Instead of protesting the selection of Bill O’Brien to coach Penn State football, the diehards ought to look at it this way:
There could have been no football games in so-called Happy Valley next autumn – that is to say, the major activity of that entire university could have been cancelled.
Some Penn State football boosters and former players are said to be unhappy with the choice of O’Brien in the wake of the ghastly sexual abuse scandal emanating from the core of the football program.
This is a good time to think about the absurd scale of values of college football, while Louisiana State University and Alabama are meeting for the national championship in New Orleans on Monday night.
Penn State is part of that feeder system of the Bowl Championship Series. The belief that Penn State should be a contender in any given season is a direct cause of the institutional blindness that sheltered an alleged abuser of boys, a trusted former assistant coach named Jerry Sandusky.
Nobody wanted to know, including the long-time coach and icon, Joe Paterno, whose ideals and generosity were used to rationalize more corrupt programs at other schools.
Hansen Alexander, a lawyer and writer in New York, makes the case that the lying and payoffs at schools like Ohio State and Miami were even more institutional than the sexual scandal that nobody at Penn State wanted to uncover.
Writers like Joe Nocera and Dave Zirin have pointed out the hypocrisies and dishonesties of the National Collegiate Athletic Association and the Bowl Championship Series and individual schools.
Over the years, I have asked college presidents to explain the link between football and education. The best they can do is gush about getting hordes of people on their campus in the fall. Apparently, when the recruits win a football game, boosters can be cajoled into giving money for laboratories. What a pathetic bargain that is.
Penn State is now being treated as a rogue institution that could not respond to danger signs from within. Of course, life and education must go on, for the sake of the students and the community.
In the wake of scandal, the new administration of Penn State could have apologized to rival schools and television networks and other enablers of this system, and just cancelled all games. Instead, the administrators went out and found a coach with excellent references and they seem committed to competing for future B.C.S. titles.
I would say Penn State fans ought to stop yapping about the new coach. The whole sordid system got off easy.
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.