The world’s most popular sport is still stuck with primitive leadership and bad decisions. A column by Richard Sandomir in the Times on Thursday says the 2022 World Cup – scheduled for Qatar -- might be moved from June-July to November-December, right in the middle of the world’s major soccer leagues and tournaments.
This wretched planning happened under the watch of Sepp Blatter, who is now threatening to run for his fifth term as president of FIFA, the world soccer body, next May.
Blatter is already in trouble, what with a former voting member of FIFA, Chuck Blazer, an American who lived very well on soccer money, reportedly testifying to American authorities about FIFA. I'm just guessing that Blatter will not be touching down on American soil any time soon.
The tainted vote for Qatar, quite likely fueled by payments to larcenous FIFA board members, was the fault of Blatter. Qatar promises to build air-conditioned stadiums in the desert, often over 110 degrees Fahrenheit, presumably with the “help” of migrant laborers, those that survive.
Now that Blatter has discovered the climate of Qatar in the summer – his lack of scientific knowledge could qualify him for the U.S. Congress – he is going to do something.
But as Sandomir points out – what we all have known for years – is that American networks have other sports, other financial obligations, going on in November and December.
Sandomir notes that it will be hard to get out of the contract but he proposes: FIFA “should make a deal to satisfy Fox, Telemundo and other global networks aggrieved by changing the World Cup schedule. And let the networks give any financial compensation to charity.”
What is missing is the economic hammer. What is missing is one aggrieved corporate leader like David D’Alessandro, who was once the head of John Hancock, a major Olympic sponsor. This is what I wrote in 2008:
When the bribery scandal hit a few years before the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City, the most prophetic voice from the corporate world was that of David D’Alessandro, the chief executive of John Hancock Financial Services. He basically warned the I.O.C. to clean up the mess made by the good burghers of Utah and the dozens of avaricious members whose votes were for hire — or else D’Alessandro would take his corporate sponsorship away from the Olympics faster than you can say, “On your mark, get set, go.”
D’Alessandro was not being moralistic, he said. He was merely protecting his company. He has since moved on from John Hancock. Someday the Olympics might find another visionary leader from corporate America. It’s not impossible.
D’Alessandro forced the International Olympic Committee to find a new leader of the host committee – a Boston guy named Mitt Romney, you may have heard of him, who did a good job. And right through the 2004 Summer Games, as long as he was running John Hancock, D’Alessandro put pressure on the Olympic movement.
What FIFA needs right now is a corporate leader like David D’Alessandro to tell Blatter that he can no longer subsidize an operation as erratic and secretive and dishonest as his. There are still six months left to force Sepp Blatter out.
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.