The other day I wrote a column for the Times about Major League Soccer, which stimulated comments on the NYT web site, most reflecting the readers’ knowledge and passion for the sport and the league.
This response only strengthened my point that modern communications – the web and cable TV – have involved American fans with the best soccer in the world, and raised hopes and expectations for MLS.
I’d love to address a few points the readers made:
1. I did not fully represent the fan experience at MLS matches. Excellent comment. I have watched matches on TV and have matches at Red Bull Arena and am well aware that fans have come up with clubs and traditions and chants that can only grow over the years. They have seen the singing and demonstrations of love (and disdain) from the best leagues and want to be just like it (maybe without the nastiness.) The rebellion in New Jersey over the sacking of Mike Petke is one example of loyalty.
2. I did not stress the new stadiums. Another good point. The league has pushed clubs to come up with soccer-specific stadiums, medium sized, so that crowds of 25,000 will seem intimate yet large. Early soccer stadiums were functional but I was in the new Kansas City stadium two years ago and it was state-of-the-art.
3. How could I underestimate Lionel Messi? Fair enough. After watching Messi pick Man City apart, I wrote: “Up to now, I have resisted talk of Lionel Messi among the very greatest players — dismissing him, in a way, as a finisher.” This struck some readers as ludicrous, given his all-time stature in assists as well as goals. Let me add: Messi has earned those statistics by staying with the same club in the same league since he was a kid, but obviously he is a great player. I think I resisted ranking him among Pelé, Cruyff, Maradona, Eusebio, Puskas, Drogba, you name it, because I have seen him limited in some of the biggest World Cup matches. (Not that every great player can win a World Cup; four I mentioned did not.) I did see Didier Drogba carry Chelsea on his broad back in a Champions League final in 2012, and had never seen Messi carry his team the way he did last week. I stand up for my comment – as a mea culpa.
4. I need to subscribe to beIN. My correspondent Joel Berger has virtually ordered me to spring for the upgrade so I can see La Liga. I should. But I am not. My cable bill is huge anyway, and as a humble pensioner I just don’t want it to go any higher. I’ll take my chances watching Champions League and Premiership and World Cup qualifiers.
5. How could you say MLS is “perhaps the eighth- or 10th-best league in the world?” Key word there is “perhaps.” Attendance figures put MLS eighth in the world, but perhaps we can chalk that up to American affluence, American ability to put fannies in seats. (The U.S. still holds the World Cup record, going back to 1994. Somebody remind Sepp Blatter.) After watching Our Lads get burned by Denmark – oh, yeah, leave Nicklas Bendtner alone upfield; the game is almost over, anyway – I’d be willing to concede that a top club in a less-attended league could eat our boys’ lunch. Still, MLS is growing in all ways.
6. You clearly know nothing about soccer. Ouch. A few readers did point out that I wrote a book, “Eight World Cups: My Journey Through the Beauty and Dark Side of Soccer,” that got a lot of attention last year. The paperback edition will be out in a few months, with a new chapter about the 2014 World Cup, which I watched on the tube. I also picked Germany in Cigar Aficionado magazine. (Picked Manuel Neuer to be one of the stars of the Cup; said Spain was worn down.) I know what you are saying: “Dick Tracy!” It is great to be in the electronic age with world soccer fans.
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.