Coachella Valley Independent

Indy Digest: March 3, 2022

March is normally an exciting time of year for any baseball fan—because it means spring training games are under way, and Opening Day is just around the corner.

However, for the second time in three years, such is not the case.

Two years ago, spring training was indeed under way at this time. However, it would soon come to a screeching halt because of COVID-19. Opening Day would not happen until late July—when the games were played in empty stadiums.

Last year, spring training returned, as did the crowds—although capacity was limited at first. Nonetheless, the season offered a blessed return to semi-normalcy after a god-awful 2020.

This year should have brought a complete return to normalcy, with capacity crowds, the end of (some) mask requirements, and a feeling of relative safety due to the widespread availability of vaccines.

Alas, greed got in the way.

Last November, the collective bargaining agreement between Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association expired. At that point, the owners of the 30 MLB teams decided to “lock out” the players—pre-empting a possible strike later by the players’ association. As a result, for three months now, there have been no free-agent signings, no official team-sanctioned player appearances … nothing—including no spring training games.

After the owners set a Monday, Feb. 28, deadline for a deal to get done in order for Opening Day to occur as scheduled—and for the full 162-game season to be played—the bargaining got serious. For more than a week, player and owner representatives met daily, including a marathon bargaining session late into the night on Monday that led the owners to push the deadline back by a day. Alas, no deal was completed—and as a result, the first six games of the season have been cancelled. That’s almost certainly just the tip of the cancellation iceberg.

What are the issues keeping the billionaire owners and the players—some, but not all, of whom are millionaires—from reaching a deal? It all, of course, comes down to money. The Washington Post published a nice breakdown of the specific disagreements the owners and the players have, if you’re curious.

The core of the disagreement comes down to the fact that players have seen their overall pay decrease slightly in recent years, while overall baseball revenues have steadily increased (with the exception of the year 2020, for obvious reasons). In other words, players are getting a smaller piece of the pie, and they don’t like that.

The owners’ main point is that they got their ass kicked by 2020. That is true. They did. But so did the players—who only got 37 percent of their usual income, because they only played 37 percent of the 2020 schedule.

Either way … as the mega-rich owners argue with the rich-in-many-cases players, far-less-well-off people are suffering. As NBC News reports:

Players are not the only ones who will miss out on a paycheck — stadium workers will, too. And for some of those workers, the checks have already stopped.

“It just seems like we’re just turning back around,” said George Hancock, a lead concessions worker entering his 11th year at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore. “It seems like every year for the last two years—going on three now—something’s wrong.”

In 2020, workers were largely shut out by a shortened season and empty stands. Last year, they needed to adapt to COVID safety protocols and stadium capacity restrictions.

Hancock depends solely on baseball to get by. Right now, especially amid consumer price hikes, he said, his “mind is spinning.”

One would hope that these two largely well-off groups of people would find a way to get the games started for the sake of the less-well-off people who depend on baseball—and for the sake of the fans, who pay the cable bills, and buy the tickets and merchandise, and consume the advertising that all lead to MLB’s wealth. But that has not happened—and, alas, it’s unlikely to happen anytime soon.

Greed. It’s an ugly thing.

—Jimmy Boegle

From the Independent

A Bittersweet Revue: CVRep’s ‘Closer Than Ever’—the Final Show Directed by Retiring Artistic Director Ron Celona—Is Excellent

By Bonnie Gilgallon

March 3, 2022

Themes like marriage, divorce, parenthood struggles and aging are universal and timeless—and CVRep’s production of Closer Than Ever is flat-out terrific.

Content Shifter: The Nine Worst New Shows of 2022 (Thus Far)

By Bill Frost

March 2, 2022

Here are nine of the worst new TV series that have premiered in 2022. Avoid them at all costs (if they haven’t already been canceled).

The Weekly Independent Comics Page for March 3, 2022!

By Staff

March 3, 2022

Topics addressed on this week’s comics page include gagged clowns, lettuce-picking, Harvey Pekar, Justin Trudeau—and more!

More News

The suffering being caused by the war in Ukraine is unimaginable. NPR says: “‘In just seven days we have witnessed the exodus of one million refugees from Ukraine to neighbouring countries,’ U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi wrote in a tweet on Wednesday. The new total of refugees from Ukraine amounts to a little more than 2% of the country’s total population of 44 million. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), around half of the refugees are in Poland, with Hungary, Moldova and Slovakia being the other top destinations, while others have fled to various other European countries.”

The war is also taking a toll inside Russia. The New York Times reports: “As President Vladimir V. Putin wages war against Ukraine, he is fighting a parallel battle on the home front, dismantling the last vestiges of a Russian free press. On Thursday, the pillars of Russia’s independent broadcast media collapsed under pressure from the state. Echo of Moscow, the freewheeling radio station founded by Soviet dissidents in 1990 and that symbolized Russia’s new freedoms, was ‘liquidated’ by its board. TV Rain, the youthful independent television station that calls itself ‘the optimistic channel’ said it would suspend operations indefinitely. And Dmitri Muratov, the journalist who shared the Nobel Peace Prize last year, said that his newspaper Novaya Gazeta, which survived the murders of six of its journalists, could be on the verge of shutting down as well. ‘Everything that’s not propaganda is being eliminated,’ Mr. Muratov said.”

• Related: Pulitzer Prize-winning news nonprofit ProPublica thinks it’s worth reminding everyone about the goings-on involving Russia, Ukraine and the former president. Ilya Marritz writes: “Though Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine is just days old, Russia has been working for years to influence and undermine the independence of its smaller neighbor. As it happens, some Americans have played a role in that effort. One was former President Donald Trump’s campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Another was Trump’s then-lawyer Rudy Giuliani. It’s all detailed in a wide array of public documents, particularly a bipartisan 2020 Senate report on Trump and Russia. I was one of the journalists who dug into all the connections, as part of the Trump, Inc. podcast with ProPublica and WNYC. (I was in Kyiv, retracing Manafort’s steps, when Trump’s infamous call with Ukraine’s president was revealed in September 2019.) Given recent events, I thought it’d be helpful to put all the tidbits together, showing what happened step by step.” This is a fascinating and infuriating reminder.

• Moving closer to home: Here’s the latest weekly Riverside County District 4 COVID-19 report. (If you’re in the Coachella Valley or rural areas to the east, you’re in District 4). It shows the continued waning of the omicron surge. During the week ending Feb. 27, hospitalizations and cases kept falling, while the weekly positivity rate was 6.4 percent. Alas, three more of our neighbors succumbed to COVID-19. The number of confirmed district residents to have died from COVID-19 is on the cusp of 1,300.

Someone has finally announced an intent to challenge Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco in this year’s election. The Press-Enterprise says: “A retired Riverside County sheriff’s captain plans to run against Sheriff Chad Bianco in the June 7 election. Michael Lujan, a 31-year department veteran who commanded the Lake Elsinore station, has paid a filing fee and received paperwork to run for sheriff, according to Registrar of Voters Rebecca Spencer. In a phone interview Monday, Feb. 28, Lujan said he intends to file. So far, no one else has publicly come forward to challenge Bianco, who is seeking re-election for the first time after becoming a polarizing figure for his actions and comments regarding COVID-19 and his past membership in a far-right militia group. A Lujan-Bianco matchup could get heated, with the two already trading accusations over Lujan’s handling of an off-duty employee’s accident that led to Lujan being placed on administrative leave.”

• If you have a Fitbit Ionic smartwatch, you should know they’re being recalled because they can burn you. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission: “Fitbit has received at least 115 reports in the United States (and 59 reports internationally) of the battery in the watch overheating with 78 reports of burn injuries in the United States including two reports of third-degree burns and four reports of second-degree burns (and 40 reports of burn injuries internationally).” Yikes.

• Did you know that 97 percent of California Highway Patrol officers are not provided with body cameras? Yep. Our partners at CalMatters report: “CHP acknowledged it only has 237 body cameras agencywide, all in the Oakland and Stockton areas. A spokesperson said the department is focused on upgrading its dash cameras. ‘Due to the nature of the CHP’s enforcement contacts, in-car cameras provide the most benefit…,’ wrote spokesperson Fran Clader in an email to CalMatters. She said the agency will continue evaluating whether to expand its body camera usage.”

• Palm Canyon Theatre is in the midst of a really cool local production written by the fabulous Cara Van Dijk. From a news release: “Palm Canyon Theatre opened to sold-out audiences and is excited to continue the world premiere of the original musical, Palm Springs Getaway, for two more weekends. Opening in preview, Palm Springs Getaway is a nostalgic romp through the popular oasis featuring glimpses of history, icons and the celebrities who made the city famous. With a collection of well-known and original songs, the show transports audiences from the early desert landscape to the vibrant and inclusive community people know and love today – and every decade in between. The show begins in Los Angeles in the 1930s, where the protagonists realize they need a ‘getaway’ as they try to escape some mobsters set on revenge. Prompted by a poster advertising Palm Springs as the ‘Playground of the Stars,’ Junior (Lou Galvan) and Harry (Ben Reece) set off on a time-jumping adventure reminiscent of the lighthearted, screwball comedy films of the 1930s and 40s. The duo find themselves entangled with a mysterious fortuneteller (Mary Ewing) who guides them on a field trip through the ages.” The show continues Thursday through Sunday this week and next, and tickets are $32-$36. Congrats on the success, Cara!

• And finally … I worked for a company called Wick Communications, at two different newspapers, from 2001 to 2012. I was fortunate enough to make the acquaintance of Bob Wick, who at the time owned the company with his brother, Walt. Bob was an amazing person—an artist, a family man, an environmentalist and a believer in the power of quality local journalism. He died earlier this year at the age of 86. Editor and Publisher just published a remembrance of Bob. Here’s part of what John Mathew, a former CEO of Wick Communications, had to say about Bob: “I have a fond memory of my first airplane trip with Bob, flying from Phoenix to Albuquerque. He said, ‘Do you mind if I sit by the window?’ I quickly agreed and asked why. He told me he wanted to be able to see the colors, the clouds and the contours of what was above and below even though he’d seen it countless times before. He had that much appreciation for the beauty of the earth. To this day, I wonder what Bob would think when someone on a flight closes the window shade.” My condolences to all of Bob’s family and loved ones.

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Jimmy Boegle

Jimmy Boegle is the founding editor and publisher of the Coachella Valley Independent. He is also the executive editor and publisher of the Reno News & Review in Reno, Nev. A native of Reno, the Dodgers...