When I got my wages
I hung my head and cried.
I could not stop these visions
that swept in like the tide.
--Amazon (River of Dreams)
The journey is over, just like the voyage up river in the classic song by The Band.
It was a wonderful World Cup in many ways -- the first World Cup I ever watched at home, in its entirety, once even four matches in a day, in the early giddy days of group play, when so many things were possible.
Now it is over. Lineker’s Law has actually come true for the first time since the English striker articulated it in 1990.
The marvel is that Argentina did so well in the final, holding off what has been building since the fun summer of 2006. Argentina was tough and smart and perhaps deserved better than the 1-0 defeat, but at least somebody scored, and Germany was the best squad, by far, in this World Cup.
One more thing about Argentina. Please, don’t anybody ever again waste time fretting about whether Lionel Messi is the new Diego Maradona. That is so unfair, and mostly to him. Maradona was a genius; Messi is a lovely player, at his best taking crisp passes from Iniesta and Xavi at Barça.
Messi is a small man, anyway – his modesty comes off in all the commercials; he is Everyman with a superb change of pace. He seemed almost slumped over from the weight of seven matches, plus the weight of expectations. Be like Maradona? No más.
I’ve said enough good things about Germany. Let’s talk about the World Cup itself, one more time. Friends have been asking what it’s like to be home after eight World Cups. (Did I mention I have a book out, called Eight World Cups? I'll be promoting it at the Dolphin Book Store in Port Washington, L.I., Thursday at 7 PM.)
I love Brazil from afar – love the music, love the people, even love the way the fans despaired at the two losses. My feeling was, having chosen a buyout at the end of 2011, this was a good World Cup to watch on television. My pals worked in distant cities, under logistics harder than anything I ever faced. The NYT did great, ESPN did great, Soccer America did great, Telemundo did great.
One thing that struck me was how much better I saw the matches (particularly when I watched at home.) In a stadium, you take in the big picture but you don’t necessarily see and hear the fine points of the replays the way I do at home.
I was happy having Twellman and Moreno and Keller and McManaman explaining stuff. ESPN has been working at presenting the matches and the background for years, and I'm sad it won’t be doing the World Cup in 2018.
I want to put in a plug for my friends at Soccer America, which has been on the story all year, giving us the daily vibrations of the U.S. team (no Soccer America reader was surprised at Klinsmann’s snub of Donovan) and giving us great detail and color, hour by hour from Brazil.
Finally, please check out Paul Kennedy’s top-ten wrapup from Sunday. He praises the Times for its large and talented staff – particularly Jeré Longman’s journeys up river. I told Jeré that when he gets home he needs to listen to the Band’s version of Artie Traum’s Amazon (River of Dreams.)
So many people took us all over that fantastic country. Now it is time for the visions to come sweeping in, like the tide.
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.