(More thoughts on the final, as told to Jacob Klinger of pennlive.com. GV)
When I was asked to predict the World Cup last winter, my first consideration was the state of the host country. We kept reading about the turmoil over the huge amounts of Brazilian money and the disruption of Brazilian people to accommodate this party for FIFA and its friends.
What nation would have the best chance of surviving seven matches in a charged environment like Brazil during the World Cup?
Germany. It just popped in.
For many of the reasons I outline in my column in the Times on Thursday, I thought Germany was ready to go further than the semifinals of the past two World Cups. They made superior football look, well, not easy, but possible. My admiration for the German model had grown over the years, seeing them almost always alert and competitive and professional.
Like the old Yankees, going from first to third, hitting the cutoff man. Hank Bauer to rookie: “Kid, don’t mess with my World Series check.” Or the old Boston Celtics of Russell and the Joneses. Or the old Green Bay Packers.
I also reasoned out that the Brazilian team would be affected by any unrest during the World Cup – if citizens were protesting, if tear gas was wafting. And the expectations were so high. Brazil did not win in 1950, the only other time it was host. Uruguay did.
I came into this World Cup business believing Brazil should always win. In my current book, I tell that tale of disillusionment and surprise from 1982 when Sócrates and Falcão and Zico were counter-attacked by Italy.
I was still under that spell before the 2010 World Cup when I wrote in the NYT that I would love to see Spain and the Netherlands, the two best teams never to win the World Cup, play in the finals. But in the end, I theorized, there is always Brazil. Well, there wasn’t.
This year I indulged in more magical thinking. (The article was for Cigar Aficionado, a handsome magazine; I do not smoke, but I do write, when asked.) I wrote that Spain was due to wear down, citing all the matches – approaching 250 in four full years – played by Andrés Iniesta, its brilliant playmaker. And then like a dope I went against my own logic and picked Spain to lose in the finals to Germany.
But first I checked with my doctor, Kenneth Ewing, former captain of Guatemala, who follows world soccer. During my checkup in February, I asked who was going to win. Germany, he said. Okay.
I picked Argentina to beat Brazil in the third-place match, somehow sensing Brazil might be soft, or distracted. So I picked three of the four semifinalists, not all that hard because Usual Suspects tend to reach the semifinals.
For the record: I picked the United States not to get out of its group, but I did cite the advancement possibility of beating Ghana, drawing with Portugal and then hoping for a draw against Germany. I also picked Manuel Neuer, the German keeper, and Philip Lahm, the German defender, as two of the 10 stars of the tournament.
Of course, I quoted Gary Lineker of England in 1990: “Football is a simple game; 22 men chase a ball and at the end, the Germans always win.”
Argentina is tough and has Lionel Messi, but it also has one day less rest than Germany.
Gary Lineker is having a good World Cup. I’m quoting him again for Sunday.
Your comments? Predictions?
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.