With no soccer match Friday, I was at loose ends, as you can imagine. Turned on the tube and re-discovered another sport.
Guy with a bushy head of hair sticking out from under his ball cap, pitching furiously, getting himself out of jams in two innings of relief.
High drama. No biting. No flopping. No unseen stopwatch in the umpire’s hand. Timeless, to say the least.
Baseball. Soccer. The yin and the yang.
The other night I was pushing my book (did I mention my soccer book?) at the Midtown Scholar, a major used-book emporium and café in funky downtown Harrisburg, Pa.
Somebody asked the question, do I see soccer supplanting baseball in the hearts and minds of America?
I looked in the front row and saw a father and son, with St. Louis roots, carrying my Stan Musial book. We had chatted before the talk.
My answer was no, that baseball had a hold in the cities of America, where memories of Ty Cobb and Josh Gibson and Roberto Clemente still live. Americans know and feel those old rivalries – Yankees and Cardinals, Dodgers and Giants – the way traditional soccer nations honor the derby – Real-Atlético, Tottenham-Arsenal, AC Milan-Inter.
Soccer continues to boom in the U.S. Look at the huge crowds watching the World Cup, immeasurable by single-set gauges. Look at the rivalries and rising caliber of Major League Soccer. Look at the weekend audience for great soccer on the cable. There are now five major team sports in the U.S.A. And I don’t think soccer is fifth, either.
But supplant baseball? Not when a young pitcher like Jenrry Mejia, with great energy and great stuff, can get himself into trouble and get himself out in two straight innings, on the road, in grand old Pittsburgh, near the confluence of the rivers.
The Mets lost an inning later. Of course. Nice to see nothing has changed while I've been watching the World Cup.
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.