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« March 2021 | Main

April 9, 2021

The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour #351: Vaccine Villains

Jock idiocy in the city's locker rooms. Plus: SOS - Same Old Scrubs; Tony & Stoney; DePaul's Stumblefield; Bulls Rebound; Bowman's Borgstrom; McCaskey Mystery; Goofy Georgi; Red Stars Return, and more!

Beachwood Radio Network · The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour #351: Vaccine Villains



* 351.

:52: SOS: Same Old Scrubs.



* Wittenmyer on Kimbrel: "His slider danced and dipped. His fastball touched 98 mph. And the hitters didn't touch much of any of it as Kimbrel struck out two Pirates to get out of the bases-loaded jam he inherited, then added a 1-2-3 ninth for his 350th career save. It was the first five-out save of his career, if not the hottest, highest-leverage, regular-season save of his career."


18:19: Tony & Stoney.


* Wallenstein: The Yerminator Has Landed.

* Rosenthal: Yermin Mercedes' Long Road To The Majors.


31:36: Vaccine Villains.


* The NFL's COVID Warning For Baseball.

* Private Choices Have Public Consequences.


42:03: DePaul's Stumblefield.


52:33: Bulls Rebound.


54:42 Bowman's Borgstrom.


58:46: McCaskey Mystery.

* Lone vote against 17-game schedule.


1:00:46: Goofy Georgi.

Ryan, Tribune: "Bezhanishvili is the third Illinois player since the season ended with a second-round NCAA Tournament loss to announce he is not returning.

"Freshman guard Adam Miller, from Morgan Park, announced he entered the transfer portal. As expected earlier this week, junior guard Ayo Dosunmu announced he would forgo his college eligibility to enter the NBA draft.

"Cockburn has not made an announcement about his future, but the 7-footer declared for the draft last season before withdrawing to return to Illinois."


1:02:40: Red Stars Return.

* Geary, SI: "Rory Dames brought in Mal Pugh to score goals, and if she (injury status pending) and players like Kealia Watt and Katie Johnson can do it consistently, the Red Stars absolutely will be a legitimate contender. If not? It could be a frustrating season in Chicago, though this roster should easily make the playoffs. It has the depth to survive, if not thrive, in the Olympic window, and it should once again field one of the league's best defenses."




For archives and other Beachwood shows, see The Beachwood Radio Network.


Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:19 PM | Permalink

April 8, 2021

The Quest For Papa's Perfect Sentence

When I was 15 and thought myself a smart young man of letters, I read The Sun Also Rises. I knew then I would read everything that Ernest Hemingway wrote because you could not be serious and avoid him.

It was 1961. The summer when he died.

But then I decided I could avoid him.

No, I decided I had to put him aside. It was bittersweet, though likely the first adult decision of my life.

Those times and decisions came back to me this week during the six-hour PBS biographical special Hemingway.

If watching those 360 minutes does not illuminate both the hope and terrible fear of imitating Hemingway, nothing will.

He was a temptation, both for his talent and his persona. He was great. He was terrible. Any young American male could be lured to believing he could be Hemingway. I felt the tug of his gravity and raging passions.

For an autumn and winter after I read Sun, all my classroom paragraphs were unintended copies of Hemingway. When I realized what I had been doing unconsciously, I shuddered.

It was embarrassing, and even more embarrassing because no one recognized it except for me.

Though the imitation was not deliberate, I took no solace. I knew it to be real. I could write better sentences as a fake Hemingway than I could write as the real me. That revelation was fearsome.

What if that was all I was or could be? A fake stealing someone else's heart.

But even thinking of being a plausible fake Hemingway was the silliness of being 15. It did not take long for me to see that silliness. And laugh at it. It was only arrogance.

Hemingway was a true, devilish temptation then and remained one for many years. What he did with words and ideas seemed so effortless and direct that anyone with intelligence might follow him. He was real.

Mimics want what others have, and covet that for themselves.

It is theft. There is no achievement in mimicry, which is the worst form of imitation. There is no good in flattery.

I was too easily drawn to be one of those mimics. I feared that I would let his rhythm and expressions take hold of me. They would be too powerful for me to resist. And then I would never be myself. Or even recognize what being myself was.

There is no joy in a thin, fake reflection in the mirror. That scared me more than being a failure.

So I put Hemingway aside for many years.

Only now in the past decade or so do I feel comfortable enough immersing myself in his words.

I came to see that I could not be Hemingway. His passion and pain. His confrontation with fear. His terrible failures and even more consuming ego. But he was addictive for me. Or at least the idea of Hemingway's grandness.

Was leaving "Papa" a wise decision? I think so.

But I am now myself, and do not believe I will try to write Hemingway's perfect sentence. At least I am not trying to seek his perfection. Only my own.

The quest for that perfection was a Hemingway touchstone. As he had once written: "All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know. So finally I would write one true sentence, and then go on from there. It was easy then because there was always one true sentence that I knew or had seen or had heard someone say."

Someday I might write that sentence. I will recognize those words when they happen. It will be a fine day. That's a transaction we all must make with ourselves if we are serious as writers. Or aspiring to be serious. Maybe I am serious only about being serious.

One day, if I become good enough, I might write the perfect sentence. And then more of them. It is a true ambition. It is a satisfaction that seems worthy of my hopes as a writer.


David Rutter is the former publisher/editor of the Lake County News-Sun, and more importantly, the former author of the Beachwood's late, great "The Week In WTF" column. His most recent piece for us was Thank Trump For Your Stimulus Check. You can also check him out at his Theeditor50's blog. He welcomes your comments.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:43 PM | Permalink

April 7, 2021

The NFL's COVID Warning For Baseball

Baseball season is here, and thousands of cheering fans are back in the ballparks after a year of empty seats.

Most teams, still cautious of the COVID-19 risk, are keeping their stadiums to less than 30% capacity for now.

Only the Texas Rangers packed the ballpark for its home opener on April 5, 2021, a move President Joe Biden criticized as not being responsible.

Many of these attendance decisions are being made with minimal data about the heightened risk that players and fans face of getting COVID-19 at stadiums or arenas and spreading it the community.

There is one large-scale experiment that can offer some insight: the National Football League's 2020 season.

The NFL played 269 games in 30 cities, some with thousands of fans on hand, others with none. To help everyone understand the risks, we and other colleagues who study large-scale risks to professional sports crunched the numbers. What we found can help teams and fans decide how best to enjoy their favorite games.

How Many Fans Is Too Many Fans?

Twenty of the 32 NFL franchises allowed fans in their stadiums during games. A few of those games had upwards of 20,000 people.

The NFL's decision to allow fans at games enabled us to examine the potential influence that large sports events can have on local viral transmission. Although we could not definitively assess cause and effect, the results were striking.

We found that in counties where teams had 20,000 fans or more at games, there were more than twice as many COVID-19 cases in the three weeks after games compared to counties with other teams. The case rate per 100,000 residents was also twice as high. Neighboring counties also experienced higher case counts and rates in the three weeks following games with lots of fans in the seats.

By comparing COVID-19 case data and game attendance data reported by ESPN, we found patterns that carried across the 30 football communities. The study has been submitted to the medical journal The Lancet for peer review and was released April 2 in preprint format.

We found very little evidence of COVID-19 spikes associated with fan-attended games in the first seven days after games, which wasn't surprising given the incubation period of the virus. However, the two-week and three-week windows after games were markedly different, with a significantly greater rate of spikes in COVID-19 cases being identified in communities that had fans at games compared to those that did not.

When stadiums had fewer than 5,000 fans in the stands, we didn't see elevated case numbers like we did in those that permitted more than 20,000 fans.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, host of the Super Bowl, was one of the teams that permitted the maximum number of fans. The spikes observed in Hillsborough County, Florida, after home games were quite pronounced. Roughly 18 to 21 days after nearly every home Bucs game with fans in attendance, there was a spike in cases. This repeated pattern of spikes in COVID-19 case rates reflects the time between exposure and the illness developing, being tested and reported.

Screen Shot 2021-04-07 at 10.46.09 AM.png

A similar pattern appeared across nearly every team that allowed over 5,000 fans in the stadium this past NFL season.

Being Outdoors Doesn't Make You Safe

While COVID-19 vaccinations are ramping up nationwide, much of the public is still vulnerable to this lethal disease. As of April 5, only about 19% of the U.S. population had been fully vaccinated. How many people may have natural immunity from having gotten the virus and how long immunity will last isn't known.

Being outdoors does lower the risk compared to being in a room, but when infected people are shouting or cheering, they can spread the virus farther.

Major League Baseball is encouraging precautions this season, including recommending fans and players wear masks while they aren't on the field and practice social distancing. But it will be up to each team to decide how tightly packed their fans can be.

The Takeaway For Games And Large Gatherings

The 2020 NFL season carries important lessons about mass gatherings during infectious disease outbreaks.

The research suggests using a phased approach, with the number of fans attending sports and entertainment events slowly increasing only after officials have evaluated the COVID-19 case spread in the local and surrounding communities. Such an approach may be necessary until enough people are vaccinated to stop the spread of the virus. Even then, sports teams and event planners should still monitor public health data for future risks.

The number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. has dropped significantly since its peak after the Thanksgiving and winter holidays, but the risk isn't gone. The daily case count is still higher than last September, and the U.S. is also seeing a rise in coronavirus variants that spread more easily than the initial virus.

Fans and sports and other event planners will need to take all of that into account as they make decisions about upcoming seasons, concerts and the Summer Olympics. That includes a boxing match expected to be attended by more than 60,000 spectators in Dallas over Cinco De Mayo weekend.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has already said he expects full stadiums when football season starts again in the fall.

Alex R. Piquero is the chair of the Department of Sociology and Arts at the University of Miami. Justin Kurland is the research director of the National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security at the University of Southern Mississippi. Wanda Leal of Texas A&M San Antonio, Erin Sorrell of Georgetown University, and Nicole Leeper Piquero of the University of Miami contributed to this post, which is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.


Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:36 AM | Permalink

April 5, 2021

The Yerminator Has Landed

Five years, 10 years, 25 years from now, few will remember the botched fly balls and blown leads, but the legend of Yermin Mercedes will remain alive.

Chances are, even a century into the future, his eight hits in as many at-bats to kick off the season will remain as the hottest streak ever for a ballplayer's first two games of a new campaign. The Yerminator has landed.

However, the journey has not always been smooth for the 28-year-old Dominican. Signed 10 years ago by the Washington Nationals, the barrel-chested catcher was a man without a team just 2½ years later. The Nats apparently weren't appropriately impressed with Mercedes' three seasons in the Dominican Summer League, where he hit .296 with an on-base mark of .373.

The White Sox' newest darling was undaunted. Still in the infancy of his career, he hooked on with three different clubs in the independent Pecos League during the 2014 season. We all can be forgiven if we've never heard of the Pecos League, but it sure sounds like a lot of fun. Most of the clubs seven years ago were located in scenic New Mexico in little ballparks in places like Raton, Taos and Santa Fe.

Mercedes landed in White Sands, home of the Pupfish, a species that Wikipedia reports are found in "extreme and isolated situations," which is pretty much where Yermin found himself. In 37 games he hit .417 with 15 homers and 56 RBIs. Even in the hinterlands of New Mexico, you raise a few eyebrows with those kind of numbers when you're just 21 with a drive to be a professional ballplayer.

The Orioles inked the kid to a contract, and Mercedes rose to Double-A in the Baltimore chain before the Sox nabbed him as a Rule 5 draft pick prior to the 2018 season. Playing between Birmingham and Charlotte in 2019, the newly-minted Yerminator slashed .317/.388/.968 with 23 homers and 80 RBIs, earning a spot on the Sox's taxi squad for last season's COVID-compromised saga. He appeared in one game, pinch-hitting on Aug. 2 in a 9-2 blowout of the Royals, grounding to second in his first major league at-bat.

A strong showing in spring training this year earned him a spot with the big team as it headed to Anaheim for the season's opening series. If there is a Poster Boy for a baseball lifer, I nominate Yermin Mercedes.

After watching his club drop the opener last Thursday to the Angels, the excitement began on Friday as Mercedes, batting eighth as the DH, singled in his first at-bat. Standing at first base, Albert Pujols joyfully tossed the ball to Mercedes for posterity. Had Pujols known what was to follow, he might not have been as accommodating. Four hits followed in the Sox's 12-8 victory, the lone triumph of the weekend.

The pundits got busy investigating all the instances of guys going 5-for-5 in just the second game of their careers.

The last player to match Mercedes' feat on Friday was Jack Dalton of the Brooklyn Dodgers, playing in his career's second game against the New York Giants on June 21, 1921. Dalton contributed five singles in that contest. Dalton hit .314 that season, his first of four at the major league level.

So it only took 100 years for someone to match Dalton's productivity.

Of course, Mercedes was far from finished. His first home run of the season followed by a single and double, accounting for a couple of RBIs, went into the books for the Yerminator's first three at-bats on Saturday, giving him those eight consecutive base knocks to start his season. Mercedes can go hitless in his next 16 at-bats and still be hitting .300.

Not only were Mercedes' teammates amazed by his performance, but the Angels chipped in with their own congratulatory gestures. Prior to Sunday's game, a 7-4 walkoff Angels victory on the strength of Jared Walsh's three-run shot off Matt Foster, Mercedes posed for a photo flanked by Pujols and the incomparable Mike Trout.

Per the Sox website, Mercedes disclosed that Angel shortstop José Iglesias extended his personal plaudits during the game as Mercedes stood on second base.

Can you imagine a defensive lineman or cornerback going up to Tom Brady during a game and extending congratulations for yet another Brady TD pass? Or a hockey goalie extending his admiration to Patrick Kane after the Blackhawks superstar flicked the puck past him yet again? Baseball clearly is a different animal.

Of course, Mercedes can't keep up this torrid pace, but his approach indicates that this guy has the potential to be an above average major league hitter. Depending on the situation over the weekend, he either used a leg kick or kept his front foot planted. With two strikes, he seeks contact, a rare trait in this home run-driven age. His mechanics seem to change to fit the count and whether runners are on base.

In addition, we may see more of Mercedes behind the plate to spell Yasmani Grandal. In 2019 between Birmingham and Charlotte, Mercedes threw out 27 of 62 would-be base-stealers, a 44 percent rate. Grandal's average is 27 percent over a 10-year big league career.

Zack Collins got the catching assignment on Saturday. Shohei Ohtani stole second, getting a big jump on Lance Lynn, but Collins generally gave a decent account of himself. He also had a hit and reached on a walk. In eight at-bats in this young season, Collins has fanned just one time.

Since Collins bats from the left side, Mercedes from the right, and Grandal from both, the Sox catching core appears strong. Any of the three also can handle the DH duties, which might indicate that rookie Andrew Vaughn could be headed to Schaumburg's alternate training site and then to Charlotte when its season begins on May 4. Wherever he lands in the next few weeks, Vaughn will have a role in the Sox's long-term future.

Talking about future, the Sox won't see the Angels again until three mid-week games in Chicago in September. We'll be over the Shotei Ohtani hype by then, which was highlighted in Sunday's nationally televised game as Ohtani pitched into the fifth inning while batting second and hitting the first pitch he saw from Dylan Cease 450 feet into the right centerfield bleachers.

Announcers Matt Vasgersian and Alex Rodriguez were simply gaga over Ohtani, and the first inning homer put them right over the edge, so much so that Vasgersian's first question during an in-game interview with Lucas Giolito focused on Ohtani.

Lucas seemed puzzled by the inquiry and gave sort of a "Yeah, he's pretty good" response. But for crying out loud, the Sox were engaged in a contest to beat the guy, not to drool over him. Besides, Giolito is every bit the pitcher Ohtani is, and then some.

Make no mistake. Ohtani is a gifted athlete and a unique ballplayer. However, Vasgersian's questions should have been aimed at the home team's dugout rather than at Giolito.

The club headed north to Seattle after Sunday's game where they'll meet the young Mariners three times before opening the home season Thursday against the much-improved Royals. Chances are we'll see more of the Yerminator, either in the DH spot - please, Tony, don't try him in left field - or at catcher. He'll be worth watching as well as the rest of the ballclub to make sure that the follies of flubbed pop flys, late-inning bullpen woes, and lack of situational hitting were simply aberrations in Anaheim.


Former Bill Veeck bar buddy Roger Wallenstein is our White Sox correspondent. He welcomes your comments.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:57 PM | Permalink

April 3, 2021

Fixing Sexist Playlists

These days, more and more people listen to music on streaming apps - in early 2020, 400 million people were subscribed to one. These platforms use algorithms to recommend music based on listening habits. The recommended songs might feature in new playlists or they might start to play automatically when another playlist has ended.

But what the algorithms recommend is not always fair. In a new study, we showed a widely used recommendation algorithm is more likely to pick music by male than female artists. In response, we've come up with a simple way to give more exposure to female artists.

The representation of women and gender minorities in the music industry is tremendously low. About 23% of artists in the 2019 Billboard 100 were women or gender minorities. Women represent 20% or less of registered composers and songwriters, while 98% of works performed by major orchestras are by male composers.

This bias is also present in streaming services. A few female "superstars" dominate among the most popular artists, but most female and mixed-gender artists are in the lower levels of popularity. While the problem stems from beyond the music industry, online music platforms and their algorithms that recommend music - called recommenders - play a large role.

Our Study

While previous studies have repeatedly asked consumers for their opinion, the music artists, those providing the content, are rarely in the loop.

We wanted to put the spotlight on artists. We asked musicians to give us their views on what would make online music platforms more fair. When they said gender imbalance was a major problem, we decided to study this in more detail.

Our analysis of around 330,000 users' listening behavior over nine years showed a clear picture - only 25% of the artists ever listened to were female. When we tested the algorithm we found, on average, the first recommended track was by a man, along with the next six. Users had to wait until song seven or eight to hear one by a woman.

Screen Shot 2021-04-03 at 2.12.56 PM.pngTY Lim, Shutterstock

Breaking The Loop

As users listen to the recommended songs, the algorithm learns from these. This creates a feedback loop.

To break this feedback loop, we came up with a simple approach to gradually give more exposure to female artists. We took the recommendations computed by the basic algorithm and re-ranked them - moving male artists a specified number of positions downwards.

In a simulation, we studied how our re-ranked recommendations could affect users' listening behavior in the longer term. With the help of our re-ranked algorithm, users would start changing their behavior. They would listen to more female artists than before.

Eventually, the recommender started to learn from this change in behavior. It began to place females higher up in the recommended list, even before our re-ranking. In other words, we broke the feedback loop.

This shows how easy it can be. Our simple method can help address the biases in the algorithms that play a large role in the way many people discover new music and artists. Next, we hope to study how real consumers perceive the changes introduced by the re-ranking strategy and how it impacts their listening behavior in the long term.

Another crucial step would be to collect and use data about the wide scale of gender identities. We're aware this binary gender classification does not reflect the multitude of gender identities. The unavailability of data beyond the gender binary is a massive obstacle, both for research as well as for taking action and making progress on a societal level.

So far, our simulation could demonstrate the benefits of a simple re-ranking approach. But responsibility is, of course, not with the platform providers alone. Initiatives such as Keychange and Women in Music are working to represent the underrepresented in the music industry. The rest of us need to follow.

As music festivals are being criticized for the lack of women in their lineups, any step towards representing more women all genders in a more balanced manner is a step in the right direction.

Christine Bauer is an assistant professor of Human Centered Computing at Utrecht University. Andrés Ferraro is a PhD candidate in Information and Communication Technologies at Universitat Pompeu Fabra.


This post is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.


Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 1:00 AM | Permalink

We Have Questions

This started with a discussion of the physics of Fantasy Island. As many others have wondered, is Roarke a grifter, a deity, a techno-wizard? That led to this.

TIM: If the fantasies only lasted for the duration of the trip to the island, why didn't Mr. Roarke make Tattoo taller? He never left the island, right?

STEVE: This is like, "When the Blues Brothers went to the diner to get that guy for the band, why didn't they take Aretha instead?"

TIM: Yes! I can't remember the comic who said: Remember that movie where Halle Berry was so poor that she had to become a prostitute? Why didn't she just become a model?

STEVE: Why don't they make the entire plane out of the black box?

TIM: Steven Wright: Why doesn't Tarzan have a beard?

STEVE: Gilligan's Island: They can make a radio out of a coconut but can't fix a hole in a boat?

TIM: Why didn't they make the boat out of a black box?


Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:18 AM | Permalink

April 2, 2021

The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour #350: Opening Deja Vu

Meet the new Cubs, same as the old Cubs. Plus: White Sox Lose Less Than Cubs; Neo Theo; Boog & Beau; Loyola Will Always Have Illinois; Deja Vucevic; and Bloom Also Off Blackhawks.

Beachwood Radio Network · The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour #350: Opening Deja Vu



* 350.

1:10: Accidental Bears QB Segment.


2:55: Meet The New Cubs, Same As The Old Cubs.


23:55: Neo Theo.

* MLB Experimenting With Bigger Bases At Triple-A.

* MLB Cracks Down On Pitchers Using Foreign Substances On Balls.


30:22: White Sox Lose Less Than Cubs.

* Cubs loss resonated while White Sox Loss not representative of anything we should worry about.

* Kenny Williams talks sense.


39:08: Boog & Beau.

* New announcer combos, new announcer reads.

* You can't beat the House; the games are designed for you to lose.

* From Candy To Cannabis.


51:30: Loyola Will Always Have Illinois.

* And the Big Ten will always have the Pac-12.


57:55: Deja Vucevic.

* Bulls still suck.


1:00:28: Bloom Also Off Blackhawks.




For archives and other Beachwood shows, see The Beachwood Radio Network.


Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:18 PM | Permalink

MUSIC - Fixing Sexist Playlists.
TV - AT&T's HBO Max Deal Was Never Free.
POLITICS - Illinois Prisoners' Health Care Still Unconstitutional.
SPORTS - Beachwood Sports Radio: Vaccine Villains.

BOOKS - The Quest For Papa's Perfect Sentence.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - We Have Questions.

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