Is it my imagination, or are penalty kicks getting funkier?
My general impression is that some of the PKs during the knockout round have had some style elements of John Cleese from the Ministry of Silly Walks.
Or maybe Monty Python is on my mind because of their farewell performances this month.
On Saturday, I watched James Rodriguez of Colombia take the penalty kick against Brazil. He advanced a few steps, stopped, dipped his knee like a page in court, and flicked the ball into the net. (His reward was a visit from a giant grasshopper that alighted on his right arm, looking like it could carry him off.)
The Rodriguez dip was not as brazen as the full Panenka performed by Andrea Pirlo in the 2012 Euros against Joe Hart of England. The Panenka is named after the Czechoslovak player, Antonin Panenka, who in 1976 slowed down and nudged the ball airbound for a slow-motion goal that must have taken a second a yard to reach the net.
Panenka thereby gained the rare sporting fame of having a technique named after him, something usually reserved for the innovators of figure skating, for goodness’ sakes.
But others have been dipping and dodging their way toward the disk where the ball rests. Kostas Mitroglou of Greece did a nice little Grambling Marching Band stutter step before deftly kicking a PK in the first round of the shootout, which Greece lost to Costa Rica, eventually.
And Neymar and Cristiano Ronaldo have added a little funky-chicken elbow and knee action to their goal routine.
Technically, says my goalkeeping guru Alan Rubin, a player is supposed to progress toward the disk without diversion. Then again, keepers are supposed to stay behind the line, rather than advance on the kicker (remember Brianna Scurry in the 1999 Women’s World Cup?)
And Tim Krul of the Netherlands seemed to be imitating Muhammad Ali’s nostril-flaring showboat visit to Joe Frazier’s gym back in the day when he came into the match for the shootout against Costa Rica the other.
“I think goalie antics are nothing new,” Duncan Irving, the long-time soccer writer, said in an email message to me. “I saw Holland’s Hans Van Breukelen get up in the grilles, as the kids say, of Danish players at Euro 1992 (the Dutch lost the shootout in the semifinal.) England’s Joe Hart was shouting during Euro 2012 — Pirlo took a Panenka on him “to teach [Hart] a lesson” — and Bruce Grobbelaar (Liverpool) famously performed a jelly-leg goal-line dance against Roma in the 1984 European Cup final.”
I am watching the two semifinals to see if anybody tries a backheel PK after doing the Michael Jackson moon walk. Lifetime fame – or infamy -- awaits.
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.