Monday, March 30, 2020

The Price of Freedom

What a difference three weeks has made.  Back on March 9th, the United States had less than 750 documented cases of COVID-19, and only about 25 people had perished.  There were still people down-playing the severity of the pandemic, still people vacationing on beaches up and down the east coast (not sure about the west coast), still people attending sports and entertainment events, still people eating out at local restaurants and bars. 

Fast forward to today, and America leads the world in confirmed coronavirus cases, and will so, for the foreseeable future as we are adding more than double the number of cases of any other country each day. Most likely we will have over 160,000 cases by today's end, as compared to that 750 number just 21 days ago.  Fortunately, we are not seeing the horrendous death rate of Italy or Spain, but we will certainly surpass China in aggregate deaths in the next 2 days, most likely hitting the 3000 dead mark today compared to the 25 we had 21 days ago.  Just for reference sake, Italy and Spain will certainly achieve the dubious distinction of a death rate equivalent to 1 out of every 5000 people while China is holding at 1 out of every 500,000.  (American will be at the 1 out of every 100,000 mark, today or tomorrow).

Again, I am using the info from the link below, which updates regularly.  (There is a last time updated notation at the top of the page)

First, let's recognize that there is a certain amount of skepticism that we should maintain when we examine results from countries that are generally closed to the free dissemination of news.  North Korea is not included on the list.  They, in fact, may have a far less occurrence of this pandemic because no one is flocking to that country.  And, whatever presence the disease may have, their authoritarian government would be reticent to reveal the details.  Russia is also fairing well in this outbreak, although, again, not a popular tourist destination, and not a land where independent reporting flourishes.  Even China's numbers should be considered with some doubt of their veracity.

There is certainly blame to go around as to why America is suffering more cases than all other nations (and remember, our testing still lags behind, so it is easy to imagine that we might already have had 250,000 cases so far).  We had our first case relatively early, in January, yet, as I indicated above, were still living our lives without constraint, almost 2 months later.  Perhaps, had China been more forthcoming about the virus, we might have acted more quickly, but given that we lost many weeks between first case and widespread "slow the spread" guidelines, that is wishful thinking, at best, a diversion of blame at worst.  The problem with the CDC's first attempt at testing also created a delay, as well as FDA rules that limit how and when independent, private sector development of testing kits and disease study can take place.  And, of course, the perception that the danger was more from speculative and sensational news coverage than from the actual virus itself.  "It will miraculously disappear by April" may also have contributed to the general nonchalance approach that marked the beginning of reporting of COVID-19.

But, blame aside, I think that we cannot ignore the simple fact that our singular sense of individualism and freedom in America, makes it much harder to attack a virus of this nature in a preemptive fashion, as compared to a society where personal liberties are more easily relinquished.  It is the price we may sometimes pay for our freedom.  Even today, as the trends for more cases and deaths continue to rise exponentially, there are calls to sacrifice a portion of the population rather than create an economic meltdown as such an economic collapse will surely bring its own set of misery and suffering. 

The simple fact is that if we, as a country, are not willing to allow our temperatures to be taken before we enter a public establishment, or even our place of employment, are not willing to be tested before
handling food we will be serving to others, caring for the sick, stocking shelves at a local grocer, or any of the myriad other contacts that occur in the service and retail industries, are not even willing to figure out a way for our elected officials to vote remotely so they don't spread the virus among those we need to make the most difficult decisions concerning this crisis, then we must own the fact that a certain amount of suffering and death are acceptable. 

There was recently a quote from the Governor of Mississippi who said that he not only did not want to issue a statewide closure of non-essential businesses, but that his power as governor meant that cities and towns in his state were not allowed to do so either.  This was just a few days ago.  Upon announcing this decision, he said that his state was not China and never would be.  I imagine he was referring to the fact that the entire area of WuHan was quarantined, no one in or out, to help contain the virus, and that an attempt was made to track down, isolate and trace the contacts of anyone who had visited that area.  In other words, an almost complete suspension of freedom.   Live Free or Die, as they say in New Hampshire. 

It will be easy to make a judgement on how we did when this is all over.  There will be those who will claim it was all overblown and others of who will wish we had acted sooner.  There will even be some who will try to create a perception of winners and losers, especially those in politics, even in the face of the loss of tens of thousands of lives and trillions of economic dollars.  Perhaps that too, is the price of freedom. The belief that any individual or group should, or could, or would somehow be a winner in the face of a national disaster. 

I would like to suggest that great freedom requires more social responsibility, not less.  The highest form of freedom is that which is sacrificed for the good of the community, whether that sacrifice occurs on the battlefield during wartime, or in the hospitals fighting a pandemic, or in the streets when we allow a nasal swab to reduce the spread of a disease.  Do we have the freedom to do nothing while a woman is raped in front of us?  To ignore a woman who is beating her child over the head?  To go into a hospital or nursing home even when we know we are contagious?  Is that the essence of true freedom, or true selfishness?  And, does pure individual freedom, where everyone can do as she pleases, create a totally free country, or anarchy?

Tough questions during a tough time, but perhaps now is the best time to address them, while we are battling this crisis.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Playing the numbers 2

Yesterday I requested that those who are discussing and debating the policies we should follow during the current crisis surrounding the COVD-19 virus, should detail the number of people that their plan is prepared to accept that will die.  In other words, to keep the economy from crashing, how soon should we expect to return to "normal" and how many deaths will that plan accept.  While I recognize that, in reality, there is no way to know how many lives will be saved or lost with any course of action, we will know how many have died when we reach May.  We will have a base line which will tell us that whatever protocol we chose to follow between now and then, it resulted in x amount of deaths and then can partially extrapolate that more drastic measures would have saved more, and less measures will have saved less. I know this will be an after the fact exercise, but it may at least provide guidance for future pandemics. 

I also hope that the lessons we learned already are that more testing needs to be done sooner, more people need to take such a situation more serious sooner, and that, perhaps, we should maintain a stockpile of medical supplies more in conjunction with the number of Americans, or, at least have a structure in place so that when 10 or 20 or even 100 times the amount of these materials is needed quickly, it is easier to turn on the process, and that it is less dependent on one person to make it so.  Perhaps we might have valves in multiple hands across America that can act when needed.

For this post, I would like to discuss the massive stimulus and rescue packages that are being rolled out.  I heard the president say that about 160 million Americans were working before this crisis.  My brief research before beginning this post confirms that number, but let's just say that 150 million people were working since that number is a bit easier to manipulate.

Some people estimate that millions of people will be out of work, either already or soon.  Let's use 20% of 150 million.  That means that 30 million people will be not working while 120 million people will still be working.  Now, I know that unemployment creates a cycle that feeds on itself, but for now, the vast majority of Americans are still working, or some, like myself, are not working but still being paid.  Why do we all need a check in the mail?  Giving everyone money, now, seems to be admitting that the virus will get worse, and that even more people will lose their pay.  But doesn't that fly in the face of targeting Easter to get back to work?

It seems that we are working at cross purposes, doling out a large sum of money to people who don't need it yet, while painting a hopeful picture that we are nearing the end.

Let's be clear.  I support the theory that the federal government should intervene in times of distress, whether that distress be from storm or disease or other natural disaster.  I expect that those who have been asked to stay home, who have been asked to shutter or vastly alter the working of their business,
should certainly be compensated.  It would be nice if everyone could continue to be paid regardless of whether they are working but for many small businesses that is not reality, not if we are expecting 4-6 weeks of closure.  Get them money, as fast as possible, via whatever means we can create or expand upon.  I am even OK if we establish a fund for this purpose, knowing it is there as more people lose their jobs, but hoping it is not necessary to disburse.  It is that kind of structure that I think is missing, and that will hopefully be one of the things we address after this is over.  We shouldn't need Congress to debate the details again, but probably will as this progresses.  Why?

Also, for the majority of those of us who are either still working or getting paid to stay at home, what sacrifice are we being asked to make?  Can a percentage of us donate 5 or 10 percent of our salary to offset the cost of those who do not have that luxury?  I would imagine that there are many people who earn over 1 million a year who could get by on $900,000, and would do so if asked.  I also think that there are countless middle class Americans like myself who would accept a slightly smaller check to see America through this crisis.  Why isn't anyone asking us?


My assumption is that I need a check so that I can spend that money and keep the economy going.  But spend it where?  There are no entertainment or sporting events happening now.  I certainly shouldn't be hoarding food, and since there is limited food supply anyway with posted restrictions, I couldn't spend it there if I wanted.  Am I supposed to buy a car or boat?  Frankly, for those of use who really don't need the money now, it would be more prudent to save it just in case circumstances change, not immediately spend it.  Let's be honest, saving money is anathema to a system built on rampant consumerism yet this situation doesn't really lend itself, like perhaps the aftermath of 911 did, to handing out money to everyone at this time.  Let's use a scalpel, not a sledgehammer.

As for corporations getting helped, those who read me know I am not a fan.  If a large company hasn't created an emergency plan to address a 4 week shutdown, or doesn't have the resources to pay their employees during such a time, or can't manipulate its expenses so that while revenue may be dropping so are some costs associated with inventory and distribution which may be funneled to help shore up the salary outlays, or even, as I mentioned earlier, ask those at the top of the pay scale within their organizations to take a bit less so those at the bottom can be helped, not to mention, borrowing at zero interest on a temporary basis using the assets that they own as collateral, well, I guess I am unsympathetic. 

As for the cruise line industry.  No way.  Spend a bit of time researching these companies and you will find that they avoid paying taxes in America through a variety of ways, including registering their boats in other countries, regardless of where their headquarters might be.  They employ a small percentage of Americans and pay their employees poor wages.  In other words, they use American tourists to fund their businesses but return a very small percent of their income to the American taxpayer.  They don't even build their boats in America, let alone employ Americans on them.  And, frankly, while I actually would like to take a cruise one day, specifically to Alaska, if they did not exist tomorrow, the world would not be any worse off.  Let them go bankrupt and restructure but don't give them a penny

I am not sure why Americans who voted for a businessman to lead our country thought he would balance the budget or reduce the deficit.  Extremely rich business folk have ways and means to expand their wealth that regular people do not.  They use tax laws to cover their mistakes in one part of their business, to avoid paying taxes on their profits in another.  They declare bankruptcy without it effecting their ability to borrow large sums of money on their next scheme.  And, when push comes to shove, they abandon their so called love of individualism and capitalism, and come running to the American taxpayer for help, under the guise of too big to fail.  It seems pretty clear by the action of politicians on both sides, but especially those who lambasted Obama when the federal debt grew so much after the 2008 economic meltdown, that we love capitalism when we get to keep all the profits, but equally love socialism when we need help from the American taxpayer. 

Frankly, there is one sentiment that the president keeps trying to push, despite his denial of the magnitude of the problem in the beginning, and his slow response to the spread of the disease in February, and that is that we will recover from this crisis.  America, for all its problems and blindness to income inequality and wealth distribution, will see a rebound when this is all over.  Sure, the rich who are buying up stocks now at bargain basement prices will be even richer.  And we will pretend that a  health care system that is tied to employment is a good idea, even though even more people will be without health coverage after all this is over and even more people will face the prospect of getting health care of buying food.  (What, you think that just because some insurance companies say they will cover the cost of virus testing, that they will also take on the cost of any other malady that might strike a furloughed or laid off person during these times?)

Yes, we will survive this.  The question is, will we have learned anything?

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Playing the numbers

I am not adamantly opposed to conversations that debate risk and reward, that weigh the consequences of action or non-action in the face of a crisis, or even in one's everyday life for that matter.  We all accept risk of one form or another many days of of our lives.

We might decide to smoke because it calms us, knowing full well that it will invariably reduce our life span.  We may turn to alcohol or marijuana or Valium to help us wind down from the stresses of our lives, knowing that for certain people with an addiction predisposition, just a little is not a possibility, and that without facing our reasons for why we need to drink or take drugs, we will never conquer those fears or worries, but could develop a dependence that is worse than the problem.

When I was younger, I hitchhiked across America, despite the warnings from my family and some friends.  Warnings which I countered by saying that driving is dangerous, getting in a car can be dangerous, how much has the percentage increased by getting in a car with a stranger who has decided to be a good Samaritan?  So, when I see the spring breakers on the beach and in the bars, I react just as those who were against my hitchhiking, consider them fools at best, selfish at worst, but all in all, young people having fun in a way that is not a wise choice.  I imagine that just as I might discourage my children from hitchhiking, those same spring breakers will be surprised in 20 years when they advise their own children to avoid unnecessary risks.

At this point in time, we have a virus of unknown infectious rate and mortality rate spreading across our country.  We are fortunate in that we have a few examples, and some data to draw from since some other countries were effected by the disease before us, but those examples range from China and South Korea where extensive testing and forced quarantine was used to identify and isolate those with the disease, to Italy and Spain where the freedom to go to restaurants and public entertainment events and beaches was not relinquished quite so easy as it was in the first two countries I mentioned.

Deaths per 1 million people in China and S Korea is around 2 while those for Italy and Spain are 100 and 60 respectively.  Our rate is at 2 as well but since we are just in the beginning of our battle, the question isn't will that number rise, but how can we avoid the death toll in Italy and Spain.  Yesterday we lost over 100 people for the first time, and we will most likely continue to break a record for deaths per day for 2 weeks, if you believe the medical experts who warn us that today's numbers reflect those who first encountered the disease 10-14 days ago.

So, not being a infectious disease expert or an economist, it is imperative that the president is weighing information from both as he makes his decisions, both today and in the weeks to come.

If we assume that President Trump is getting numbers from both camps, I would be curious as to what those numbers are, and how the President defines "the problem" when he says that the cure cannot be worse than the problem.  As I sit hear hacking away on my computer, there are 400,000 cases of the virus on the planet with about 17,500 fatalities so far.  When compared to the numbers from a normal flu season, there haven't even been as many deaths in the world as there will be in America this year.  However, the number of cases is expanding at 20% or more per day, so until we hit the top of the curve, it is not unlikely that there will be millions of cases worldwide by April, and 100,000 in America by next weekend.  Again, way less than the normal flu but the graph line is very close to vertical with no plateau in sight.

I believe that President Trump believes that the health experts are overstating the top end of the curve when some predict tens of millions of cases in America with tens of thousands of deaths, even though that is the typical extent of a normal flu season.  I also suspect that he does not hold with the theory that COVID-19 will be more fatal that the .1% mortality rate of the normal flu even though the current death rate in America is a bit over 1%, which is 10 times the flu and does not reflect the number of people in serious or critical condition which is twice more than the actual number of deaths.

This link below is a nice reference site.

But again, there is a case to be made that another 10,000 COVID-19 deaths on top of the normal flu (which also may rise a bit since there could be resource shortages that effect the care and cure of those who become very sick from the normal flu), might not justify trillions of dollars of deficit spending and/or creating an economic recession.

For that reason, I think we need to ask the president along with all politicians and pundits who comment on the choices we have made and are about to make, what is the number of deaths they are willing to accept?  This is not meant to be a sarcastic question, or some type of philosophical trap, but is the foundation of the reasoning for how we handle this pandemic.

10,000 good, 50,000 less good but OK, 100,000 bad?

If closing everything for two more weeks results in only 25000 deaths where three weeks would have saved half of those lives, is that justification for more economic suffering?

Playing the numbers is a great way to gamble at Atlantic City or Las Vegas, especially when you are willing to lose everything you brought in order to have some fun.  However, if today's gambling losses also meant you might lose the same amount next week, without playing, you might think twice about what you are willing to risk.

Make no mistake, President Trump and all the Governors and the mayors and all their advisers and everyone who comments and opines on what we should do next, are making and effecting decisions that are not easy.  That is why we elected them, so that they can make those decisions for us, when we might spare no expense rather than to sacrifice our parent, older sibling, or immune deficient friend to save the economy for everyone else. Still, I am hopeful that despite the dire warnings from his economic advisers, the president will listen to those advising caution before reverting to "open for business" again, at least until the curve for the United States shows some type of flattening.

Finally, is it possible that this is a false choice to begin with?  Is it possible that the willingness for the rich and powerful to justify their decisions which lead to the suffering and death of the masses, is just another way for them to maintain the status quo which has rewarded them to date?  Why can't America, the greatest country now, or ever, be able to continue to reduce the spread of a novel virus through practices which reduce social contact, hence revenue, while still paying those who need to stay home while providing a source of money for those businesses most effected by the slowdown?  There are many people still working, many businesses only partially effected and some even doing well.  Why aren't they able to help bridge the gap by sacrificing a bit of pay and temporarily hiring some who are being displaced?  Are we even asking them?

In the end, the main problem with all this mental masturbation is that we can't go back in time if we think our actions are only going to cost 15,000 lives but end up costing 25,000.  We won't know if we made the right choices, ever, since how many lives we saved by washing our hands more and maintaining social distances will never be known,  We will only know, how many lives were lost despite our efforts.  Or, perhaps how many lives were sacrificed to avoid the cure being worse than the problem.

By the way, since I started this post about an hour ago, 750 more people died from the virus

Monday, March 23, 2020

Circular Economy

Just finished reading a fascinating article in this month's National Geographic called The End of Trash. It describes the efforts being taken in some parts of the world to create a circular economy in which waste becomes just another material for some other process.  What is especially interesting about this concept is that it is as much a return to how waste was treated in the past as it is a result of innovations in these modern times which might enable it to come about.

The article takes great pains in detailing the source, processes and use, and final destination of our waste. Not surprisingly, while 2/3 of the material flowing through the global economy, that was 67.4 billion tons in 2015, gets emitted as pollution or scattered/disposed of as waste, less than 10% is reused.  This contrasts starkly with the knowledge of how societies and cultures more tuned to nature, wasted very little, as an example, in the use of a buffalo, meat for sustenance, hides for clothing, ligaments and bones for sewing thread and tools; nothing harvested that wasn't used in some way. 

Additionally, our trend towards a more consumer driven society, and the accepted belief that shiny and new is always better than worn and old, creates an endless supply of still useful goods that are discarded only because they work a tad less efficiently or are just not the latest and greatest.  The cell phone industry is a perfect example of this cycle of waste.  It eventually becomes necessary to replace a working but aged cell phone merely because the technology which cell phones access changes (or is purposefully altered) so that the older phones don't work.  Not only have advertisers been very successfully convincing the majority of people that keeping up with the Joneses, is necessary to remain socially accepted, but it has been latched onto by many of our institutions so that failure to do so is considered anti-capitalist, hence anti-American. 

A number of examples were cited in the article of successful attempts to create a more circular economy, hence less trash.  Unfortunately, most were overseas.  In Iceland, a power station that takes advantage of geothermal energy from the magma beneath the country's lava fields, not only produces heat and electricity for homes, but after treating the water that has created that energy, the water is used to create a popular tourist attraction.  Also noted was the Italian company that extracts wool to be
re-spun, and an 11 company cooperative in Denmark where the steam from a nearby power plant is used to sterilize a company's equipment, which then sends its yeast slurry to a bioenergy plant where microbes process in into natural gas. 

Unfortunately, the circularity gap, the difference between what is wasted and what is reused, is widening, not closing, our use of natural resources is on pace to double again in another 30 years, and our carbon emissions are certainly not slowing.  The author, an admitted optimist, accepts the premise that his generation, my generation, needs to relinquish the reigns of power, the sooner the better, to make way for the ideas and vision of those born since 1990.  Those people, who will do their living and dying in the second half of the 21st century, hopefully will make the necessary (and difficult) decisions to rethink our assault on nature, our use and abuse of the finite natural resources of our planet, and do their best to create a more circular economy that combines the thriftiness of our more agrarian ancestors with the innovation of the coming continued advancements in material processing, waste management and cooperative business practices.

I would imagine that our vision of the future, the one where machines make life easier, less dangerous, more productive, does not include mountains of used consumer goods or islands of plastic floating in our waterways.  Yet that is our direction, if we continue to fail to address how we are becoming the trashy neighbor of the solar system.  The article in Nat Geo makes it all too clear that it is not the lack of how to make things right, but the lack of will to do it, just as it is with so many of our shared problems.

Perhaps a silver lining might emerge from this virus scare but only if we resist the belief that we can merely return to doing what we did before.  We need a sea change in our approach, or we will fail to heed the lessons of this pandemic, and fail to do the right thing by our progeny and our Mother Earth.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Gene Stratton-Porter

Born Geneva Grace Stratton in 1863, this woman eventually became one of the most read authors in the early 20th century. Her books about nature, and especially those concerning the Limberlost area of northern Indiana, introduced multiple generations to the beauty of nature, the importance of biodiversity in the natural world, and the idea that a woman could be more than just a wife.  In the area of environmental awareness, she was sighted by many who came after her as an influence in their lives, including Rachel Carson.

I just read about Stratton-Porter in the March edition of The Smithsonian magazine.  What spurred me to post about her, besides the above mentioned plaudits which just scrape the surface of her life, was the following quote:

It was Thoreau who in writing of the destruction of the forests exclaimed, "Thank heaven they cannot cut down the clouds".  Aye, but they can!...If men in their greed cut forests that preserve and distill moisture, clear fields, take the shelter of trees from creeks and rivers until they evaporate, and drain the water from swamps so that they can be cleared and cultivated, they prevent vapor form rising.  And if it does not rise, it cannot fall.  Man can change and is changing the forces of nature.  Man can cut down the clouds.

She was talking about climate change before the term was coined, and in particular the actions of humanity which may change the climate. We know that the earth's temperature is slowly rising and that incidents of extreme weather have increased.  Wildfire season out West starts earlier and lasts longer.  Winters have certainly been more mild in the recent past. 

Despite these observations, and her desire to awaken her readers to become more in tune with nature, Stratton-Porter did not write her books to warn of a coming environmental crisis but to inspire her readers to higher ideals, ideals which included a respect and appreciation for nature, among others.

We are currently in the throes of a pandemic, caused by the Covid-19 strain of the family of corona viruses, the same family which brought us SARS and MERS.  Are these instances of viral infections the result of our over populating the earth, in that more people equates to more of a chance for a virus of this type to jump from animal to human populations?  Or the result of the continuing thaw of the permafrost in the Arctic which may release bacteria which has heretofore remained frozen in the ground?  Or just a reflection of a lack of respect which we give to nature through our belief that we can do whatever we want without regards to the consequences?

Or perhaps, it is all just another episode in the great game of life, in this case, the game which pits us against ourselves.  Our ambition to improve our lives versus the risks we will take to achieve those improvements.  Stratton-Porter wrote her books about nature and its beauty while her husband increased his fortune selling oil from the 60 oil wells on the family farm.  Does one cancel out the other, or just reflect the difficulty in trying to achieve two goals which produce opposite results?

They say that the wise man learns more from his mistakes than his successes.  It is hard to label humanity as wise at this point for while our successes are numerous and impressive, we seem far less willing to even acknowledge our failures, let alone learn from them, seem far too willing to take the credit when things go well while being quick to point the finger of blame when things fall apart. 

When the current crisis passes, will there be a widely circulated report detailing how we can best handle the next viral outbreak?  Will we wash our hands more, less or the same once things settle down?  Will we remain conscious of our individual responsibility to avoid contact with the immune compromised if we are sick?  Will we push for paid sick leave for all Americans, especially those in the retail, food, and care giving industries who are now bearing the brunt of the national shutdown? Will we demand that our government and private sector employers replace their tired platitudes which pretend that they treat their employees like family, with actual laws and policies that reflect the genuine belief that without the efforts of the American worker, there would be no profits, stock options or GDP growth?  Will we strive for a more equitable distribution of wealth so that everyday families are not so often one missed paycheck away from financial ruin?


Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Life without Sports

For more than a couple of years, I have been becoming disenchanted with sports, specifically the high
salaries being paid for people to play a game.  I am not the only person who perceives the vast investment in all forms of the entertainment industry as a way for the extremely wealthy to keep the everyday person distracted from what is really important.  I have more than once bemoaned the fact that most people can more readily name the judges on The Voice or American Idol than those on the Supreme Court.  The simple fact that a reality TV icon was able to parlay his extremely rude but entertaining treatment of people on his show into a presidential campaign, is proof enough.  To me, salaries over 10 million dollars a year for an individual in sports or the entertainment industry or business, when millions of Americans work 40+ hours a week and still live near or below the poverty line, most likely without health care benefits or paid sick leave, and when far too many schools, inner city and rural, struggle to provide the basic tools necessary to learn, speaks volumes about our priorities, or lack thereof.  Yes, I understand that there will always be haves and have nots, but when we justify such a wide gap between them, we dismiss the toll that living in a forced subsistence manner has on families.

I wrote a story about 10 years ago which addressed the issue of athletes and high salaries, a problem which has become far worse since that story was written.  If interested, please click the link below

But I digress.

Despite everything I have said above, I still spend too much time on sports, watching sports, checking on the scores, talking about them.  While I do not consider myself a true sportsaholic, I don't have a FanDuel account, and have never called a Sports radio show, I admit to spending too much time engaged in them as an audience, as opposed to a participant.  In short, I was a hypocrite when it came to saying that athletes salaries were too high, when my actions in supporting them play a part in making those salaries high in the first place.  And so, when the sporting world came to a halt last week due to the Covid-19 outbreak, I wondered how I would fare. 

Well, it has been a week and I am proud to say that I have not missed sports all that much.  Yes, I admit to grabbing the remote when I returned from work a few days ago and began to check for the scores before I remembered that there were none, but for the most part, it has been a smooth transition.  In fact, since I tended to watch sports on TV, I am not watching quite as much TV in general, although I do check in for updates concerning the stock market and virus progression.

Perhaps the nicer weather makes it easier to exist without sports, plus we are occupied with the prospect of moving in the next few months.  But I have always enjoyed reading and am finding more time for that hobby, and I am even engaging in conversation with my daughter and wife a bit more frequently.

The big test, of course, will be how I react when sports returns.  Will I be like the dieter who gains back most of the weight after losing 20 pounds, or will I resist the temptation to automatically tune to whatever sporting event is on, or to check the scores of the local teams.  If there is an NHL and NBA playoff season, it will not be easy to not watch if either of the two local teams are playing, or to not check the scores while they play.  I expect that it is far easier to not miss sports when there are none to miss as it is to not watch sports or check the scores when they are in full action. 

I doubt that I will ever not enjoy sports.  There are a lot of positive things about playing a team game and learning to work in conjunction towards a common goal, as well as pushing one self to fully realize one's potential if athletics are an area where one excels.  And, of course, amateur sports, where it still exists, is often a great place to spend one's sports dollar as it is at that level that all future sports professionals learn the best (and unfortunately, worse) of what sports is about.

As in all things, balance is the key.  I hope I am able to find that balance once sports returns, as I am also hopeful that we can somehow alter our societal perspective on sports so that we can learn the valuable lessons that teamwork and self discipline can provide without directing such high levels of money, admiration and importance to a person who happens to run a bit faster, jump a bit higher, or have better hand-eye coordination than average.