Before the Super Bowl, I had huge issues of conscience about watching when I wasn’t being paid to cover it. However, it worked out because I witnessed the worst “strategy” I can recall from any major sporting event.
“They’ll just give it to the big guy,” I said as the Seahawks lined up on the 5-yard line with time to run four plays. Of course, Marshawn Lynch would lug it in. But the Seahawks’ offensive coordinator and head coach agreed on a second-down pass from the 1, and it was picked off, boggling the sports-savvy watchers, two of them Fleahawks fans.
I’ll leave the details to reporters who were there. I just want to say that in over 50 years of covering sports, I have never seen a decision that bad.
I’ve seen botched passes in the final seconds of basketball title games, pitches that got away in the World Series. I saw Harold Snepsts of Vancouver fire a cross-ice pass that wound up on the lethal stick of Mike Bossy, in a Stanley Cup game. I saw the referee totally miss (or ignore) the blatant Hand of God punched “goal” by Diego Maradona in the 1986 World Cup. I wasn't there, honest, but Babe Ruth, a very heady player, was thrown out trying to steal second for the last out of the 1926 World Series.
I can also think of coaches and managers making personnel decisions that backfired – Grady Little leaving Pedro Martinez in too long and paying with his job in 2003; the Dodgers’ choosing Ralph Branca instead of Carl Erskine in 1951; the bullpen coach, a fine man named Clyde Sukeforth, was scapegoated; my man Butch Van Breda Kolff kept Wilt Chamberlain on the bench in the final moments of an NBA championship game because Wilt had said he had a sore knee; Butch paid with his job. What happens to a very good coaching staff that puts the ball in the air with three downs and more than a minute to go, at the goal line?
The game was better than all the other stuff. John Travolta’s favorite singer sounds like chalk scratching on the blackboard. The half-time show was an open invitation to walk the dog, even if you don’t have one. And the commercials went nowhere. I laughed harder at Flo in a Salem-witch gig on the Progressive ad Monday morning.
Nevertheless, I’m glad I watched the Super Bowl. It’s like eating fried foods -- makes you appreciate healthier fare.
Pitchers and catchers!
(Here's what I wrote Saturday when facing my dilemma.)
After consulting theologians, ethicists, lawyers and soothsayers, I have concluded that I will not be committing a grave moral sin if I watch the Super Bowl on Sunday.
Since I normally denigrate pro football (and college football), it would seem hypocritical to watch the big game. However, I can justify it on these grounds:
1. I will be watching with actual fans. Laura and Diane moved back from Seattle recently with an attachment to the team they fondly call the Fleahawks. They know about the players and the coaches and bring real sports knowledge to the strategy. I don’t think I’ve ever watched a Super Bowl with fans. I’ve either been in the neutral press box or, semi-secretly, watched at home, purely for the sociological experience. To watch with authentic fans should be, how to say this, interesting.
2. I’m really only watching for the commercials. This has been my rationalization in other years when I hunkered down at home. The game takes forever, often is a dud, but I am entranced by the new and expensive commercials, sometimes crude and stupid, sometimes even touching, like the Eminem automobile spot a few years back, using Detroit’s struggle as the theme. Plus, I love the energy and pulchritude – young women in bathing suits in the frozen North. Most commercials I see on a certain liberal-bias news-chatter channel refer to maladies of the aging – things that don’t work very well anymore. This will be a relief to watch healthy young folks.
3. This could be a morality play. What with the deflated footballs, one could work up a good-vs-evil theme here, although that is always tricky when football coaches are involved. Still, feel free.
4. Let’s be honest: the athleticism is tremendous. The only football I watched all season was a Seattle playoff three weeks ago. I watched a receiver propel himself toward the corner, rotate in mid-air, and plant the ball on the flag for a touchdown, just before he crashed to earth. Huge defensive linemen performed balletic turns. Quarterbacks read defenses with half a ton about to fall on them. I get it.
5. The Super Bowl is essentially a rite of passage into spring training. The Los Angeles Dodgers stage workouts in their pastel stadium and photos go out all over the world, spreading the good news that darkness will pass and light will return. Pitchers and catchers in a few weeks. Hang on.
6. Plus, the snacks will be good.
My wife says football is still stupid, people destroying their brains and bodies. The league never much cared until forced to, recently. Hard to forget that. Still, for therapeutic purposes, I have granted myself a dispensation to watch the Super Bowl.
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.