Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Dear Baseball - A Plea from Guest Blogger Jesse Skaff

A few days before baseball fans got the long-awaited news that there would be a MLB season after all - albeit a truncated one - my friend, Jesse Skaff, penned a heartfelt plea to resolve the impasse that had kept players and owners from agreeing to play ball. I was so moved by reading Jesse's letter that I asked his permission to share it with readers of The White Rhino Report.
It is appropriate that our friendship got its start at a Red Sox game in the "lyric little bandbox of a ballpark" known as Fenway Park. Jesse and his father were seated behind me in Section 21 of the grandstands, directly behind home plate, but a few rows above the box seats. I overheard the father and son mention "The Governors Academy" (formerly Governor Dummer Academy), my alma mater. We quickly discovered that we were fellow alumni separated by a couple of generations. And an enduring friendship was born.
Enjoy Jesse's carefully reasoned and impassioned plea to "PLAY BALL"!
@ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @
Dear Baseball,
As a lifelong, diehard baseball fan, please hear me. Please hear us: the fans. We want baseball. The players want baseball. America needs baseball.
It is no secret that these past 11½ weeks of stalemate are tainting and tarnishing the reputation of Baseball as an institution and league and it is reaching a point of no return. Do you not see the articles – do you not hear the conversations – about people wondering aloud, “would I really miss baseball?” The fact that this is even a remote consideration breaks my heart. It breaks the hearts of the fans – the civilians who spend hard-earned paychecks at your ballparks and stadiums, on your concessions, on jerseys and memorabilia of their children’s favorite player. You have perpetually raised ticket prices and we continue to show up; you have traded away our favorite players and we continue to show up.
You had a chance to be the only sport this summer and command the undivided attention of the sports world; you bungled it. Now, your best chance is to share screen time with two other major sports amidst their playoffs, then compete your end of season with the start of the NFL season. Baseball has traditional, niche viewership and is already struggling to attract a younger, broader audience. In a world where immediate satisfaction is king and the average attention span is decreasing with everything at our fingertips, you are gravely hurting your allure by prolonging the fussing and fighting.
With all the young talent in the game, you are allowing – throwing away even – the excitement brought to us by players like Ronald Acuña, Christian Yelich, and Javy Baez. Without baseball, this is a wasted year of supreme talent.
Dear Commissioner Manfred,
The longer this sad saga continues, the greater the mistrust between the MLB and MLBPA, and the more your following will deteriorate. You have likely already alienated and lost the fans that have thought to themselves, “I’ve been fine thus far without baseball, I don’t really care if they resume.” Do you want to risk losing the casual fans that want to watch, but will abandon the sport for others if it does not come back? And worst of all, do you really want to lose the fans who have stood by the game and wish every night that there was baseball on? It’s no secret that fan engagement and declining viewership – not so long ago the primary concern of the league – are still existential issues to the game.
Don’t take us for granted. Please hear us. We love this game and we want it back.
You may say, “well the fans aren’t in on the negotiations. They don’t know about the business of the game,” and to that we say “fair.” But much has been reported on and disclosed about the abomination that has become these negotiations dare I call them. It is very clear this is about billionaires refusing to compromise with millionaires. We understand the sunk costs already and that players are risking their health for smaller paychecks. We understand the CBA of 2021 is at the forefront of everyone’s mind. And we realize, just like you do, that the crux of this issue is principal. Principal! It is easy for both sides to hardline in this instance, to set themselves up for next year’s negotiations, call the other side’s bluffs, or simply not play. But then what are you negotiating for next year? A damaged game with unrest and mistrust.
You had the stage to yourselves and a monumental opportunity to show unity. For a game that the players insist they would play for free; for a game that they love because they get to compete like they are kids again; for a game that provides them the chance to win that so-called “piece of metal” that grown men cry for and play through pain for and spend 81 days on the road away from their families for. Everyone in 2020 is losing, and the biggest problem here is that Baseball wants to win. Yet the biggest loser here is the game itself: baseball.
Dear Owners,
You are the problem, not the solution. You are not the reason we fans tune in to watch on tv (with whose networks you sign billion dollar contracts); you are not the reason we buy tickets to buy expensive concessions with pay money that we subconsciously know is going back into your pockets. Please put your rigid frugality aside; you are billionaires controlling a $10 billion industry of a kid’s game.
The façade you’ve put up about cost saving, furloughing employees, and cutting minor leaguers is condemnable and ugly. We are loyal but we are not stupid. These opaque moves are a bad look for you, your franchises, and for Baseball. Billionaires taking morally questionable action to save a few bucks is unattractive from every optical angle. And yet the players – your employees – bailed you out because they knew it was the right thing to do.
Just this once, lead with your morals not your wallets. Because if you do, baseball will return and we will return. The money will be back inevitably, and because we are forgiving and we root for the names on the front AND the back, we will continue to be your consumers. Please find solace in that.
Dear Players,
From an outsider’s perspective we understand your grievance. We blame the owners too. But please try to channel your 12 year old selves. We understand the business behind the 2021 CBA and creating solid footing for next year’s negotiations. We understand you have principles with which you base your negotiations. But please try to find it in yourselves as the MLBPA to find space to negotiate where you can. You are the reason we watch. You are the childhood heroes. And you are the lucky ones. Please just keep us in mind and remember your Little League days. Remember that baseball is more far reaching and life changing than Baseball.
Dear fellow fans and baseball community,
The previous paragraphs may not directly represent your feelings or opinions, but I think it is safe to say we all want baseball back. I share your disappointment and I empathize in feeling the daily absence of our game. But I ask you to stick it out. Don’t give up on America’s Pastime. Don’t turn your back on the foundational pillar of American sports that has already withstood and survived two World Wars, a pandemic, and has only struck out once. As fans, let’s appreciate that succeeding 3/10 times in baseball is being great, so even if Baseball is slumping right now, let’s cheer it on and back it until it breaks out with a ringing single up the middle.
Dear baseball,
Please come back. Soon.
The Fans

Written by Jesse Skaff 6/16/2020

Thanks, Jesse.

Go Sox!


Sunday, June 14, 2020

Netflix "Lenox Hill" - A MUST SEE Documentary of NYC's Lenox Hill Hospital - A Shining Beacon of Hope and Humanity

Photo by Netflix

When I learned that Netflix had released a documentary on NYC's Lenox Hill Hospital, I was eager to  watch it. So I binge watched it last night. My initial interest was very personal; the people at Lenox Hill had saved my life. Two years ago while I was visiting New York, I suffered a heart attack. I was taken by ambulance to the Lenox Hill emergency facility in the West Village on 7th Avenue. I was in severe pain. The staff there were kind and efficient in diagnosing that I was in the midst of a myocardial infarction. They were also alert to the need to quickly reduce my level of pain. Once they had stabilized me, they transferred me to the Lenox Hill main facility on the Upper East Side. There the cardiac catheterization lab diagnosed a 90% blockage in my anterior coronary artery, and inserted a stent to bypass the occlusion. For the next several days - in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit and a Step-down Unit - I was treated with consummate professionalism and kindness. I felt like I was among family.

As I watched the "Lenox Hill" documentary, my focus quickly expanded beyond my personal history with the place to a fascination with the excellent story telling by directors Adi Barash and Ruthie Shatz. Using four main protagonists, the storytellers give us insights into the lives of a fascinating cast of doctors, nurses, technicians, patients and their supportive families. The four main characters are Dr. David Langer, head of neurosurgery service. He shares clinical and administrative duties with Dr. John Boockvar, the department’s vice chair. In the maternity service, Dr. Amanda Little-Richardson is a chief obstetrics resident, while Dr. Mirtha Macri specializes in emergency medicine in the Greenwich Village facility.

The action of the series rotates among the neurology service, maternity unity, and emergency department. By looking at the Lenox Hill institution through these lenses, we get a clear three-dimensional view of the culture of the place and the personal commitment of each of the medical professionals. It soon became clear to me why I had felt so well cared for as a patient at Lenox Hill. The assiduous attention to very personalized patient care runs as a thread through the fabric of the hospital and is a nectar that infuses each employee.

The arc of the story paints a complex picture of the multiple roles that Dr. Langer plays - surgeon, department head and administrator, middle aged man committed to personal fitness, and loving husband and father. He is transparent and vulnerable in sharing just how difficult it is to keep all of these balls in the air simultaneously. There are short scenes that show him at the gym, at home, on retreat with his team of fellow neurosurgeons. These snippets tie the world of the hospital to the larger outside world of NYC and family.

Photo by Stephanie Keith/Netflix

Three of the physicians also become patients. Dr. Little-Richardson and Dr. Macri each gave birth to their first children during the filming of the series, so we get to see them juggling prenatal fatigue with a full work schedule, as well as seeing how ambivalent Dr. Macro was about returning to work after maternity leave. She could not wait to get back to the hustle and bustle of the ER, but hated to leave her son. One of the team of neurosurgeons was himself diagnosed with a dreaded glioblastoma. Watching the Lennox team rally around him through his diagnosis and eventual return to operating status shows the true character of the members of the team.

What comes across more strongly than any other factor is the genuine love that each of the clinicians exhibits for patients and patients' families. Love is in the air as surely as the vivifying oxygen that flows through the masks and ventilators. The series does not flinch in the face of death. Several of the neurology patients succumb to their disease, despite the best efforts of Dr. Langer, Boockvar, et al. Tears are not only allowed, but encouraged among members of the staff - sometimes privately, and at times collectively. I imagine that in a Coronavirus environment, there are now fewer hugs and kisses that I saw demonstrated by the women and men of Lenox Hill. But I am certain that the love that permeates the place and emanates from the persons who work there has no trouble penetrating whatever PPE is part of the current protocols.

If you are not moved to tears of empathy and pathos in watching these heroes at work, then you should check your Pulse Ox reading.

God bless Lenox Hill and its stellar staff.


Thursday, June 04, 2020

"Notes from a Small Island" by Bill Bryson - An Enlightening and Entertaining Tour Around Great Britain

Bill Bryson looks at his adopted homeland of Great Britain through two lenses. As a native American, he looks at British places and practices as a tourist might perceive them. But as someone who called England home for two decades, he had steeped himself in the culture of crumpets and "a cuppa"! So, he was also able to look at things British with a familiar sense of avuncular pride. Just prior to his planned return to America, the author scheduled a grand tour of the sceptred isle, revisiting some familiar places, and exploring roads less travelled. The resulting "Notes from a Small Island" is a delightful "memoir and Cook's tour that ranged from the chalky white cliffs of Dover to the splendid desolation of John O'Groats at the northernmost tip of Scotland.

The upshot of my reading this delightful Baedeker was the resurrection of fond memories of places I have visited in England, Scotland, and Wales. And reading about places I have not yet seen with my own eyes made me want to book a flight to Heathrow and schedule a series of walking tours. Even when Bryson looks at things British with a jaundiced eyes, it is clear that he does so as a loving critic. He is laughing with the Brits, rather than laughing at them. Several examples of his sense of irony focus on the inanities of scheduling of the British rail system. In some situations in which a desired destination was only a few miles from where Bryson found himself, the train schedule forced him to backtrack many miles and to make several transfers, or simply to throw up his hands and admit to himself: "You can't get there from here!"

Here is a sample of his grappling with British rail: "Hooton offered the world not only a mildly ridiculous name, but the dampest British Rail station I ever hope to sneeze in.  The shack-like platform waiting-rooms were dripping wet, which didn't matter a great deal as I was soaked already. With six others, I waited a small eternity for a train to Chester, where I changed for another for Llandudno." (p. 243)

If you are Anglophile, or one who simply enjoys great writing undergirded with a sharp sense of humor, you would be well served to take a stroll through the pagesof this guidebook and memoir.