Lockout outlook

Well, with the announcement last week that the first two series of the 2022 baseball season have been canceled due to the lockout, get ready for an onslaught of sky-is-falling claims from the baseball media.

You’ll hear familiar phrases like “tone deaf,” “greedy,” “exploitation,” baseball’s becoming a “niche” sport and it could go the way of horse racing and boxing, which at the midpoint of 20th century were two of the nation’s three most popular sports. Oh, and of course there’s also the “how could they do this?” unseemly money grab when people are suffering in a brutal war in Ukraine.

The latter is valid, but was also used during the dust-up over who’d get what during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.

In fact, the onslaught has already started with no fewer than four columns in the Boston Globe last week alone. The last was by usual voice of reason Tara Sullivan and carried the title “Indifference has replaced interest in baseball and it is unfathomable the sport let itself get here.”

Two came from Dan Shaughnessy. I call him the prince of darkness because of his knack for making any misstep seem like a triple homicide. I’ve been reading the guy since the 1980s and during that time there have been numerous sports work stoppages and last week’s columns were dusted off “Armageddon is here” iterations of those written during the other disputes.

Then there was young Chris Gasper’s Norma Rae-inspired screed that (seemingly) took longer to read than War and Peace. It took the owners to task for exploiting the poor players. Problem is that amid all the overwriting he never got around to why we should care that players are being exploited.

And while I know full well the owners are lying and have been crying poor since before miserly Charles Comiskey’s pernicious ways made it seem like a good idea to eight of his White Sox players to throw the 1919 World Series, let me infuse all this with a little perspective. Or is it reality? Or sanity maybe?

The Players Association just rejected a proposal to make the minimum annual salary $700k as too low; the annual average salary is north of $4 million while an unlikable stiff like Bryce Harper makes $40 million a year for each of the next eight years. A guy who was so indispensable the Nationals won the World Series right after he left as a free agent.

So if that’s what exploitation is, someone, please, please, PLEASE exploit me like that!

Since the players are the actual product they certainly have a right to fight for what they help the owners take in. But with what they already get, why should anyone care one what they get, win or lose? Especially when they individually are just as greedy as the owners.

They claim to all be in it together. But that‘s only because a united front gives them needed leverage in their fight with the owners. But once that’s out of the way, it’s every man for himself.

Consider Max Scherzer, who took the Yankees to task last week for manipulating the competitive balance tax to hold their spending at the luxury tax threshold at “just” $188 million. Which he said considering their profitability they shouldn’t do.

That’s the same Scherzer who just signed a deal with the Mets to make a whopping $42 million for each of the next three years, while the guys at the bottom are making $600k. If Max were really interested in all his brothers in the labor battle he could kick, say $12 million of his $42 million into a fund for the guys at the bottom to split at the end of the year like a World Series share. It would still leave him with $30 million per, which I’m guessing he can get by on. And if others in his tax bracket like Harper and Mookie Betts did the same they could probably get the minimum guys over a million a year.

But we don’t hear that from Max, because he wants to get every last dime he can get out of the free market for himself. Especially since that’s what the Players Association preaches in fighting to avoid a salary cap like the one in the NBA that’s such a drag on salaries poor Russell Westbrook only makes $47 million a year.

Besides, that would be socialism. Except isn’t that, for better or worse, what a union actually is?

Fine. But if Max and his exploited compadres can do that, why can’t the Yankees? Then it’s may the better man/group win.

As for this adding to the woes of baseball’s declining national interest, I would point out that since there has not been a work stoppage in baseball, none of the decline (between 2007 and 2019) has anything to do with bickering over money.

Not to mention that while some may grumble during it, it’s all soon forgotten and fans come back every time. True even when a strike canceled the 1994 World Series and an entire NHL season was wiped out by the lockout of 2004-05. So don’t listen to the doomsday prediction because history shows they’re wrong every time.

As for the fan indifference mentioned by Ms. Sullivan, while it’s real at the moment, I’d argue it’s not specifically for the sport itself. It’s more of the “been there done that, so wake me when it’s over” variety.

So instead of looking at the glass being half full, this could actually be an opportunity to fix what really is causing the decline in attendance. Make one of the bargaining concessions be putting a structure in place for players and owners to jointly address everything from the cost of tickets to the pace of play to altering the way stat geek baseball is sucking the excitement out of the game.

That would make this stoppage constructive and if it takes until even July, it’s time well spent.

Weekend scientist

Meet Aspire Intern Vick Mahindru

Over the last five months, Manchester High School West sophomore Vick Mahindru has had the unique opportunity of working with staff at the SEE Science Center in Manchester to develop and test the museum’s hands-on STEM exhibits. The Aspire Internship, offered at SEE in partnership with Sunrise Labs, a medical device engineering company in Bedford, is awarded each year to a local student of color who is interested in pursuing a career in science or education.

How did you discover this internship, and what made you want to apply for it?

What made me apply for this internship was that I always wanted to learn more about engineering, since it is one of my career interests, and evaluate and design different prototypes and then see the finished product at the end. I became aware of the internship [through] another opportunity, the Health Career Quest weekly class. In that class, every week [the organizers] would bring in guests to the meetings who were [in] health-, medical- and science-related [fields]. One day the guests were [from] the SEE Science Center, and they were telling us about their engineering feats such as the iBOT electric wheelchair, which interested me a lot in applying for this internship. I then officially wrote my cover letter and resume and submitted it and made sure to explain what this internship in particular meant to me.

What does it involve? What kinds of things do you do when you’re at the museum?

This internship involves learning about engineering, working with kids [and] collaborating with others…. The kinds of things I do when I’m at the museum are: I get to collaborate with the exhibit team and outside contractors to create exhibit prototypes; help to design evaluation tools … such as prototypes for Social Science Research [an academic journal]; and conduct research for exhibit topics such as the Amoskeag Mills.

Do you have any ideas about what you would like to study or pursue as a career in the future?
Yes, after my experience at this internship [and] with multiple extracurricular [activities], I am trying to narrow it down, [based on] my interests and skills, to a couple of career fields, such as engineering, medical, software engineering, orthodontics, real estate, nanotechnology engineering, Lego design, [a field that’s] music-related and the CIA.

What are some skills you’re learning at the museum that you think could be applicable to your future education and career?

I am learning in this internship … [about] how to build and test prototypes; resume-building; collaborating with others; workflow pacing [and] time management; and [how] to help design evaluation tools for social science research.

What is your favorite part of doing this internship?

My favorite part of this internship was every week, going on Sundays and working toward my goals, such as learning more about engineering, how to build and test prototypes and how to be more efficient and productive, and then seeing all those goals come to reality nearing the end of my internship.

What has been the most challenging part?

There weren’t really any challenging parts of this internship besides [having to] work individually on projects I was assigned and then give updates to my supervisor, which I was hesitant [to do] at first, but then [the projects] came out great.

Would you recommend this internship to other students? What kind of student do you think would be a good fit for it?

Yes, I definitely would recommend this internship to other students. The kinds of students that I would think would be a good fit for this internship are students who can give 100 percent commitment and reliability to this internship.

Featured photo: Manchester High School West sophomore Vick Mahindru. Courtesy photo.

News & Notes 22/03/10

Covid-19 update As of Feb 25 As of March 7
Total cases statewide 297,729 299,651
Total current infections statewide 2,130 1,045
Total deaths statewide 2,373 2,403
New cases 4,032 (Feb. 19 to Feb. 25) 1,922 (Feb. 26 to March 7)
Current infections: Hillsborough County 588 256
Current infections: Merrimack County 163 75
Current infections: Rockingham County 310 144
Information from the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services.

Covid-19 news

State health officials reported 42 new cases of Covid-19 on March 7. The state averaged 151 new cases per day over the most recent seven-day period, a 49 percent decrease compared to the week before. Hospitalizations continue to be low, at just 56 statewide as of March 7.

Finding firefighters

A new ad hoc committee has been formed to improve the recruitment, hiring and retention of firefighters and EMS providers throughout New Hampshire, according to an announcement from New Hampshire Department of Safety commissioner Robert L. Quinn, Division of Fire Standards and Training & Emergency Medical Services director Justin Cutting and State Sen. Sue Prentiss, D-West Lebanon. The announcement stated that there was a net loss of nearly 200 EMTs and paramedics in the state last year, which was double the loss seen in 2020.

Until now, there has been no centralized collection of data of organized recruitment efforts to replace that workforce. The job of the committee, which is made up of a diverse group of stakeholders, elected officials and workforce and HR professionals, will be to analyze the trend and recommend actions to reverse it. Additionally, the Division of Fire Standards and Training & Emergency Medical Services is looking to hire someone for the newly created position of recruitment and retention coordinator, the release said.

The committee’s first meeting is scheduled for March 16, with recommendations to be submitted to the commissioner within 90 days.

Pharma settlement

The funds owed by Purdue Pharma and its owners, the Sackler family, for their role in the opioid crisis have been increased from the $4.325 billion owed under the original bankruptcy plan to a minimum of $5.5 billion as part of a national settlement, according to a press release from the office of New Hampshire Attorney General John M. Formella. If certain conditions are met, the family could have to pay up to $6 billion.

Between 2017 and 2019, the Sacklers were alleged to have sold prescription opioids through Purdue using a marketing campaign that downplayed the risks of abuse, addiction and death associated with prescription opioids. A bankruptcy plan issued by the Bankruptcy Court was approved for Purdue Pharma in 2021.

The settlement also states that the Sackler family must provide a statement of regret and allow the Sackler family name to be removed from institutions’ buildings and scholarships. New Hampshire would receive approximately $46 million from the settlement if it goes through, which is up from $27 million allocated in the original bankruptcy plan, to be used for opioid treatment and prevention programs in the state. “New Hampshire has been particularly hard hit by the opioid epidemic, and Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family bear significant responsibility for causing so much harm to our state,” Formella said in the press release. “While no amount of money will be enough to address the harm they caused, this settlement is a significant step toward holding the Sacklers accountable for what they did and will provide much-needed funds for our state to continue fighting this epidemic.”

Conditions outlined in the original bankruptcy plan, which required the Sacklers to dissolve or sell the company by 2024, make more than 30 million of their documents public, and disengage from manufacturing and selling opioids, will be upheld as planned.

Ukraine scam

Attorney General John M. Formella has issued a warning to New Hampshire citizens about scams on the rise taking advantage of the crisis in Ukraine. Fake charities may target well-meaning people looking to donate funds for relief efforts in Ukraine, or charities that intend to help but are not well-established may not be able to use donated funds for the purposes promised. Formella’s advice to donors is to research charities before giving, which should include checking the charity’s registration status with the Charitable Trusts Unit at doj.nh.gov/charitable-trusts/registered-charities, and checking the charity’s history and reputation of using donated funds as promised to donors. Donors should also avoid sending money online unless they know and trust the fundraiser, and should never share their personal financial information over the phone.

Load limits posted

As rising temperatures cause the frost that is built up under paved roads to dissipate, public roads will become susceptible to pavement breakage. To address this potential hazard for drivers, New Hampshire Department of Transportation commissioner Victoria Sheehan has ordered customary, state-authorized spring load limits on sections of the state highway system. Limits are posted based on research by NHDOT District engineers to determine the level of risk for each roadway. The maximum vehicular weight allowed in posted sections of the state highways is 30,000 pounds (gross weight) or the cumulative width, in inches, of the vehicle’s tires’ contact with the road’s surface, multiplied by 300 (whichever figure is less). Vehicles transporting home heating oil, processed milk products or maple sap and septic pumper trucks are exempt from the seasonal bans under State law with approval from the NHDOT District engineers. See newengland511.org for an updated list of posted roads.

AARP grants

Applications for AARP New Hampshire’s 2022 AARP Community Challenge grant program are being accepted now through Tuesday, March 22, according to a press release. The program, now in its sixth year, is part of AARP’s national Livable Communities initiative and awards grants to local organizations and governments to fund quick-action projects (projects that are expected to be completed by Nov. 30) designed to help communities across the state improve their public spaces, transportation, housing, civic engagement, Covid-19 recovery, diversity and inclusion and more. Communities that have demonstrated that they are inclusive, address disparities, engage volunteers and support their residents who are age 50 and older will receive preference. The application deadline on March 22 is at 5 p.m. Visit aarp.org/communitychallenge.

Maintenance work on the I-93 Exit 17 Hoit Road bridge in Concord will begin Tuesday, March 14. There will be lane closures throughout the project, which is expected to be completed in May, according to a press release from the New Hampshire Department of Transportation. Detour signs and message boards will be used to direct motorists, the release said.

Manchester Historic Association Executive Director John Clayton will be transitioning to a new position, according to a press release. “Director of Community Relations [is] a part-time position that allows him to concentrate on what he knows best: community relationships in all their iterations,” Manchester Historic Association board chair Colleen Kurlansky said in the release. “We are delighted that he will be maintaining this connection with the MHA.” In his time as executive director, Clayton helped more than double the Association’s grant support, memberships are at record levels, and the Millyard Museum has seen record numbers of visitors, the release said.

A bicycle fix-it station at the south entrance of the Salem Bike-Ped Corridor will soon be installed by 15-year-old Boy Scout Andrew Keegan as he works toward earning his Eagle Scout ranking. According to a press release, Keegan wrote on his GoFundMe page that he’s hoping to raise $2,500 for materials, permits and approvals.

Finding connection

I recently found myself on a Zoom call with some medical school classmates I hadn’t spoken with in many years. While not a fan of school reunions, I found their enthusiasm infectious as we later considered how to encourage all 85 classmates from the Dartmouth Medical School class of 1997 to attend our upcoming reunion.

Later, I realized that over the last year, I had a few wonderful opportunities to reconnect with lost friends. There is the friend from San Diego who I have only seen once since my wedding 20 years ago; I spent two hours on the phone catching up. There is the friend from Pittsburgh who was my long-distance best friend in high school, back when pen-pals meant you wrote letters by hand and sent them through the (snail) mail. We lost touch until she emailed me. It turns out she has lived in New Hampshire longer than I have! There was joy in reconnecting with people who played significant roles in my becoming who I am today.

The universal need for social connection is well-documented, as are the benefits to physical health and mental and emotional well-being. Having social support networks is considered a social determinant of health — meaning part of the 80 percent of what contributes to our health outside of health care (which contributes at most only 20 percent). Not having social connection can have long-term negative health impacts. Social connection is not about the number of friends or contacts we have, or the number of groups we belong to. It’s about our subjective sense of connection, our feelings on the inside of being connected to others.

According to the Stanford Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education we can “give, share support and do acts of service and kindness for others” as compassion and volunteering create that helpful sense of connection and purpose. We should also prioritize taking care of ourselves, and asking for help when we need it. Oftentimes others in our lives would be happy to provide assistance.

On a population level, policy makers can promote awareness of the positive effects of social ties, being attentive to avoiding policies that have a negative effect on social connection, and prioritizing beneficial policies, interventions and programs that reduce social isolation and strengthen social networks and opportunities for connection.

In these challenging times of pandemic fatigue, climate disaster and what feels like the brink of world war, the words of Martin Luther King Jr. resonate for me: “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.” In the words of a very successful marketing jingle from a while back, go ahead, “reach out and touch someone.” I’m pretty certain you’ll be glad you did.

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