College Football set to Kick off during a COVID-19 Pandemic for Second Straight Year

It has been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

I used that line in a column last September to describe the absurdity of trying to play football during a global COVID-19 pandemic.

When I wrote those words, and the 1,000 plus other words in that column, I never dreamed that a year later we would be basically back in the same spot.

In 2021, just as in 2020, we are still dealing with raging COVID-19 outbreaks. People are still denying science. Governors are still saying vaccine and masks mandates infringe on one’s freedom to spread the virus to others. Plus, so much more bologna that I really thought we would be done with by now.

Instead of using last year as a rallying cry to do everything we could to send COVID-19 packing, here we are with an even more potent variant of COVID-19, and even less restrictions on activities that could help slow the spread of the disease.

The horse is definitely out of the barn when it comes to COVID-19 denialism. Speaking of horses, some people now would rather take a horse deworming medication, that does nothing to prevent or treat COVID-19, instead of taking a fully approved vaccine that can prevent infection, hospitalization and death in most cases. I guess horse dewormer is the 2021 version of 2020’s advice from a fan of red trucker hats to ingest bleach like a cleaning.

The fact that the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) once again had to send a common sense tweet out reminding people not to take horse medicine a year after tweeting not to ingest bleach shows just how out of touch from reality some parts of society are.
Graphic R. Anderson

The fact that the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) once again had to send a common sense tweet out reminding people not to take horse medicine a year after tweeting not to ingest bleach shows just how out of touch from reality some parts of society are.

I really wonder what type of person decides that they would rather get a horse paste at the local feed store instead of rolling up their sleeve and getting a vaccine.

I picture the conversation going something like this:

Chet: Hey Bob, did you see that anonymous post on Facebook the other day about the benefits of horse deworming cream to fight that fake virus?

Bob: I did. I am giving it a try since I can’t seem to shine this light down my throat like a cleaning. I’m so glad we have random posts on Facebook from people with zero medical training to give us the truth, compared to those scientists who spent years studying infectious diseases and are dedicated to keeping people safe.

Chet: Agreed, see you at the completely full football stadium on Saturday for the mask burning. I will save you some nachos.

And scene.

Shame on me for giving certain segments of society more credit than they deserve. I know I should know better, but sometimes I just cannot help myself. I want to believe that society can improve, instead of just racing like lemmings towards the cliff lowering the bar as they go.

We really are trying our best to make the world outlined in the movie Idiocracy become reality.

In the movie Idiocracy an American soldier who is accidentally frozen for 500 years as part of a military experiment wakes up in a dystopian world where society has forgotten the ideals of intellectual curiosity, social responsibility, justice, and human rights and instead society has embraced commercialism and instant gratification. Sound familiar? One need only watch the news for a few hours to see that in many ways we are well on our way to bringing that vision of society lampooned in the movie to life.

I have written about Idiocracy a few times before, but for anyone unfamiliar with the plot of the 2006 Mike Judge movie, it goes something like this.

An American soldier who is accidentally frozen for 500 years as part of a military experiment wakes up in a dystopian world where society has forgotten the ideals of intellectual curiosity, social responsibility, justice, and human rights, and instead society has embraced commercialism and instant gratification.

Sound familiar? One need only watch the news for a few hours to see that in many ways we are well on our way to bringing that vision of society lampooned in the movie to life.

When a disruption in a state’s power supply caused by inept governmental leadership triggers a worldwide plastic wrap shortage, one has to wonder just how many degrees of Kevin Bacon we are from totally collapsing as a society.

Especially when that state that sounds like “Texas” focuses more on passing executive orders and bills to suppress masks and voting rights then actually trying to fix the flawed power grid before the next cold snap, or heat wave, once again leaves thousands of people without electricity in a state that literally pumps the natural gas out of the ground that powers many of the electric plants.

But I shall rant about the failings of the “do it on our own star state” at a later date, today my attention is focused on the gridiron as college football season kicks off this week.

As noted time and time again, I enjoy college football. Aside from being a long-time fan of the game, during my undergraduate studies I interned in a college Sports Information Office and spent many a Saturday in the press box of college football games.

Additionally, I worked for five years with a committee that was responsible for hosting three college bowl games a year.

While I enjoy college football, I do not enjoy it to the point where I want to see stadiums full of people cheering in the middle of a pandemic. I also really have zero desire to attend a watch party for a college football game in the middle of a pandemic.
Photo R. Anderson

While I enjoy college football, I do not enjoy it to the point where I want to see stadiums full of people cheering in the middle of a pandemic.

I also really have zero desire to attend a watch party for a college football game in the middle of a pandemic.

Sadly, an organization I volunteer with does not share my belief that now is not the time for college watch parties and has basically said, “go have your parties, and if you have high transmission of COIVD-19 where you live, have the watch party outside.”

Because yeah, having people shouting at a football game and stuffing their faces full of nachos and other salty snacks is a great idea in the middle of a pandemic.

Navigating the latest surge of COVID-19 boils down in many ways to an individual’s risk versus reward threshold. While vaccinated people certainly can be riskier in theory compared to unvaccinated people, the simple fact remains that even vaccinated people can get breakthrough cases.

This brings me to my Dirty Harry approach to navigating COVID-19. Whenever I am thinking of going to an event, I squint really hard while gritting my teeth and recite the following mantra to myself to determine my willingness to participate in said event.

“Ryan (That’s what I call myself in my head), I know what you’re thinking. ‘Is the entire group vaccinated or not’? Well to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I kind of lost track of everyone’s vaccination status, and because this is an anti-science state, I am likely to get shot if I ask the wrong person to see a vaccine card. But being that we are talking about the Delta variant, the most contagious COVID-19 variant in the world, that is putting more people in the hospital than any other variant combined, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well do ya, punk?”

Once I have weighed the pros and cons of an event I react accordingly.

Getting on an airplane full of masked people so I can visit family in Florida is an activity I can get behind on the Dirty Harry do I feel lucky scale.

Watching college football in person either in a stadium, or at a sports bar, just does not give me a reward that is greater than the risk. Or in Dirty Harry speak, it does not make my day.

More power to those who want to partake in such things, but at the end of the day college football is not essential to society. Furthermore, if large crowds attending games is straining the health care systems in those mostly red football loving states, then that is a huge problem.

After going fan free during the 2020 College football season, ESPN’s College Gameday kicked off the 2021 season with crowds reminiscent of the before times proving that profit trumps pandemic in the eyes of some despite more people being hospitalized from the Delta variant of COVID-19.
Photo R. Anderson

In several states healthcare workers are walking away from their jobs in record numbers citing burnout, as well as not wanting to continue to risk their lives to take care of an unvaccinated population that thumbs their nose at science.

Other states are so full of COVID-19 patients in their ICU departments that there is no room for patients who have non-COVID emergencies requiring hospitalization.

It does not help the cause when governors ban masks mandates and instead just say that they will import more healthcare workers into the state to handle the surge within the hospitals.

That would be like someone in a sinking boat continuing to bail out water with a bucket with a hole in it instead of getting on the Coast Guard cutter that came to save them while saying, “Nope, I can’t have the federal government infringing on my freedom to stay on this sinking boat. You can keep your shiny government funded rescue craft. I’d rather just keep bailing here by myself.”

Unfortunately, that seems to be the mantra some governors are urging their citizens to follow. Don’t wear a mask, don’t get a vaccine if you feel it infringes on your rights, and if you get sick just take some gene therapy that is only available in short supply.

Or, one can always take that aforementioned horse deworming cream of course. Shudder.

The anti-mandate politicians are quick to say, “Don’t worry if your actions cause kids who are too young to get vaccinated to get sick. They would rather die free then live in a mask anyway.”

Of course, these are the same politicians who so famously said during the power grid failure that “many Texans would rather freeze to death then count on other states for their power,” or heaven forbid pay more for electricity.

I am sure there is a conspiracy theory out there somewhere in the dark corners of social media amongst the posts about the medicinal properties of horse paste that says that getting power from a blue state will either make you turn blue, or brainwash you into turning in your guns.

Seriously, are there massive radon gas leaks somewhere that are causing so many people to lose touch with common sense and realty?

The Roman emperor Nero is credited with playing the fiddle and watching Rome burn around him. I suppose the modern-day equivalent would be people choosing to watch college football, or crowd into other spaces mask-less and unvaccinated while COVID-19 burns around them.

With comparisons to Nero fiddling as Rome burned around him, college marching bands may want to add a violin section to their halftime show to portray the reality of playing football in the middle of a global pandemic.
Photo R. Anderson

I guess more college marching bands should add violins to their ranks and start playing the “Devil went down to Georgia” during halftime like the Florida State Seminoles Marching Chiefs did years ago.

Idiocracy predicated what the future would look like in 500 years. At the current rate we likely won’t have to wait that long until society totally devolves. I guess that is good in a morbid way, since at the rate we are destroying the planet there is no guarantee that the earth will even be around in 500 years.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I think it is time for another screening of Idiocracy.

Copyright 2021 R. Anderson

Way Back Wednesday: Remembering that time COVID-19 Lead MLB to Cancel the Field of Dreams Game as Cases Among Players Continue to Rise

Editor’s Note: As part of our occasional Way Back Wednesday feature, today we travel back one year and one week ago to August 3, 2020 when Major League Baseball (MLB) cancelled the highly touted Field of Dreams game in Dyersville, Iowa, near the set of the 1989 movie of the same name as the game.

Fast forward to 2021, and the St. Louis Cardinals have been replaced by the New York Yankees as the team facing the Chicago White Sox among the corn stalks. But to be fair, MLB had always wanted the Yankees to be involved in the game but had only added the Cardinals back when they switched to a regional schedule for the 2020 baseball season.

Of course, the change in White Sox opponent is really the only thing that has changed between last year when the game was cancelled, and this year when it will be held. COVID-19 cases are still raging like a California wildfire across the country, but apparently people have grown tired of listening to science and decided just to play ball while banning mandates on masks to protect children and others in society.

As noted many times, Field of Dreams is one of my favorite movies. I often quote it as well as Bull Durham, but struggled to find words from either movie to try to make sense of the senseless acts being committed in the name of trying to stay on brand while Rome burns. What I finally came up with is that many people seem determined to “go the distance” to appease a twice impeached one term president even if it means killing people in the process by tying the hands of people actually trying to be helpful and save lives.

We will delve more into the Field of Dreams game in future writings, until then, please enjoy this column from August 3, 2020 to see how little has changed between now and then aside from the fact that hundreds of thousands of people who were alive when this column was first written are now dead thanks to COVID-19 and the actions, or in-actions of certain public officials.

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It turns out that if you build it in the middle of a global COVID-19 pandemic, they won’t come.

Such is the case for the highly touted Major League Baseball (MLB) game between the Chicago White Sox and St. Louis Cardinals that was scheduled to be played August 13 in Dyersville, Iowa amongst the cornfields made famous by the movie Field of Dreams.

On Monday word spread that the game was canceled amid concerns of the spread of COVID-19.

Announced last year, the game was to feature the Chicago White Sox and the New York Yankees “having a catch” on a specially constructed, 8,000-seat Ballpark near the movie’s iconic diamond. The Cardinals replaced the Yankees on the program after MLB opted for a regionally based schedule.

The cancellation comes as the St. Louis Cardinals became the latest team to get put in time out after multiple players and staff tested positive for COVID-19.

For comparison, the National Hockey League (NHL) reported Monday that zero players, or other personal inside their two bubbles in Toronto and Edmonton have tested positive for COVID-19.

First announced last year, the “Field of Dreams” game was originally set to feature the Chicago White Sox and the New York Yankees “having a catch” at a specially constructed, 8,000-seat Ballpark near the movie’s iconic diamond. The Cardinals replaced the Yankees on the program after MLB opted for a regionally based schedule. On Monday word spread that the game was canceled amid concerns of the spread of COVID-19 within the ranks of MLB.
Photo R. Anderson

Bubbles work, but MLB owners burst the bubble approach by demanding that they be free to move about the country, or at least move about regionally, to play ball in their Ballparks.

It is no secret why MLB wanted to be bubble free. Houston Astros owner Jim Crane was brutally honest when he said he wanted as many fans as possible in the Ballpark buying t-shirts and concessions in order to recoup some lost revenue. As I noted at the time, that was one of the most tone-deaf statements I ever heard an MLB owner make.

COVID-19 cases continue to rise from coast to coast, and within MLB dugouts. As a result, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred warned over the weekend that the season could be shut down if players do not do better containing the spread of COVID-19.

During an interview with ESPN Manfred stated, “the players need to be better. But I am not a quitter in general and there is no reason to quit now. We have had to be fluid, but it is manageable.”

Manfred made those remarks, as 20% of the league was sidelined in an attempt to combat two separate coronavirus outbreaks.

The “I am not a quitter,” and it isn’t my fault, remarks reminded me of a couple of other people who were faced with making tough decisions as the reality of a situation bigger than themselves crashed in upon them.

On August 8, 1974, President Richard Nixon resigned from office by uttering in part, “I have never been a quitter. To leave office before my term is completed is abhorrent to every instinct in my body. But as President, I must put the interest of America first. America needs a full-time President and a full-time Congress, particularly at this time with problems we face at home and abroad.”

Putting the interests of America ahead of his desire to finish his term, Nixon became the only U.S. president to resign from office.

Rob Manfred could learn a lot from Richard Nixon in how to, as the late Kenny Rogers would say, “know when to fold them.” No, I am not saying that Manfred should resign, although I have seen rumblings from others thinking that he should.

It is time for MLB to resign themselves to the fact that the 2020 season is a lost cause. MLB tried to have a season. No one can take that away from them. Walking away now, and canceling the season before it gets worse is the honorable thing to do.

Instead of making a graceful exit, and doing a proverbial flyover in Marine One, Manfred seems determined to follow the example of another Republican president by using the blame and deflect game as he puts lives and careers at risk to seemingly serve his own self interests of proving that he isn’t a quitter and we would have had a season if not for those meddling kids being kids in the middles of a pandemic.

Yes, some players are leaving their hotel rooms when they travel and are potentially getting exposed to the virus. But they are just as easily exposed during the constant travel from ballpark to ballpark.

For Manfred’s apparent role model for taking zero responsibility, consider the actions of the 45th President of the United States who has blamed nearly everyone under the sun for making him look bad with the spread of COVID-19.

For MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred’s apparent role model for taking zero responsibility, consider the actions of the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, shown in Lego form, who has blamed nearly everyone under the sun for making him look bad with the spread of COVID-19, while seeming to take zero responsibility for trying to contain a virus that has killed over 156,000 Americans. Manfred, is blaming players instead of taking ownership of a failed plan to avoid a bubble approach to returning to action and it may cost him the season he fought so hard to have.
Photo R. Anderson

Yes, Mr. President over 156,000 Americans willingly died of COVID-19 just to make you look bad. That is some next level narcissism for someone to believe that.

Instead, over 156,000 Americans died in part due to a lack of centralized leadership and messaging coming out of the White House. Oh yeah, and the rush to reopen everything when we hadn’t flattened the curve didn’t help either.

In lieu of a national plan, we get attacks on doctors and the media who are both engaged in trying to get the truth out and help save lives as they try to fill the leadership void. We also get attacks on governors for not managing the one of 50 different ways the United States is attacking COVID-19.

Like the effort to combat COVID-19, MLB is also suffering from a lack of leadership and messaging. If MLB was playing games in a bubble, I would give them way more leeway to try to get the situation under control. But they aren’t, and it isn’t.

Perhaps showing that players are not really buying into a belief that MLB has their best interests at heart, more and more players are opting out of the 2020 MLB season.

I cannot blame the players for deciding that the risks to their health are not worth playing ball in the current COID-19 climate.

It is time for MLB to ease the players pain and try again next year. The National Football League and College Football also need to take notice and realize that sports outside of a bubble don’t work.

MLB let greed guide them over science. If the NFL and NCAA play football in the fall it will be an equally greedy endeavor.

I have said it before, and it bears saying again, how on earth did we let ourselves get here? We really have no one to blame but ourselves. Thankfully we can also all be part of the solution.

It is time to corral COIVD-19 and not try to return sports and other areas of live to normal while over 1,000 people a day are dying. These aren’t normal times, but they could be if everyone would just commit to wearing a mask and keeping their distance.

The change in White Sox opponent back to the New York Yankees is really the only thing that has changed between 2020 when the game was cancelled, and 2021 when it will be held. COVID-19 cases are still raging like a California wildfire across the country, but apparently people have grown tired of listening to science and decided just to play ball while banning mandates on masks to protect children and others in society.
Photo R. Anderson

Such simple things to do, yet thanks to political lines being drawn, and a leadership vacuum, we are all left to fend for ourselves and hope for the best.

There is an empty Ballpark nestled among Iowa cornfields ready for baseball to return there in 2021, it is time for the 30 MLB Ballparks to do the same.

Of course, if we fail to get a handle on COVID-19, there may not be any baseball next year either. Much like He-Man of the Masters of the Universe franchise, we have the power. We don’t even need to hold a magic sword aloft as we recite a mantra. We just need to wear a mask, socially distance, avoid crowds, wash our hands and act as one nation.

It isn’t rocket science, but it is scientifically proven to work. If we fail, we have no one but ourselves to blame.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some bubble hockey to watch.

Copyright 2021 R. Anderson

Starliners and COVID and Olympics, Oh My

Today’s column was originally supposed to be about either a successful, or unsuccessful launch of Boeing’s Starliner capsule.

For those unfamiliar with the Starliner, it is part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP) which serves to shuttle astronauts back and forth between earth and low earth orbit.

The other player in the CCP game, SpX, has already flown an uncrewed, and three crewed missions to the International Space Station (ISS), with a fourth crewed mission slated for September.

To date, Boeing has attempted one uncrewed mission, which did not really check all of the intended boxes.

After failing to stick the crucial steps of getting into the right orbit and making it to the ISS back in 2019, Boeing was set to make a second attempt to show that they have the right stuff in terms of flying a capsule that can perform as it is commanded. Unfortunately, at the time of this writing, the Starliner is still very much on the ground in Florida and I was forced to find a new topic to write about.
Photo R. Anderson

After failing to stick the crucial steps of getting into the right orbit, and making it to the ISS and back in 2019, Boeing was set to make a second attempt to show that they have the right stuff in terms of flying a capsule that can perform as it is commanded.

Unfortunately, at the time of this writing, the Starliner is still very much on the ground in Florida with no real plan for when it will try to launch again atop a United Space Alliance (ULA) Atlas 5 rocket.

The fact that Boeing has yet to “light this candle” shows that failure to launch is more than just the title of a Matthew McConaughey movie, which led me to the need to come up with a Plan B column.

As someone who grew up near the Space Coast of Florida, I know that launch slips are a common occurrence. Space travel is hard. From weather, to tight launch windows, there are myriad things that can cause a launch to slip even without mis-configured hardware.

So, in hindsight I should have known better then to put all of my column eggs in the “Boeing will launch before Friday” basket.

I should have known better. Shame on me for believing.

Of course, the obvious fallback column topic would be to write about the meteoric rise in COVID-19 cases across the country, while focusing specifically on states that are spelled “Texas” and “Florida.”

Those two states have governors who have issued mandates banning mandates on things like mask wearing and generally acting like adults in the middle of a health crisis despite having a third of all new COVID-19 cases popping up within their borders.

In the typical “oh look at that shiny thing over there” playbook the governors of Florida and Texas would have you believe that the rise in cases is due to illegal immigrants and not lax guidelines and low vaccination rates among the citizens of those states.

To be clear, illegal immigrants are not responsible for all of the COVID-19 cases in Florida and Texas, but they make a convenient foil for the reality avoiding governors to point to.

In the area around the Gigaplex, the County Judge recently raised the COVID-19 threat level to the highest level on the map while urging all unvaccinated people to either get vaccinated, or stay home.

Of course, thanks to the aforementioned mandate outlawing mandates, the County Judge and other local officials are unable to decree that people wear masks, or do any of the other common sense steps that science says can stop the spread of a disease.

Hospitals in both Florida and Texas are running out of room to treat patients. In some cases, patients are being flown hundreds of miles away to get treatment since the local hospitals are full.

No, I am not going to write about those two governors and people like them who choose to stick their heads in the sand, or play the fiddle while proverbial Rome burns around them.

I am also not going to write about the closing ceremonies of the Pandemic Games in Tokyo. While some athletes achieved great feats in medal winning performances, one could argue that the greatest feat that the athletes should focus on is getting out of Tokyo without catching COVID-19.

By insisting on going through with the games in the middle of a pandemic the International Olympic Committee (IOC) showed their true motivations while making it clear that the show will go on no matter what.

Something tells me that when the Summer Olympic games return to Los Angeles in 2028 the IOC would be perfectly content to hold the games in the middle of a wild fire, earthquake, or for that matter even a sharknado in order to make sure they still made a profit.
Photo R. Anderson

Something tells me that when the Summer Olympic games return to Los Angeles in 2028 the IOC would be perfectly content to hold the games in the middle of a wild fire, earthquake or for that matter even a Sharknado.

After all, they need to make their millions of dollars at all costs.

To be clear, this is not a column about rockets stuck on the ground due to erroneous valve positions, or governors putting their citizens at undue risk as a result of questionable policy positions aimed at appeasing a very small minority of voters, or athletes competing in a world ravaged by a highly contagious variant to a disease that the world has battled for 18 months.

There will be other days to write about those things and more.

No, today’s column is all about Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood.

I have several Mr. Rogers themed t-shirts in my wardrobe. However, my favorite by far is this mashup of the X-Files and the Neighborhood of Make-Believe.
Photo R. Anderson

When I was growing up, I loved watching Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood on my local PBS station. I can still remember many of the episodes, and have been known to hum a song or two from the show from time to time.

One of my favorite parts of the show was when the Neighborhood Trolley traveled to the Neighborhood of Make-Believe, to visit Purple Panda, King Friday XIII, Henrietta Pussycat and the rest of the puppets and live action characters that inhabited the wondrous land of dreams and endless possibilities.

As much as I wished I could stay in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe, there was always that moment when the trolley would reappear and someone would say, “Oh hi, Trolley. Is it time to go back to reality now?”

Unfortunately, too many people seem stuck in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe unable, or unwilling to face the current realities of the world.

One of Mr. Rogers’ more famous quotes that seems as fitting today as the day he said it is, “when I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

The news is indeed failed with scary and sometimes unbelievable things. Thankfully there are still helpers trying to make it right. Unfortunately, there are also a lot of agents of destruction and mayhem tying the hands of the helpers.

Of course, there is a Mr. Rogers quote addressing that as well.

“Did you ever hear loud, scary sounds on television? Well, some television programs are loud and scary, with people shooting and hitting other people. You know, you can do something about that. When you see scary television, you can turn it off. And when you do turn it off, that will show that you’re the strongest of them all. It takes a very strong person to be able to turn off scary TV. Mmm-hmm. That’s one of the ways you’ll be able to tell that you’re really growing.”

Throughout his life, Fred Roger aka Mr. Rogers offered advice and comfort to children of all ages. One of his more famous quotes that seems as fitting today as the day he said it is, “when I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
Photo R. Anderson

While I am sure Mr. Rogers was not directly addressing partisan divides and anti-science talking heads when he said these words, they sure seem to fit, and the principle applies.

Don’t give oxygen to the nonsense. Instead, follow actual facts over politicized fiction and mandates that make it harder for schools to protect children.

When you see someone on television, or the internet, spewing lies and conspiracies, turn them off.

Were he still alive today, one has to wonder what Mr. Rogers would think of the world of COVID-19 deniers enacting mandates that make it harder for schools to protect children and corrupt Olympic officials taking a virus be damned approach to protecting their profits.

Mr. Rogers famously testified before the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Communication on May 1, 1969, to defend public television from budget cuts. Something tells me that if he were alive today Mr. Rogers would be testifying to Congress and anyone else who would listen about the need to protect children from the ravages of COVID-19.

I, and millions of other people, learned a lot from Mr. Rogers. For that I am truly grateful. Unfortunately, too many others stayed in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe and became puppets performing for an audience of one.

I guess today’s column was about rockets, ill-conceived mandates putting children at risk, and international conglomerates putting profit over people after all.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have the sudden urge to change into a red knit cardigan sweater.

Copyright 2021 R. Anderson

The Return of Masks as COVID Cases Rise Shows that it is Déjà vu all Over Again

In the words of the late, great, Hall of Famer, Yogi Berra, “It’s déjà vu all over again” as once more COVID-19 cases are on the rise and baseball games and other aspects of life are being rescheduled or cancelled.

The July 28, 2021 game between the Washington Nationals and the Philadelphia Phillies was postponed less than two hours before first pitch “to allow for continued testing and contact tracing involving members of the Nationals organization,” according to a statement by Major League Baseball.

The July 28, 2021 game between the Washington Nationals and the Philadelphia Phillies was postponed less than two hours before first pitch “to allow for continued testing and contact tracing involving members of the Nationals organization,” according to a statement by Major League Baseball.
Photo R. Anderson

The latest outbreak marks the third time this season that the Nationals have had to place multiple players on the COVID list.

The Nats began the season with nine players and four coaches impacted by an outbreak on the team plane.

Then in May, starting pitcher Erick Fedde tested positive and reliever Tanner Rainey was forced to quarantine for being a close contact.

In response to rising cases of the Delta COVID-19 variant, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued revised guidance for a return to wearing masks indoors for both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals after an internal document showed that the variant is far more infectious than previously thought.

Additionally, on July 29, 2021 President Joe Biden mandated that all federal employees and contractors either be vaccinated or submit to regular testing as a condition of their employment.

Yes, Yogi, indeed it is déjà vu all over again as cases rise and some people still refuse to wear masks or get vaccinated.

To quote another Yogism, “you can observe a lot by watching.” And watching the number of cases climbing, one can observe that instead of saying mission accomplished and getting on with our lives as they were in the before times, we are heading backwards in the battle to rid our shores of COVID-19.
Photo R. Anderson

To quote another Yogism, “you can observe a lot by watching.”

Watching the number of cases climbing, one can observe that instead of saying mission accomplished and getting on with our lives as they were in the before times, we are heading backwards in the battle to rid our shores of COVID-19.

In many ways the return of a world where mask mandates and potential shutdowns are being talked about boils down to the fact that more people did not get vaccinated back in May when vaccines were plentiful and the Delta variant was barely gaining strength.

In hindsight, lifting mask guidance in May and trusting that the unvaccinated would continue to wear masks was a lesson in foolishness since many in the anti-mask and anti-vaccine crowd will never wear a mask even if their lives and the lives of their children depended on it. Which it does, but more on that in a bit.

But instead of looking back at the mistakes of May, one must look at the present and decide how to move forward with the current conditions.

I get that people can have concerns about getting vaccinated and understand that some people require more data before they are willing to let someone stick a needle in their arm.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) could likely put a lot of minds at ease by lifting the Emergency Use Authorization of the COVID-19 vaccines and stating that they are safe and effective for every day use and fully vetted and approved.

Educational outreach is critical to reaching the unvaccinated and showing them that the risks of dying from COVID-19 far outweigh any potential side effects from a vaccine.

But while people are parsing through the data to achieve a comfort level to get the vaccine, they should be wearing a mask at the very least to protect those around them from getting sick.

The politics of being anti-mask and anti-vaccine is another thing I don’t understand. While many politicians are touting the need to get educated on masks and vaccines, too many others are having their “let them eat cake moments.”

Instead of being at the forefront of encouraging their constituents to mask up and vax up, several politicians seem willing to let people die from a largely preventable disease just so they can score political points among a small minority of the country as part of a pandemic of stupidity.

I am all for adults having the freedom to educate themselves on the vaccines, but I am not for putting children at risk in the process. Currently all children under 12-years-old are not eligible to get vaccinated.

Those too young to get vaccinated must rely on those who are old enough to provide a bubble of protection around them to keep them healthy until a vaccine is approved for their age group.

That is the thing I do not understand, many people are so anti-mask and anti-vaccine that they are willing to risk their own children getting sick, or dying, just to make a point and to stay “on brand.”

In 1985 musician Sting told his band mates of the Police to not stand so close to him as he ventured off on a solo career. His first solo album, Dream of the Blue Turtles featured a track called Russians. While the song was written in response to Cold War tensions between the then U.S.S.R and the United States, one can see parallels in the lyrics to the current standoff of related to the vaccinated and unvaccinated in the battle against COVID-19.

Children’s hospitals are filling up with patients who are too young to get vaccinated and became infected through contact with someone who most likely was old enough to get vaccinated but didn’t.

In 1985, musician Sting told his band mates of the Police to not stand so close to him as he ventured off on a solo career.

His first solo album, Dream of the Blue Turtles featured a song called Russians.  While the song, Russians, was written in response to Cold War tensions between the then U.S.S.R and the United States, one can see parallels in the lyrics to the current standoff related to the vaccinated and unvaccinated in the battle against COVID-19.

Russians opens with the lines, “In Europe and America there’s a growing feeling of hysteria. Conditioned to respond to all the threats. In the rhetorical speeches of the Soviets.”

Fast forward to 2021 and one could say that the rhetorical speeches of some governors who are anti-mask mandates in school are fueling the rising tensions.

Turn on the local news in many southern states and one is likely to see angry parents berating local school districts who are trying to keep their kids safe by telling them to mask up.

Unfortunately, those anti-mask, anti-vaccine parents have governors willing to back them in their anti-science rants.

In keeping with our Russians theme other lyrics state, “I don’t subscribe to this point of view. It’d be such an ignorant thing to do. If the Russians (or in our case unvaccinated) love their children too.”

Masks and vaccines have become so politicized that people are talking past each other instead of to each other.

Going back to the Russians well once more, “There is no monopoly on common sense. On either side of the political fence. We share the same biology, regardless of ideology.”

As noted many times over the past year and a half, COVID-19 does not care if you are a democrat or a republican. It does not care if you think it is “Fake News” or just a flu.

People are still getting sick, and even if they don’t die, many will have long term health effects.

Having to cancel, and/or postpone baseball games, or other sporting events due to COVID-19 is one thing.

Being willing to risk that a child may never get to play sports at all due to long haul COVID because their lungs got trashed when they were at a summer camp full of unvaccinated counselors is another thing.

But what might save us, me and you is if the unvaccinated love their children too.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am off to dust off some Sting CDs and party like it is 1985.

Copyright 2021 R. Anderson

The Tokyo Olympics will have Fanfare but no Common Man

On July 8, 2021, in another in a long list of “the show must go on” actions it was announced that the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics would still start at the end of July 2021, but would do so without fans in attendance.

In short, the games would have fanfare but no common man or woman in the stands cheering the athletes onto victory.

The reason cited for the nixing of fans and pomp and circumstance was the fact that Tokyo is currently under a state of National Emergency due to the number of COVID-19 cases sweeping through the region.

COVID-19 was surging in Tokyo last year as well which caused the 2020 Summer Games to move to 2021.

So, with not much changed in terms of the amount of virus in and around Tokyo between this time last year and now, the games will continue. After all, organizers will be quick to say that there is too much money on the line to postpone the games once again.

Although the idea of going full blast with the Olympics while the average citizens of Japan are battling the COVID-19 monster sounds like the plot of a bad Godzilla movie, it is very much a real thing.

In 1992 I made my first trip to the Los Angeles Coliseum. I returned over 20 years later and the building was just as iconic and awe inspiring as it had been to me as a child. In 2028 the Olympic games will make their fourth trip to the coliseum.
Photo R. Anderson

I have always loved watching classic Godzilla movies. While the battles between Godzilla and his band of monsters are entertaining, I enjoy the way that the heroes always win in the end by using sound scientific principles.

It does not take a scientist battling a radioactive monster to see that even without fans, having thousands of athletes, coaches, media and other support personnel travel to a virus hot spot for two weeks and then returning to their home countries does not seem like the brightest idea.

At least by banning fans from the venues inside Tokyo the number of people who would potentially take COVID-19 back to their home countries is minimized somewhat.

But this is not a column about my love of Godzilla movies, or the rationale of holding international sporting events during COVID-19. For right or wrong, numerous leagues across the world have declared themselves open for business and the COVID0-19 virus vanquished. Many scientists and other people dispute that claim but still the games must go on.

Were I in a position to make that decision, I would certainly postpone the games. However, at the end of the day, it does not really matter to me whether the Olympics are held or not since I will not be watching them, nor really caring about who wins what medal.

My ambivalence towards the Olympics is a somewhat recent development. I was once a fan of the Olympic games and all that I thought they stood for. However, I grew cynical to the point of despising the Olympics while pursuing my Master of Science (M.S.) in Sport Management.

I am sure that my instructors thought that the in-depth study of the Olympics would fill me to the brim with pride. However, the more I studied the Olympics, the more it had the opposite effect.

Once you peel back the layers of the Olympic onion and get past all of the pomp and circumstance, one is left with a very rotten core where sportsmanship and competition are overshadowed by greed and graft.

In 2014, I glowingly wrote about my excitement to watch the Opening Ceremony for the Winter Games in Sochi Russia. In my column, I mentioned some of the issues that the Russian organizers were having in finishing the facilities in time for the opening ceremonies but the overall theme of the column was that I was looking forward to the games and saw them as something that brought the world together for a few weeks of positive competition.

From the bribes and kickbacks during the host city selection process, to the fact that billions of dollars in facility construction is often spent in third world countries where citizens live in poverty and the shiny arenas of the Olympics turn into crumbling relics after the games the Olympic are rife with a darker side.

Six months after the torch was extinguished at the 2016 Summer games in Rio de Janeiro, many of the Olympic venues had been abandoned and were in various states of decay. One need only do an internet search on abandoned Olympic sites to see that Rio is far from alone in spending billions of dollars to build the infrastructure for the Olympics only to watch it all go to waste after the torch has moved on to the next city.

The crumbling Olympic venues dotting landscapes across the globe serve as reminders that as cities continue to battle to host the games, some countries would be better off spending the billions of dollars it takes to host the games in others ways.

When the Summer Olympic Games return to Los Angeles in 2028 they will utilize myriad existing stadiums, ballparks and arenas which is a stark contrast to the build it and abandon in place approach employed during the Summer games in Athens and Rio de Janeiro among other cities.
Photo R. Anderson

As someone once said, “History shows again and again how nature points out the folly of man.”

While I am against the Olympics on principle, I support the various athletes who train for years for what often amounts to a single chance to go for gold on the world stage.

In that regard, I can see that continuing to postpone the games will have serious ramifications on athletes from around the world who dream of that one shot at Olympic glory and immortality.

The old saying about hating the game not the player comes to mind along with visions of Hamilton and Eminem not wanting to give away their one shot.

The 2020 games taking place in 2021 will feature the return of baseball, and softball as Olympic sports. Baseball was last an Olympic sport in 2008. Additionally, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) agreed back in 2016 to add karate, skateboarding, sports climbing and surfing to the competition slate for the Tokyo games in a bid to attract younger fans to the games and stay relevant.

Although I no longer watch the Olympics, every four years I dust of my 100th Anniversary of Olympics music soundtrack for some fanfare for the common man as well as some good old fashioned Olympic fanfare by John Williams.
Photo R. Anderson

As someone who still has their 1985 Topps Mark McGwire Olympics rookie card, I am certainly happy to see baseball back in the Olympics, but even that does not really move my excitement needle to want to watch the games this year.

Despite my current position on the Olympics, I am hopeful that I may once again put on my blinders and see the whole onion instead of the rotten layers.

I have always been more of a Winter Olympics fan than a Summer Olympic fan. As such, perhaps my cynicism will melt by the time hockey and curling roll around in 2022 at the Beijing Winter Olympic games. If not, one can hope that I will be California dreaming by 2028 and will be watching beach volleyball and surfing on the sands and waves of SoCal that I know so well.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have the sudden urge to listen to some Blue Oyster Cult.

Copyright 2021 R. Anderson

Opening Day in Time of COVID-19 is Deja Vu All Over Again

This week marks the Opening of the 2021 Major League Baseball (MLB) Season.

Normally, MLB Opening week would feature me wearing my finest Tampa Bay Rays gear as I welcome the possibly of all that is to come over the six-month plus season.

Unfortunately, thanks to the continued presence of COVID-19, in the words of the late Yogi Berra, “It is deja vu all over again” as teams are canceling games and league officials are acting like they can wish away a global health pandemic merely by declaring themselves open for business and welcoming fans and their wallets with open arms.

In a perfect world the start of the 2021 MLB season would be cause for celebration as I cheer the Tampa Bay Rays on as they defend their American League Championship Crown. Unfortunately, thanks to the continued nagging presence of COIVD-19, that level of excitement is tempered by the fact that once again baseball is being played in the middle of a global health pandemic.
Photo R. Anderson

Last year, the Miami Marlins became the victims of an early season COVID-19 outbreak that caused them to cancel games.

This year, that honor falls to the Washington Nationals who saw their opening series get cancelled due to COVBID-19 outbreaks in the clubhouse.

To paraphrase Alanis Morrisette, it is somewhat ironic, don’t you think, I mean a little too ironic, I really do think, that a year after Dr. Anthony Fauci threw out the opening day pitch for the Nationals that they would have a COVID-19 outbreak. Didn’t they listen when Dr. Fauci told them to wear masks and social distance to avoid spreading the virus?

A year after welcoming Dr. Anthony Fauci to throw out the first pitch, the Washington Nationals are stating the 2021 MLB season on the sidelines after a COVID-19 outbreak forced the cancellation of their opening series.
Photo R. Anderson

And therein lies the rub, while the COVID-19 situation is improving this year compared to where things stood last year thanks to vaccines and other factors, numerous health officials are continuing to caution and urge continued vigilance in fighting the virus.

Despite these ongoing warnings from health officials, many state leaders have declared the virus over and are opening things wide open.

Case in point, the Lone Star State of Texas. After the Texas governor removed all remaining restrictions on masks, venue capacity, and other measures, the Texas Rangers are set to open to full capacity for their games. Other teams are welcoming fans back at various capacity levels.

Don’t get me wrong, I would love to go to the Ballpark and watch some baseball. However, I am not going to be so selfish while people are still dying from a virus that can be mitigated through mask wearing and social distancing.

With capacity restrictions in Texas lifted by the governor, the Texas Rangers seem to have declared “Mission Accomplished” against COVID-19 has they became the only MLB team to open their Ballpark to full capacity for the 2021 season.
Photo R. Anderson

I am also not so arrogant as to think that just saying something really loudly makes it true. I mean if one could just wish away inconvenient things, I would have declared victory over my statistics class in grad school instead of struggling every week with hours of homework on formulas I will likely never use again.

As I have said many times before, the selfish desire to see live sports in person is likely allowing the virus to spread. At the very least, it is horrible optics for leagues and teams to welcome fans back when all public health officials are urging us to restrain from gatherings for just a little bit longer.

Other countries have sports, and their fans would likely love to be seeing games in person as well. But for the most part, one does not see the same type of thumbing of noses at public health policy in other countries as one sees in the United States of America.

I am sure that many people in those countries around the world find it quite peculiar that a country with “united” in its name could be so divided when it comes to caring about others before themselves.

In addition to MLB Opening Week, this is also Easter weekend. For those who believe in the biblical account of Easter, versus only following the furry egg giving rabbit side of Easter, the season is a time to remember an ultimate sacrifice made in order to save others.

It is telling therefore that a country founded in part on those beliefs from the biblical account of Easter would appear to miss the mark when it comes to looking out for others and being unselfish. It is even more telling when one considers that many of the people who claim to be verdant evangelical followers of the biblical teachings are the ones so opposed to mask wearing and looking out for those around them.

It is telling that a country founded in part on beliefs from the biblical account of Easter would appear to miss the mark when it comes to looking out for others and being unselfish. It is even more telling when one considers that many of the people who claim to be verdant evangelical followers of the biblical teachings are the ones so opposed to mask wearing and looking out for those around them.
Photo R. Anderson

When lock down restrictions were being rolled out in the early part of the virus response in 2020 many churches were the most vocal about feeling that their right of assembly was being taken away from them.

Years ago there was a popular bumper sticker in the pre-meme days that asked What Would Jesus Do? I am just spit balling here but I am pretty sure that Jesus would not hold large indoor gatherings of mask-less people in the middle of a pandemic.

I cringe each time I see someone who identifies as Christian on the news decrying how masks infringe on their freedoms. I also still shake my head at trying to figure out how the Second Amendment gets thrown into the discussions on masks.

Can one really call themselves a Christian and be anti-mask and ignore science and common sense? Isn’t that the same thing as trying to be a fan of the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox at the same time? The two beliefs are simply incompatible.

One cannot believe the Bible and be anti-mask anymore then they can cheer the Bronx Bombers while singing Sweet Caroline. One cannot follow the biblical teachings that say do unto others, while refusing to wear a mask that health officials say protects those around us.

It certainly should give people something to reflect upon during this Easter season.

Speaking of reflection, for years baseball has been called the National Pastime. As such, I get that people want to be taken out to the ballgame for a few hours of entertainment. Lord knows I would love to see the sights and sounds of a Ballpark. It has been nearly two years since I last saw a baseball game in person.

I had hoped when my plans to travel to Spring Training in 2020 were cancelled that I would make up for it in 2021 but this was not the year to do that.

If everyone does their part and gets vaccinated when their turn comes, things will return to normal. If that occurs, hopefully by 2022 I will be enjoying Spring Training baseball once more.

However, if people continue to prematurely declare “mission accomplished” and ignore the science we will continue to have virus hot spots pop up and will never truly be able to return to normal.

Easter and MLB Opening Week are both time for reflection for believers of the biblical account, as well as for those who like Bull Durham’s Annie Savoy believe in the Church of Baseball.

Whatever one believes in terms of religion, or who they follow in terms of a baseball team, when it comes to COVID-19 we should have all been one unified front against a common enemy since day one. Instead of unity over a year later we are still a house divided and made up of warring factions convinced that their beliefs are the only true beliefs.

There will come a time when historians will look back at this COVID-19 era and provide a postmortem on what went wrong and what was done right. Now is the time to do more right to send COVID-19 away for good.

If we don’t it will continue to be that pesky thing that continues to get under our skin and causes problems, kind of like that annoying drunk person who always seems to find me at the Ballpark no matter where I am sitting.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some baseball themed Easter eggs to hide.

Copyright 2021 R. Anderson

Supermarket Shooting Shatters Safe Zone and Reignites Gun Control Debate

When the news first broke earlier this week of a shooting inside the King Soopers in Boulder, CO I found myself flooded with various emotions. When news broke later that 10 people lost their lives, the emotional flood continued along with a realization that mundane, every day activities like going grocery shopping are no longer safe.

The tragedy struck me on several fronts. While people dying inside a grocery store, or anywhere else, is tragic, I had driven past this particular store several times during trips to Colorado. I also have many friends who live in that part of the state so my mind immediately started to wonder whether any of them had been in the store at the time of the shooting.

Waiting to hear whether any of my friends were among the victims was an especially trying period. Thankfully, my friends were not among the victims. However, for the friends and family of the 10 people who were killed, their lives will never be the same.

Aside from feeling a connection to that particular store, I also have a tie to the grocery industry as a whole. When I was a senior in high school, I started working part time at a local Albertson’s grocery store. I would end up spending four and a half years in the grocery trade before hanging up my apron at college graduation and entering the world of journalism full time.

And while those days working retail are long behind me, I have always felt a sort of kinship to those people working within the grocery industry. During the past year during the COVID-19 pandemic I was especially thankful for grocery store workers as they ensured that the shelves were stocked and that customers had the opportunity to do curbside pickup if they did not feel safe going inside the store due to COVID-19.

On November 8, 2018, one day after a gunman killed 12 people, including a police officer, at the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, CA, I took part in a moment of silence at the Staples Center before an L.A. Kings hockey game. Over two years later, another mass shooting, this time at King Soopers grocery store in Boulder, CO that ended with 10 people killed, once again leaves a community and nation to wrestle with the issue of mass shootings and gun control.
Photo R. Anderson

Now, thanks to a shooting inside a grocery store that left 10 people dead, people may have an entire new reason to not feel safe doing something as simple as going inside the store to pick up a loaf of bread.

The grocery store I worked in was one of the first in the area to have a bank inside it.

It also dealt with a lot of cash with the registers. The thought that the bank, or the store in general, could be robbed was always in the back of my mind. However, we were trained to just let the robbers take the cash and to not resist. The thought being it was not worth dying over money. We also had plains clothes off duty police officers in the store during the more popular times as mitigation to prevent shop lifting.

Of course, that philosophy does not work when the person bringing a gun into the store is there not to rob it of money or products, but to rob the people inside it of life.

There is no perfect defense for a gunman intent on causing harm, versus someone just trying to grab some cash, or snow crab legs and go. That is a sobering and scary change in the threat level for people in a grocery store as well as people in any public place.

Of course, school aged children have had to face the constant fear of active shooters for over 20 years. One of my first post college graduation professional newspaper assignments was interviewing a man who ran a company that trained students and school staff on what to do during an active shooting event.

Sadly in the years since that interview the business of training people to avoid gunmen in public places has only grown in importance, and the shootings have gone from primarily taking place inside schools to occurring everywhere from movie theaters, concerts, clubs and big box retail stores to massage parlors and grocery stores.

A week before the grocery shooting in Colorado eight people lost their lives at the hand of another gunmen in Georgia who went to three different massage parlor locations on his killing spree.

There will be discussions in the coming days, weeks, and months about gun control. These discussions occur every time there is a mass shooting. The result of the discussions is usually one step forward and two steps back.

I am not going to get into the politics of gun ownership vis a vis the Second Amendment and all of the gun lobbies, Republican senators from Texas whose names rhyme with Fred Snooze, and other factions that tend to resist any calls to curb the access to high powered firearms.

And yes, there is the tried-and-true argument that always gets brought up following mass shootings that, “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” One could just as easily argue that water doesn’t drown people, swallowing too much water drowns people. But I digress.

Most gun owners are responsible people who are not going to go on a shooting spree. However, for those irresponsible gun owners there needs to be a way to prevent senseless loss of life.

While stopping short of diving into the political quicksand that talk of gun control seems to generate, I will just say that mass shootings and vaccine hesitancy seem to be mostly American concepts.

One could argue that it is the very freedoms that Americans enjoy that cause the high incidents of mass shootings and vaccine resistance, but that would be too simple of an answer for a complex issue.

Until the root cause of mass shootings is identified and addressed, there will likely be more cases of heavily armed individuals killing innocent people who are just trying to go about their daily lives.

One person I saw talking about the shooting in Boulder even brought up the possibility that the isolation and restrictions of COVID-19 may be behind the shooting. Short of the gunmen directly saying what motivated him to do what he did, the experts on TV are free to hypothesize and generalize as they try to rationalize the irrational.

As the world prepares to reopen and gatherings get larger and larger it will be interesting to see if people return to normal activities in large crowds, or if the fear and isolation brought about by the restrictions of the past year cause people to think twice before heading to that packed Ballpark for a game.

Personally, I have not decided how ready I am to cram shoulder to shoulder with thousands of people inside a Ballpark once attendance restrictions are lifted. Of course, I was already tired of being crammed in like a sardine in a can before COVID-19 closed things down. Life in the press box definitely spoiled me.

So, any apprehension of returning to sitting butt cheek to butt cheek with perfect strangers has nothing to do with COVID-19 and everything to do with it being way more comfortable to watch games from home.

I will likely still attend some Minor League games and the occasional Major League game but any desire to have season tickets has gone away. Of course, whenever I do attend a game, I will continue my long-held tradition of having enhanced situational awareness of exit routes and my surroundings.

Thanks to the events in Boulder, that enhanced situational awareness will now be needed whenever I venture to any public place.

I have many fond memories of my time working in a grocery store. However, now I will be a little more cautious and aware of the people around me whenever I go inside one. I will also likely rely more heavily on curbside pickup. However, some victims of the Boulder shooting were killed in the parking lot so even curbside is no longer 100 percent safe.

I never thought that I would need to be on high alert making a Dr Pepper run. Sadly, recent events have shown that danger is all around and even the simple act of getting a massage or buying a soda and a candy bar can turn deadly.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am off to try to make some sense out of all of this senselessness.

Copyright 2021 R. Anderson

Thanksgiving in a Time of Pandemic

For the first time in about 100 years the United States will be celebrating Thanksgiving in the middle of a health pandemic. While the last pandemic was centered on the Spanish Influenza, this year’s uncomfortable guest at the dinner table is COVID-19.

COVID-19 is like that distant relative that no one really remembers how they are related to, yet can’t wait to get away from each year at the big family gathering. Like that distant relative, COVID-19 also has a way of showing up when least expected.

Depending on one’s political and scientific leanings, they either believe that COVID-19 is something horrible, or they think that it is a myth created by the same people who invented one sentence proverbs inside folded cookies.

No doubt people on both sides of the political COVID-19 spectrum will argue their case until their faces are redder then canned cranberry sauce during Thanksgiving meals together. After all, one of the things people are often thankful about on Thanksgiving is the right to have their own opinions.

As a former Boy Scout I was taught to always be prepared regardless of the situation. As the son of a mother who believes ham is not a Thanksgiving meat, I always keep an emergency ham in the freezer.
Photo R. Anderson

The way those arguments will occur will vary this year. Some people will have large in person gatherings as in years past, others will have smaller gatherings, and others still will have virtual gatherings using video conferencing software.

While there will be plenty of arguments about COVID-19 protocols and government overreach at the dinner tables across the country tomorrow, there will also be people who will spend the holiday alone because their families are either unable to join them, or in some cases because a family member passed away over the course of the year.

While this will not be a typical Thanksgiving for many people, that does not mean that there aren’t things to be thankful for.

One of the biggest things I am thankful for this year is my health, the health of my family and loved ones, as well as the fact that I have a job that thus far has proven to be pandemic proof; which means I have the resources to put food on the table.

The pilgrim narrative of coming to Plymouth, Massachusetts to avoid religious persecution and forming a thriving colony despite odds stacked against them, and huge death tolls, is something many of us were taught in school. The reality of that event differs slightly from the Norman Rockwell meets Thomas Kincaid narrative, but nonetheless people came, they gave thanks at some point, and they stayed.

On October 3, 1863, in the third fall of the Civil War, President Lincoln christened the Thanksgiving holiday by issuing a proclamation.
Photo R. Anderson

While Thanksgiving is often portrayed as something coming out of a land of the pilgrim’s pride and unity, it actually became a holiday much, much later during a time of huge division within the United States. On October 3, 1863, in the third fall of the Civil War, President Lincoln christened the Thanksgiving holiday by issuing a proclamation that said:

“I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, …, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him …, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.”

The first Thanksgiving holiday in 1863 was set aside as a time to care for those in strive. Fast forward 157 years, and we are still a divided nation with many people in strive. The current strive does not come from a physical war, but from the economic and medical side effects of a response, or in some cases, lack of response to a health crisis.

Sadly, more and more people each day are losing their health, their jobs, and their ability to put food on the table for their families. It is incomprehensible that the richest nation in the world has so many people with food insecurity who wonder where their next meal will come from.

I am so grateful for the various food banks and other organizations that work around the clock to ensure that people are able to provide food for their families. I am also ashamed personally at how little I have helped in that cause despite having been blessed with so many resources myself.

But, while I am grateful for those organizations, I am also angered by the fact that so many people are in a position where they have to utilize those services. In many cases people are having to go to a food bank for the first time in their life.

Ensuring that people have food to eat should not be a political thing. It should not matter whether a person votes blue, red, or purple. We are all the same on the inside and we all require food to survive. The sooner people realize that, the better society will be as a whole.

Years ago when I worked for a weekly newspaper, I had the opportunity to write a feature on a food bank that was set up in an old rice drying silo. Sadly, the food bank burned down a few years ago since rice silos are extremely flammable. While that food bank is gone, there are thousands of organizations across the United States handing out help to those in need, as well as looking for help from those wanting to help those in need.

If watching Hallmark movies nonstop for the past four weeks has taught me anything it is that a) there are only three plots to Hallmark movies that are recycled again and again b) every town needs a gazebo and a decent Christmas tree farm c) no one ever takes anything with them when they move away from their parents’ house since their rooms are basically sealed off as a time capsule for them to return to after their big city boyfriends dump them and d) every one pitches in to help when the town needs them.

While I am certainly glad that the world has more depth then a Hallmark movie, the concept of chipping in and helping each other in tough times is one trait in those movies we should all want to immolate. Another trait being installing hot chocolate stands everywhere.

Although a staple of many Thanksgiving feasts today, it is doubtful that turkey was on the table at the first Pilgrim Thanksgiving. Instead, fish was likely the protein on the pilgrim’s plates.
Photo R. Anderson

The first settlers in the new world had to rely on themselves and their Native American neighbors in order to make what we now know as the United States of America successful.

Of course, once a beachhead was established and more settlers came, the Native Americans were treated horrifically. Additionally, slavery is another shameful stain on the whole democracy and all men are created equal thing that we all ascribe to as part of the American ideal.

So yes, there are so messed up, horrible examples of Americans being absolutely brutal to each other and those around them dating back to even before there was an America. Those chapters in the history books often get glossed over in favor of the happier narrative. And in the years to come the era of job losses and food insecurity that is happening right now in the middle of a health pandemic may be rewritten to try to put a more positive spin on things, versus showing America once again as the divided along ideological lines, flawed experiment in democracy that it is from time to time.

However, while we are in the middle of this mess, there are people wondering where their next meal will come from and how they will pay bills without a job. Let the historians figure out what lens they want to use at a later date to describe the last four years as well as the four years to come. For now, there is chance for people to act like those larger than life characters the history books teach about, instead of the flawed, divided founding fathers they were in reality.

Thanksgiving is upon us and there is much to be thankful for. There is also much left to do to ensure that everyone has a Thanksgiving to remember, even if that means having to wait 50 days to kick the crazy uncle with those wacky theories out of the house.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am off to figure out a way to help a food bank.

Copyright 2020 R. Anderson

Editor’s Note: For anyone wanting to help out with a food bank, or for anyone needing the services of a food bank, they can visit FeedingAmerica.org for details on food banks in their area.

Dodgers and Rays in the World Series Proves that Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus

Next week the Hallmark family of cable networks will start their yearly rock block of festive holiday movies. No, I am not talking about Halloween movies, harvest movies, or even Thanksgiving movies.

Instead, the channels that were founded on one sentence greeting cards, ornaments, and conservative Midwestern values, will be blasting Christmas movies day and night for the next two months.

I am certainly guilty of watching my share of Hallmark movies throughout the year. I enjoy the way they can take three original story ideas that someone had 20 years ago and turn them into 40-50 “new” movies each year. However, the past few years have shown that there comes a point where there can be too many “filmed over the course of one weekend while still writing the script” movies.

I get that people could use a little Christmas right this very minute, but starting Christmas in October seems a tad extreme even by 2020 standards.

In that spirit of fast forwarding to Christmas without acknowledging the holidays in between Columbus Day and Christmas, today’s column will have a gingerbread inspired coming down the chimney and opening presents on Christmas day, and not Christmas Eve kind of feel to it with some Reece’s Peanut Butter pumpkins thrown in for good measure.

And with a tug on the old sleigh bells, away we go.

In 1897 The New York Sun received as letter from a girl named Virginia who wanted to know whether there was indeed a real Santa Claus after being told by some of her classmates that there was not.  Open consulting her father on the matter she wrote the newspaper with the rationale being, that if she saw it printed in the paper it must be true.

In 1897 The New York Sun received as letter from a girl named Virginia who wanted to know whether there was indeed a real Santa Claus. Here rationale being, that if she saw it printed in the newspaper it must be true.
Photo R. Anderson

Ah, such a simpler time when the media was trusted and not actively called the enemy of the press by an angry man who may or may not have daddy issues.

But I digress.

Back to Virginia and her letter. In the eloquently written style of 19th Century journalistic prose, an editorial response to her letter concluded that, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence.”

Words to live by in 1897, as well as in 2020.

Just like Virginia back in 1897, I was beginning to question things as the 2020 baseball season was winding down. I have made it clear since January that I am disgusted at what the Houston Astros did in 2017 when they cheated their way to a World Series title.

The fact that the Astros were one win away from their third trip to the World Series in four years a few short days ago made me question whether Baseball Claus existed and made me question my very lifelong baseball fandom going so far as to utter the words that if the Astros won the World Series baseball and I would need to break up for a t least a year since I could not be around such evil.

Granted, it was a tad over dramatic on my part and likely the result of not having any off days between games but I was certainly wondering why Baseball Claus had forsaken us.

For those unfamiliar with Baseball Claus, he is the guy who makes sure that the National Pastime remains as it should and that cheaters don’t prosper. He is also the guy who makes sure Ballparks never run out of hot dogs and nachos.

Just like every Hallmark Christmas movie worth its gingerbread features at least one scene in a Gazebo, Baseball Claus ensures teams that cheat get a lump of coal in their trash can. At least in the Houston Astros case they can use the coal to power the train in Minute Maid Park.
Photo R. Anderson

Sadly, Baseball Claus was at his beach house in January when the penalties for the Astros were handed down.

I have no doubt that if Baseball Claus had been in his office at Major League Baseball (MLB) headquarters in New York City when the cheating report came out, he totally would have insisted that players on the Astros be suspended, or maybe even banned them from baseball for their roles in the season long cheating.

So, I gave Baseball Claus a pass on that one. I mean as a fellow lover of beach houses and time away from the office, I certainly cannot fault him for taking some time to himself on the sugar sand shores. I am sure he must have dropped his phone in the water and was unreachable when the cheating scandal broke.

My belief in Baseball Claus was tested once again when the COVID-19 pandemic struck and a decision was made to roll the dice and play a 60-game regionally based schedule in order to crown a World Series champion.

This time around, I chalked up the lack of response to stop the season by Baseball Claus to him being up north visiting his brother, Hockey Claus. Surely, had Baseball Claus not been trapped north of the border he would have stepped in. Of course, Baseball Claus did make his presence felt in Canada when he told the Toronto Blue Jays they had to play their season in America to avoid bringing more COVID-19 to the land of poutine and maple syrup.

After potentially being cheated out of World Series titles in 2017 and 2018, the Los Angeles Dodgers are returning to the World Series for the third time in four years. Unlike in previous years, Dodger Stadium will not host any of those games.
Photo R. Anderson

So, while I could excuse those two failures to intervene  by Baseball Claus when we really needed him, the run up to the World Series had me truly concerned for his health.

Was Baseball Claus in witness protection? Had he succumbed to COVID-19 like nearly 220,000 Americans? There really were more questions than answers as the aforementioned cheating Houston Astros came closer and closer to going to the World Series for the third time in four years.

I had pen in hand ready to write a letter to the editor like Virginia had so many years ago to ask whether there really was a Baseball Claus; and then Game 7 of the American League Championship Series set everything right.

The Tampa Bay Rays defeated the Houston Astros and punched their ticket to the World Series. One has to wonder whether the Houston Astros punched a trash can in the dugout in frustration after the loss.

Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, FL. host the Tampa Bay Rays first World Series game in 2008. The Rays second trip to the World Series will not include a trip to the Trop thanks to COVID-19.
Photo R. Anderson

I know I have been hard on the Astros this year. Upon further reflection I know what they could have done to have tempered the rage I directed at them.

Had the players acted more contrite and shown genuine remorse for their actions in 2017 I would have been more likely to forgive sooner rather then later. Don’t get me wrong, I would have still been angry, but I likely would have been less angry.

Instead, the players tried to play the role of victim and seemed in many cases to be more concerned about the fallout in terms of their brand then in the fallout of breaking the hearts of little Virginias that rooted for them. I saw no genuine remorse or acknowledgment that what they did was wrong. Instead, I saw players who were merely inconvenienced that they got caught.

As stated many times, the Houston Astros were the biggest winners in 2020 since they never had to face fans in the stands during the regular season. The few interactions with fans in Spring Training games before the world shut down showed the type of visceral anger they would have encountered all season long

Of course, in talking with some Astros fans over the course of the last nine months, some of them don’t seem to really care that the Astros cheated, and just wanted the Astros to win no matter what.

The divide among baseball fans in Houston is indicative of the divide within the United States as a whole on many issues like, climate change, COVID-19, the designated hitter, fans in stands, mask wearing, blue states, red states, etc.

If the divide within the United States was a canyon, right now it would be so far across that even Evel Knievel couldn’t jump it with a souped up rocket bike.

The Astros are done for the year and the Tampa Bay Rays and the Los Angeles Dodgers are set to battle it out for World Series immortality. The two teams with the best records all season long are going head to head as it should be.
Photo R. Anderson

Yes, all of you fans of baseball played without the aid of cameras and trash cans there is indeed a Baseball Claus even in this topsy turvy upside down pandemic ravaged year of 2020.

The Astros are done for the year and the Tampa Bay Rays and the Los Angeles Dodgers are set to battle it out for World Series immortality. The two teams with the best records all season long are going head to head as it should be. Maybe Hallmark was right to start their holiday movie madness in October, since I certainly received a gift of an awesome World Series match up under my Hallowgivingmas tree.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to fill out my Hallmark holiday movie bracket. I think the grand prize this year is a trip to Kansas City to see where the one sentence at a time greeting card magic happens. If I am lucky, I might even get to see a holiday movie written and filmed over the course of an afternoon. I hope it has a gazebo scene.

Copyright 2020 R. Anderson

Columbus Day is a Day to Party Like it is 1492

Across the United States today is Columbus Day. It is also Canadian Thanksgiving but that is another column for another day, eh?

I am sure most of us recall from the story taught in school about how Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492 and “discovered” the new world.

Of course, there were already people living in the new world when Columbus arrived so by all accounts it has already been discovered, and was not new. Additionally, scholars often debate the timing of the arrival of the Vikings in terms of who really arrived from Europe first, but for our purposes here let us just say that it was Christopher Columbus.

Now, in addition to learning about the year of the arrival of Columbus students are also taught from an early age the names of his three ships that accomplished the journey.

These ships were of course the Niña, the Pinta and the Santa Maria.

Growing up my parents had models of the three ships that Columbus sailed.

From the scale of the models as a kid it was hard to determine how large the ships were in reality. Still, even my younger me mind envisioned the ships to be much larger than they were.

A replica of the Nina as seen in the Houston Ship Channel a few years back. The ship travels to posts in the western hemisphere as a floating museum and is a must see for anyone who gets the chance.
Photo R. Anderson

A few years back I had the opportunity to visit a replica of the Niña when it was berthed in the Houston Ship Channel. What struck me the most about the ship was how small it was.

While I was picturing something more along the lines of some of the tall ships I had seen in ports along the Atlantic Coast, the Niña and her ship sisters were more along the lines of being large yachts by today’s standards.

The Niña replica serves as a floating history museum to help teach people about maritime travel in the 15th Century. During a recent stop in Pensacola, FL the Niña replica had a bout with Hurricane Sally while docked in Pensacola Bay. Although the ship broke free of the dock and drifted towards Blue Wahoos Stadium, were it not for the courage of the fearless crew the Niña would be lost. To say again, the Niña would be lost. Wow, that is kind of a catchy tune.

Considering the size of the ships that make cross Atlantic journeys today it is hard to imagine courage that it took to travel into unknown waters in such a tiny ship as the ones used during the Columbus voyages.

Still, despite the smallness of the ships they were able to get the job done and helped introduce Europeans to the new world.

Of course, whether that was a good thing or a bad thing is certainly something that tends to get debated as well. But let us assume that many of us would not reside in North America were it not for the age of exploration.

On August 3, 1492, Columbus and his crew set sail from Spain in the three ships and made landfall on October 12 on one of the Bahamian islands.

Columbus sailed from island to island in what we now know as the Caribbean, looking for the “pearls, precious stones, gold, silver, spices, and other objects and merchandise whatsoever” that he had promised to his Spanish patrons, but he did not find much.

In March 1493 Columbus left 40 men behind in a makeshift settlement on Hispaniola before returning to Spain.

While the first trip in 1492 gets the most acclaim what is often forgotten is the fact that Columbus made four trips across the Atlantic Ocean from Spain.

In addition to the aforementioned 1492 journey, trips were made in 1493, 1498 and 1502. Columbus was determined to find a direct water route west from Europe to Asia, but he never did.

Although the trade route was never found, his journeys marked the beginning of centuries of trans-Atlantic conquest and colonization which ultimately led to the founding of America.

While the future of Columbus Day is murky due to changing beliefs on the wisdom of celebrating the arrival of colonization to the “new world,” one should not just gloss over the uncomfortable parts of history. Instead, a full account of the history from all viewpoints is needed. Or as the public radio show says, history should have, “all things considered.”

During this season of COVID-19 and global pandemics where the world seems smaller based on the ability for a virus to be easily transmitted from country to country, it is important to remember that travel in 1492 was a lot more treacherous and involved long periods of isolation. We can argue whether the trip should have been made, or if the people of European heritage should have stayed on the other side of the pond, but that does not minimize the risk involved in such journeys.

The Tampa Bay Rays are two wins away from a second trip to the World Series. That is sure to make the Rays in Tropicana Field swim with glee.
Photo R. Anderson

Speaking of journeys of discovery, I would be remiss if I did not note that the Tampa Bay Rays are a mere two wins away from knocking off the Houston Astros and going to the World Series to end the strange journey that the 2020 Major League Baseball (MLB) season has been.

With the Houston Astros making appearances in two out of the last three World Series it certainly would be nice to discover a new team from the America League building a dynasty.

In 1492 Columbus did indeed sail the ocean blue. Here’s hoping that in 2020, the Tampa Bay Rays score runs aplenty.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I think it is time to go pay a Columbus Day visit to those three models of Columbus’ ships from my youth.

Copyright 2020 R. Anderson