Issue: What “good” has already resulted from shutting down entire city, state, and nation populations due to the Covid-19 pandemic? Let’s take ‘a closer look’ …
If you haven’t yet noticed, we are in an international health crisis – the likes of which have never been seen on this size and scale. Our global population is closing in on 8 billion – and one of its largest, China, first experienced one of the most enigmatic and deadly outbreaks of what is termed “Covid-19.” As of this post publication (3/21/2020), China has (reportedly) gained control of the outbreak of new infections. Conversely, the location I’m currently residing in, Los Angeles, Calif., U.S.A. – is in its second full day of a complete lock down/ social distancing/ shelter-in-place, house arrest, or whatever you’d like to call it.
But rather than continuing to describe all of the necessary “inconveniences” that we are enduring (and will likely continue to endure for weeks or months ahead) I’m going to shift gears on the fly and discuss some of the obvious “positive repercussions” of this home confinement program.
Traffic and other congestion: Almost immediately, our local neighborhood has been freed up of an unbelievable amount of “non-essential” traffic. Just to provide some perspective, the main street we live adjacent to is a thoroughfare for over 65,000 automobiles, trucks, motorcycles and ‘lambos’ per day. Yes, per day! The noise level, the noticeable lack of constant tripping of our motion sensor lights during the overnight hours and everything that comes with it (i.e. SLEEP) is nothing less than stunning!
People are a lot nicer: With full disclosure, I must admit I don’t spend much time in the local supermarkets, big box retailers, etc. However, my wife does! And from what I’m hearing, people (yeah, the L.A. ones) are treating each other with a bit more respect.
Trash in the streets: Since there are no car “meal-eaters,” coffee cup throwers, or whatever else, the streets are a lot cleaner and we don’t have to spend our mornings and/or evenings in the gutters picking up after strangers … again, a good thing!
Cleaner air: Actually, I first noticed this from a report out of Wuhan, China last month (and more recently in Italy) that showed an infrared image before lock down (factories emitting particulates 24/7) and after (all closed and nothing emitting at all). Guess what? We see it here too. The local factories (we call them “malls”) aren’t overflowing with people and cars looking to hang out all day. More importantly, with most of the local businesses either closed or mostly empty, as bad as it is (admittedly) it does, in fact, allows the environment to “take a break” from the constant and considerable pounding it has been taking for so long.
What do you have to say about where you are? Don’t be shy, please tell us!
Topic: Why do we seem to care more today about cheating in sports?
I know a little bit about professional sports. In fact, without getting too far into the weeds, let’s just say I practically grew up in professional locker rooms, dugouts, and on and off fields, diamonds, and courts. However, since this op-ed is about something else and notabout me, let’s just dive right in and get to the bottom of the matter.
Recently, we have been inundated (much more so than usual) with television/ radio shows, and online debates focusing on the issue of “cheating in professional sports.” In them, pundits rave and rage about how horrible it is that the Houston Astros (allegedly) stole signs in order to win a World Series Championship in 2017. They go on to argue that these same Astros (allegedly) continued to cheat in subsequent years – and perhaps, even as recently as just last year.
Some of the so-called “experts” have gone on to encourage the Astros’ owner and company to forfeit their trophy. Some have even encouraged the same trophy to be stripped away and awarded to the team(s) the Astros defeated on their way to the ultimate prize in our national pastime. I’m not so sure that would ever happen nor solve anything.
Like you, I’ve noticed that many of the Astros players have been showered in spring training with “boos” (and probably some “booze” too) and have been beaned by opposing pitchers of other teams in the major leagues. I suppose the surrounding world is not amused.
Rather than lending my opinion as to the guilt and/ or innocence of this team and its players, I’ll look instead at the bigger picture of cheating in sports itself to ask the following: “What took so long for the general public to rebel against professional cheaters in sports?”
Did we forget the MLB steroid scandal? How about “spy-gate” in the NFL? Or, “deflate-gate“? How about Pete Rose‘s lifetime exile for betting on baseball games? Cycling’s Lance Armstrong and the doping scandal that circled throughout the French Alps? Each of the above scandals musthave played at least some part in obtaining more than a few world championships, right? Or, a few home run titles? Or, at the very least, yielded someone a few endorsement bucks and press in the end? After all, if there were nothing to gain by doing it, they wouldn’t have done it in the first place, right?
I recall as a kid hanging out one day in one of the aforementioned ballparks and overhearing a few old timers whining over a deck of playing cards about the old N.Y. Giants (allegedly) using spies in the center field scoreboard of the Polo Grounds to steal signs and forward them to the Giants team in the home team’s dugout. These guys claimed this is what ultimately led to Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard Round the World” to send the Giants to the World Series in 1951. Who really knows, right? I tell ya’ though, it was one heck of a story for which to be a fly on the wall! I know.
Question: Did we really care that any of the above even happened when it happened? The answer is: YES, of course we did! The only difference is that we are now in a totally different sports (and pundit) environment than we were in the past. I suppose the rise of the internet and the constant 24/7/365 sports news cycle has made quite a difference. Also, perhaps many of the shows mentioned above likewise encourages us to speak up and share all of our collective opinions. We already know nothing will change. Still, we insist on knowing more and more about every little detail!
Nevertheless, the fact remains it is nothing new. Cheating (and alleged cheating, of course) go together like apple pie and Chevrolet. I can hardly count the times when a favorite team of mine lost a big championship and the first thought that entered my mind was, “If it wasn’t for that bad call by the ref in the 2nd quarter, we would’ve won, damn it!” Again, it’s as American as the 4th of July and fireworks. It’s a part of the game, folks! Losing always sucks and always will continue to suck … whether there is cheating or otherwise.
Regrettably, though, something has really changed now. We have lost our ability to lose a game (or a series of games) and simply tip our cap to the other team and the opposing crowd and retire to our locker room to brood or reflect. We all feel like our opinion needs to be heard. Worse yet, we feel that everything should be stopped, rolled back and the results should be reversed – in our favor, of course! It’s as if the game never ends. There’s always a chance to change the outcome. But, is there?
Maybe it also has something to do with the seemingly endless video replays and second-guessing that goes on in nearly every major sport now. There is so much tape “under review” that it no longer is a chore to find time to take a leak during a game! We’ve definitely lost the spontaneity of professional major sports. Even the words I’m writing at this moment is probably in some way a reflection of the same sentiment. I guess what I’m saying is, yes, we still retain the ability to vent and to be heard by an army of unlimited others. Yes, we also have the ability to get attention (or clicks) from others. But, that is allwe have. We have no added power or influence to change anything. And, by screaming louder across the table at each other or texting in ALL CAPS isn’t going to change anything … ever!
In fact, to think that we have any chance to “stop the presses, go back and reverse the results….” is the classic inclination of the short-sighted fanatic – believing that he or she has the ability to compete in the professional sports world. This has proven by the numbers through the years to be extremely unlikely to ever happen. That said, if there are ever changes made (and I doubt there will), we’ll all be left to argue and fight it out among ourselves – gaining neither resolution nor contentment in the process.
What do you think?
About our contributor:
“A Closer Look with Anthony Newcombe” is a 2020 post series that examines “hot button issues” ranging from politics to sports to, well, nearly anything and everything both inticing and current. Anthony is a 4-time entrepreneur, a published author, narrator, web developer and designer.
His current book, Sorry, 50 Is NOT The New 30, which is published in English, Spanish, French (with additional languages available later this spring). All multi-lingual editions are available for purchase via Amazon.com, BarnesAndNoble.com, and directly through his proprietary website, Sorry, 50 Is NOT The New 30.
It’s funny how easy it is to forget that as recently as this book was released, 2006-07, Obama was the sole African-American in the Senate. It’s no wonder that he encountered the level of resistance he did when leapfrogging over this body into the presidency in 2009. I bet more than a few colleagues were completely blindsided by his rapid ascent. Anyhow, with the power of hindsight (being 20/20) it is easy to see now how the U.S. is in the kind of tribal state it is. A large swath of Americans has proven that they were, in fact, completely blindsided by the appearance and success of Barack Obama as a politician and an individual. I suppose it’s just one of many issues the country will need to deal with as democracy matriculates down this long and winding road dubbed “America.”
What I liked about this book
liked the honesty Obama revealed about his wife, Michelle. It was very clear that Michelle was no fan of
politics and a lot of the decisions required for Barack to take his journey to
the top of the U.S. government. I
imagine she was even more clearly aware of the sacrifices needed for them and their
family to make. That said, it provides
for an even more amazing result.
Gutsy! Of course, gutsy at a
personal price though…
What I disliked about this book
Though I find few areas to complain about in Obama’s writing style, I would be less than genuine if I didn’t point out that I listened to Audacity right on the heels of Dreams from my Father. So, as anyone who has listened to both would most likely agree, I was coming off a “sugar high” from one of the finest books I’ve ever listened to or read.
I guess it’s just that Audacity was, as the follow up work, very focused on his political career path and thoughts – as opposed the personal details. Political details, in my opinion, will never rival the excitement and interest of the personal variety. I know it’s unfair to compare the two, but since it was so fresh, I just felt a noticeable come down from Obama’s first book (Dreams). That’s just me though. In fact, as political works go, it was a solid read overall.
Whom would I recommend to
read this book
I think this book is a great read for anyone who is unclear about the process, preparation, and sacrifice it took for Obama and his family to ultimately arrive at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. It reminds me of many sports figures whom we hear the commentators’ incredulity at how “this guy makes it look easier than it really is!” Yes, perhaps it seemed much easier of a road than it ultimately was.
One of the reasons I decided to weave this
review into my book blog fabric is that I just came off editing my own first
non-fiction work, and I noticed this book, Ikigai … , might provide some of the
answers to several of the questions I touched on obliquely in my book (but, of
course, had no intention of providing my readers with any helpful answers!)
I’ve always been curious as to what
ingredients comprise mixing the “best cocktail for an extended and fruitful
existence.” Unfortunately, at least in my experience of life in the U.S., I’ve seen
mostly the opposites – those that shave away years and good health (i.e.
a sedentary lifestyle, a poor diet, poor air and water quality, unhealthy
climate, congested cities, dangerous crime rates, etc.)
It was nice to learn that there are
actually areas of the world where the odds are favorable to a long and happy
life! Learning about “Blue Zones” (areas
of the world where the average lifespan is elongated) was eye-opening and a relief
to learn about. Perhaps, one day, I will make the effort to integrate some of
these locations as stops on future global treks of mine!
What I liked about this book
One of the best qualities of this book is
Not to sound patronizing, but, I’ve found that this is the type of book that
could easily have lost most readers by using an abundance of unnecessary data,
which could very easily have bogged it down and lost the value of making so
many of its points clearly and succinctly.
What I disliked about this book
had a tough time finding much to dislike about this book. At first, I thought it might be a bit too general
for my taste. However, once I read the
part that recommended to always “try to challenge yourself, but not to the point
where it overwhelms you or causes stress” – I knew we had passed the point of a
“dull read.” At that point – early on in the book – I realized it would be best not to
prejudge it as simple, but rather absorb it (like a sponge) with all of its subtle
Whom would I recommend to
read this book
I think this book should be required reading for most any age. If you’re a young whippersnapper and want to get the edge on some of the secrets of life, then read it! If, however, you are getting up in age and want to make some changes in order to have a better chance in a longer and happier life, read it likewise! It would have been nice to have read it when I was much younger and clueless about how to embrace the “simpler things in life.”
If anyone has ever taken the time to
listen to Barack Obama publicly speak, I think he or she would agree with me
that he has an extraordinary way with words. What I didn’t know (and what
most people probably don’t either) is that he also has the ability to transform
his voice into a wide array of characters – much like a talented voiceover
I’m not talking about one or two voices,
but rather something that numbers in the double digits! He uses this
ability to paint a creative canvas with different voices/characters that he
unveils to us are his family and/ or friends. Whether it was his
curmudgeonly (yet likeable) Anglo grandfather from Kansas; the velvety
assortment of Kenyan-Kikuyan dialects depicting his late father – as well as
other Kenyan relatives (both male and female); his African-American friends and
teammates in the mainland U.S.; his Hawaiian peers and other locals; a pinch of
Indonesian tongues; and on, and on and on.
What I liked about this book
No matter how impressive I found Obama to
be prior to listening to the
audio version of his inaugural autobiography, I cannot
understate how much more impressive (and relatable) this work made him to
me. I certainly had my doubts as to how he could/ would build the
foundation of “an understanding of the dreams of someone he barely knew (i.e. Barack
Sr.).” He also didn’t have access to the recollection of his mother; who
also died very young in life.
Yet, I quickly became convinced at how he
“filled in all of the blanks” by taking us on his journey to track down those
who knew his father best – the side of his family still residing in
Kenya. Without being much of a spoiler, let’s just say he was able to
keep from having to “guess” or “manipulate” the details of his father’s
life. He was able to track down how his father became who he was, what
was important to his father, what made him tick, and what frightened or
distracted him. For those of us who are familiar with absentee, enigmatic and/
or abusive parents, it is a unique and crafty approach to discovering the
“secrets of the past” without having to create them from his imagination like
most of the rest of us do.
The author lays some eye-opening stats on us in the Prologue. It does as much to shed light on the financial anxiety most Americans are and have been feeling for quite some time – that contribute to much of the division and fear mongering that has become an American staple for others to ‘swoop in on’ and take full advantage of.
Giridharadas references a study that discovered:
“…middle and lower class Americans (born from 1984 on) now have merely a35% chance of achieving a comparable lifestyle to their parents (down drastically from previous generations). He goes on to mention that the top tenth of earners income has doubled since 1980, the top 1% has tripled – and, if you’re in the top .001%, you earned 7x.” (paraphrased fromPrologue, pg. 4)
The author tells us it is time to examine how income disparity numbers like this arose, and to take an honest look at how the crushing impact it has on the majority of us.
The author also suggests that the general population would be foolish to (think and hope) that it can sit back and allow the super wealthy and super influential to save us all from this situation. The reasons, as so carefully laid out in this book, are that many of the same individuals (and companies) who orchestrate, participate, fund, and preside on speaker panels are, in fact, the ones responsible for creating many of the global issues they claim to be solving.
This book is a very eye-opening exposé on what the author terms to be “a charade” that the rich and famous carefully play on the rest of us. It shows repeated demonstrations as to how and why some very important social problems are to be addressed (as outlined by the super-rich), but fail to ever be resolved. The author informs us that this all appears to be more by design than by circumstance. It is a harrowing thought– but one he insists is real and that we need to examine.
Question: How many times have we stumbled off to an early morning business trip – only to realize we are completely unorganized? Oftentimes, we take a fairly simple process and complicate it by committing the kinds of oversights that we would never tolerate in the office. Below are a few examples that might sound familiar to us all:
The 5-minute shave, shower and shuffle
The 4-minute pack ‘n’ push-off
The 3-minute coffee – oatmeal – dash (of course, with chin crumbs in tow)
And we aren’t talking about an emergency business trip booked at 2-3 a.m. the morning of, but rather one typically planned 2-3 weeks ahead!
So, where does that leave us? For starters, let’s make this easier by taking a page out of the old book of common sense:
I learned that there are still some horrifying events that can and may occur in our country at any moment in time. We tend to consume ourselves with ourselves (selfies, smartphones, reality television, etc.). What we may not do enough of is pay attention to some of the things that threaten to take all of the fun away from us – permanently. One example of this type of catastrophe (spoiler alert #1) is the one examined in the book – the purposeful contamination of a virus meant to cause a complete and total shutdown of all of the things we take for granted but need each day: clean running water supply, electricity from the grid, internet access – as well as too many other conveniences to mention.
In other words, we may find value in gluing ourselves to every personal experience, but none of it will mean anything without continued access to the things we actually need in order to exist each day. This novel could be looked at as a wake-up call for many of us in America.
Most of us think we’re wide awake, but, in fact, we are mostly “asleep at the wheel” when it comes to the prospects of a true, wide-scale crisis. I suppose it remains to be seen how serious we can ever get about this or any other type of wake-up call.