for all the Joshes and Jennifers and the pink pylons (one of my favorite rock groups, by the way) – has not produced the equivalent of a Neymar, going into his first World Cup with high expectations.
It is fairly obvious that Klinsmann is hesitant to go with the relay team of Howard (his spot safe, one assumes) to Donovan to Altidore to Dempsey-the-Flying-Wallenda and back to Donovan, which, let us not forget, got the US through to the knockout round.
However, Donovan has not scored a goal in his first six MLS games this season, and it seems that Klinsmann is still not sure about him since Donovan's brief forays in the Bundesliga. Meanwhile, Donovan is probably the best offensive player in USA history. And they need him.
The flirtation with Julian Green, not yet 19, with almost no international experience, for a roster spot in 2014 is close to insulting to players still close to their prime, whatever that is. But Klinsmann knows his business, and he is not rushing to emulate Big Phil and commit to a roster for the upcoming mission, onward, onward, into the Group of Death.
It is getting to be World Cup time, at any rate. Americans didn’t used to care about World Cup soccer rosters. Now they tweet second-guesses. This is known as progress.
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.