Han Solo was a character in Star Wars. I never understood the plot, couldn’t figure out who was on whose side, but I did understand a human (Harrison Ford), out there trying to right wrongs, or whatever he was up to.
That brings me to goalkeepers. They are a different breed, most of them lone rangers, wearing bizarre costumes and sporadically called upon to save the day. Hours of tedium, moments of terror, as somebody said about pilots.
A few great keepers are phlegmatic, like Dino Zoff of Italy, but many more are expressive lunatics, like Gigi Buffon, also of the Azzurri. They scream at their teammates. They disrupt the opposition.
The United States goes into the final of the Women’s World Cup against Japan on Sunday relying on Hope Solo, not to be confused with Han Solo, although maybe yes. Some people think she should not be representing her country because of allegations of a family brawl, but I don’t think her case is comparable to the Ray Rice affair.
Solo will be in goal on Sunday, perhaps to replicate the brash tactics by Briana Scurry that helped win the WWC in 1999. Scurry had the gall to leave the line and intimidate a Chinese player during the shootout that would decide the championship. She took the chance of being shown a yellow card and earning a do-over for the shooter.
Was it cheating? Was it gamesmanship? I say the ref went for it, and that is part of any sport – the slide step by a pitcher on a pickoff, the head fake on the line of scrimmage that induces an offsides call, the dive in basketball. Any way you look at it, Briana Scurry is a great keeper who helped win a World Cup.
Hope Solo also commandeered the goal zone in Tuesday’s semifinal, after Germany had been awarded a penalty kick. Solo went into her disruptive mode, wandering around, fussing with her water bottle, wasting seconds, icing the German kicker.
By the time Solo decided she was good and ready, the German player was licking her dry lips and turning her head for assurance from the sideline. She emitted a weak shot that skittered a foot wide to her left. Disaster. The U.S. went on to win the match.
Intimidation is part of the sport, but it has its limits. I thought Tim Krul of the Netherlands was way over the line with his pro wrestling behavior against Colombia in the 2014 World Cup. He should have been red-carded for gesturing at the opponents, but maybe guys get away with more. I had no problem with Scurry’s quick start in 1999 or Solo’s need to hydrate for 90 seconds in 2015.
Every team needs an audacious keeper who could make a difference in a final.
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.