Listen Up, David Lassner And Todd Graham!

Why are football teams, both college and pro, playing football in the Year of the Virus? 

It makes no sense unless all the college presidents, pro owners and coaches are fans of President Trump’s medical adviser Scott Atlas, who says all that masks stuff is baloney.

Players, and even Alabama coach Nick Saban, have come down with Covid-19 but the college presidents and the pro owners keep saying the show must go on. 

No fans in the stands, so what’s up? Ah, yes, those TV contracts. How could I have overlooked that? All these years as a journalist and I forget to follow the money?

I’d hoped UH president David Lassner, smart guy that he is, would shut down Rainbow Warrior football. But no, they are opening against Fresno State at Fresno. And then on to the next game, and the next.

All the teams are testing player and coaches. They sit out the ones who test positive. Even a quarterback without whom their winning odds plummet. The game must go on —- on TV. But what about players and coaches who get a false negative. Or play on a no-test day and are asymptomatic?

Here’s what a Wall Street Journal article said recently:

The dangers come because of the nature of the sport itself and the players it features. Football is incompatible with social distancing. It also relies on a large share of people, despite their relatively young ages, who could face a disproportionate risk of severe complications from the coronavirus. According to the NFL Players Association’s ongoing research, more than 70% of NFL players fall into a serious, at-risk category, such as being African-American or having a high body-mass index.

A rare heart condition thought to be linked with the coronavirus hasn’t much slowed down the viability of football this season. Myocarditis, inflammation of the heart muscle, has been found in at least five Big Ten Conference athletes and among several other athletes in other conferences.

Dr. Matthew Martinez, director of sports cardiology for Atlantic Health System in New Jersey, said he has received calls from physicians from at least a dozen colleges who have identified more than a dozen athletes with some post-COVID-19 myocardial injury.

People can get myocardial inflammation, feel fine and never know it. Most athletes who get myocarditis will be able to safely return to sports after a restriction of activity for three to six months. But in some cases, the inflammation can turn into scar tissue and put the player at risk for an irregular heartbeat that can lead to sudden cardiac arrest, which can be triggered by exercise.

A study published in July in JAMA Cardiology found that out of 100 patients in Germany who had recovered from the COVID-19 infection, 60% had findings of ongoing myocardial inflammation.

Barring changes to uniforms and equipment, all team sports violate three of the basic factors behind slowing the transmission of the coronavirus: masks, distance and density. Football is simply the worst transgressor. As USA TODAY reported:

It’s a sport played in close quarters even on the fringes of the action, with wide receivers and defensive backs jostling for position near the sidelines. The center of the action, meanwhile, exists over the ball — linemen repeatedly come into contact, pause at the whistle, return to the line of scrimmage, wait for the next snap and repeat.

But the games must go on, right? It’s about school spirit, the players who may have the right stuff for a pro career — oh, and the TV money. Did I forget the TV money?


It Lives. It Thrives.

Yes, there is systemic racism in America. The only people who deny this are those who also think gayness is a sickness and the poor are that way because they don’t work hard enough. And of course Donald J. Trump, who sees rapists and murderers hiding in the crowds of Hispanic refugees, terrorists among Muslim refugees, and good people among Scandinavians and Western Europeans wishing to immigrate.

There is systemic racism all over the globe and always has been. Phillip and Alexander of the Macedon Empire felt that Asians needed a dose of true civilization imposed on them for their own good. Today, Han Chinese look down on their 55+ minorities, Azerbaijanis find Armenians to be pathetic, and the Romani people (i.e. gypsies) are unwanted everywhere — even in homeland Romania.

It seems to be a human thing to be clannish and prejudiced about those who do not share a culture that includes language and customary rituals.

Then there is behavior/appearance as a trigger. I came to recently much dislike a Black man seated near me at Coffee Talk in Kaimuki. Nothing to do with his skin color. It was about his boom box playing at full volume a rapper whose every other word seemed to be m*****f*****r. Would I have been happier with a white guy playing some harmless hip hop? Was it also the Black man’s corn-row hair do?

I think we also have some residual racism in our reactions to how people dress, too. Pants worn down below the butt. Non-conformist shirts. Hats and caps. White people tend to judge Black and Hispanic peoples’ dress codes as weird.

Why so many people want to deny systemic racism in America puzzles me. It’s painted large in the Indian Trail of Tears and the Tulsa Race Massacre. It’s the real reasoning behind the Border Wall project. That’s not about Mexicans and other Hispanics stealing jobs. It’s about the fear that Hispanics will out-populate whites in a few years as their reproductive cycle beats ours. The ban on Middle East immigrants isn’t a fear of bombers but one of an Islamic presence challenging our Christian heritage. We don’t want to be France.

There was a typical incident recently in Pittsburgh. The Brazilian wife of the state’s lieutenant governor was in a grocery store and a white woman called her the “n” word and told her “you don’t belong here.” Yes, just one incident but one of the many we read about almost daily somewhere in America.

Why is that, exactly?

Maybe, in America, it is something the academic Robin Diangelo wrote about in her book White Fragility. Western individualism. “Individualism holds that we are each unique and stand apart from others, even those within our social groups.”

And “the racial ideology that circulates in the United States rationalizes racial hierarchies as the outcome of a natural order resulting wither from genetics or individual effort or talent. Those who don’t succeed [poor Blacks, Hispanics, etc.] are just not as naturally capable, deserving or hardworking.”

And Charles Mills in The Racial Contract says that white supremacy, far from being a myth, is actually “the unnamed political system that has made the modern world what it is today.”

In other words, systemic racism has been around for a long, long time.

Denying its existence in this country just protects racial inequality.

We need to own up to it individually, even if our leaders will not.

I encourage your thoughtful comments.


“When you enter the ocean you enter the food chain, and not always at the top.” Munia Khan

I really don’t know what to make of those recurring newspaper and TV stories about sharks suddenly loving Kaimana Beach (fronting the hotel of the same name) this fall.

No swimmer or surfer there has been threatened or bitten. The sharks are normally-harmless (to us, but not fish) white-tips. They’ve come in close because that’s where large schools of young bait fish have schooled up since September.

Back when the World Sailing organization was known as ISAF, it had written this in its magazine:

What’s a trip to Hawaii without a stop in Oahu or Maui? Two-thirds of Hawaii’s 159 shark attacks since 1828 have occurred off the coasts of these two islands, with 64 attacks occurring in Maui and 42 attacks in Oahu. Other islands aren’t safe either, with 28 attacks occurring off Kauai and 19 off the big island of Hawaii.”

Those attacks have been sufficient to get us rated as the 5th most shark-dangerous place in the world! But a shark expert I accompanied on a tagging mission when I was at KGMB News reminded me that “any day there might be maybe 30,000 people in the water here. If sharks really wanted to eat us, they’d be queuing up at popular beaches.”

We have 40 of the 350 species of sharks in the world swimming our island waters. The most common are white-tip reef sharks, sandbar sharks, hammerhead sharks, and the tiger sharks. Only that last one is really dangerous. Hammerheads a #2.

I did a ”shark swim” in a cage five miles off Haleiwa once. Galapagos sharks came for the chum. They are considered “aggressive” (will approach humans in the water) but they’re not on the likely-gonna-bite-you list.

My years of water experience have led me to suspect that most shark attacks here are accidental. I say that because usually after one bite, the shark moves off, seemingly saying “oops, too much bone. Not my kinds food.”

But then I remember journalist and PR guy Courtney Harrington’s incident. He was scuba diving in the boat channel just off the Hawaiian Village Hotel. A shark got “aggressive.” Harrington removed his air tank from his back and held it in front of himself. The shark attacked and smashed into the tank. It busted Harrington’s arm but saved him from much worse. The shark moved on.

Maybe you saw this recent Star-Advertiser story:

Mereck Pang said he snagged one [shark] Monday afternoon, and on Tuesday Fritz Dumalan hooked a 4-to 5-foot reef shark — small fry, he added, compared with the 14-footer that took his line two weeks ago.

Will sharks attack a human if there’s plenty of food in the ocean and even in the waters around swimmers and surfers? Kim Holland, the veteran marine biologist at the UH says “You’d have to say the risk is low, but it’s certainly not zero.”

In my many years as a swimmer and scuba enthusiast, even diving for black coral at 200+ feet of Lahaina water, I’ve never had any worry about sharks. They’re not my aumakua but my sense is that only the really exceptional one would be inclined to take a bite out of me. I don’t look like or small like their normal prey.

Of course, every swimmer and surfer’s concern is that if a shark mistakes you just long enough for one experimental little bite, those buzz saw teeth do so much damage that you’re likely to bleed out before you can get help.

Bleeding in the water. And you know what that says to a shark !


For Now — But The Virus Is Sneaky

I’m with those such as my friend Vera, who’s very nervous about letting 10,000+ people a day into the state under the new pre-test-or-quarantine rules. But I know people need jobs, businesses need revenue, the state and the city need tax money and our Constitution (Article IV and the 14th Amendment) doesn’t allow any state to close its borders.

Still, we need to see how secondary testing of the pre-testers and adherence to the terms of quarantine work out. The latter sure did not work well. It was an invitation to cheat.

As visitors pour in there will be pressure to reopen the bars and nightclubs, which I consider to be Infection Centrals because they are not made for the social distancing kind of patrons. Masks will quickly come off, too.

I don’t know how Australia keeps its economy alive, but it is very strict and does not have a constitutional travel-right to hamper it. So it’s not letting people out or in, except in very limited situations. Not even the 20,000 or so citizens who were trapped outside when the no-come-back hit. My daughter’s a diplomat, so they are allowing her back in after her visit here. But a non-quarantined resident has to pick her up at the Sydney airport and drive her the 3 hours to Canberra. She’s not permitted to use public transportation and she goes into immediate 14-day quarantine when she’s back in Canberra.

New Zealand’s a toughie, too. Geography has helped. If any place could be described as socially distant it would be New Zealand, surrounded by ocean and with onlyAntarctica nearby. It only has 5 million people. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern put the country under a strict lockdown in late March, when only about 100 people had tested positive for the virus. Her motto: “Go hard and go early.”

New Zealand has so far avoided a widespread outbreak, and new cases have dwindled from a peak of about 90 per day in early April to just five yesterday.  Only 13 people have died so far.

No masks, no distancing in this New Zealand election night photo this week.

We currently are averaging fewer than 100 cases per day and edging close to Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s terms for us to go to Tier 2, which allows more re-openings. I worry because when several European countries did the same, the virus came roaring back. Do you re-close again? People tend to get fed up with the restrictions and eventually rebel as in Michigan and some other states. Minimally, they stop wearing masks and avoiding groups. They say “to hell with this.”

So letting more people in and re-opening more businesses and recreation spots comes with some serious risk.

So does keeping everything closed and large numbers of people unemployed.

What’s the right call, and is it being based 100% on the science, or more like 50% that and 50% pressure to re-start the economy?

I tend to lean 100% science. But I’m basically retired, my wife and I have income and savings, no mortgage and very moderate expenses. So it’s easy for me to choose a side.

That’s why I ask: what’s the right call?










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