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The Spill: Imaginary Fans

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Imagining Baseball Fans

What do you do when you’re a professional baseball team during a pandemic? Playing the sport in an empty stadium is just not the same as playing in front of cheering fans. It can zap the energy from players who get motivation from fans. In Taiwan, the problem was – sort of – solved by filling some of the empty seats with mannequins and cardboard cutouts of “fans.”

The dummy fans sat in the stadium where fans would normally be sitting. They were adorned in the Rakuten Monkeys’ team colors and donned surgical masks. Some wore hot-pink wigs, and others were holding up signs with messages such as, “We will always be with you.” Also there to cheer on the team was a five-member band of robots that played music from the bleachers. Aside from team members and staff, the only other humans were the cheerleaders who even posed with the cardboard fans and musical robots.

As the players took the field, an announcer said, “Welcome to the one and only live sports game on the surface of the planet.”

Players are kept in a dormitory-style living and have their temperature checked daily to make sure there are no signs of COVID-19. The players bump elbows instead of high-fives or other forms of physical contact.

Monkeys manager Tseng Hao-Chu said his players are receiving “imagination training” to think of fans celebrating, jumping up and down, and cheering them on from home. “I’ll tell them,” he said, “This is your job. Your job is to perform the best for your fans. Maybe they are not here but they are still in front of [the] television and cheering for us.”

Murder Hornets Arrive in America

There’s been a lot of talk about the giant “murder hornets” that have reached the United States, in Washington state. While these insects are dangerous, specialists warn against spreading panic and fear among humans.

No one is sure how these giant hornets, natives of East Asia and Japan, managed to make their way to America. They may have gotten trapped in shipping containers that were brought over. The concern is for both bees and humans because these hornets have large stingers with powerful venom. In Japan, 30 to 50 people die each year from their stings.

These insects “are pretty formidable,” says Chris Looney, an entomologist (bug researcher), “I am very worried.” He is also concerned about their title of “murder hornets,” saying, “I worry people are already scared enough of insects.”

The average honeybee has no known defenses against the Japanese hornet. When the larger insects come across a honeybee, they attack it. In as little as 90 minutes, the Asian hornets can destroy an entire bee colony. They will live in the honeybee nest for a week or so. The honeybees have tried to defend themselves with their stingers, but they have no effect on the larger insect. Unlike American bees, Japanese honeybees have evolved alongside the giant hornets and have defenses.

The Asian hornets are “giant” with orange and black markings and large stingers. They are the world’s biggest wasp, nearly two inches long. They form colonies that include one queen and her workers and can fly a dozen miles from their hives in search of food, their favorite meal being the honeybee.

Ireland Repays an Old Favor

Recently, Ireland stepped up to help Native Americans affected by the Coronavirus pandemic, paying back a favor from more than 100 years ago.

In 1831, some Native American tribes forced to march the Trail of Tears. The Choctaw Nation was made to relocate on foot from Mississippi to Oklahoma, a 500-mile journey in which nearly one-third of the tribe died due to exposure, disease, and starvation. In 1847, the proud nation of people requested help. Meanwhile, in Ireland, the Irish potato famine had hit and was causing massive hunger throughout the country. Between 1845 and 1849, an estimated one million Irish died from starvation and hunger-related disease.

Despite their own desperate situation, the Choctaw Nation donated $170 for relief to the Irish. This equals more than $5,000 in today’s money, and from a people who were already suffering so greatly.

Now, 173 years later, Native Americans are suffering from the Coronavirus. Many living on reservation lands are suffering from poor medical services, no access to the internet, lack of housing, and other serious issues. Government help has not yet reached these people.

The Irish are paying back the old life-saving favor by raising more than $2.5 million for food, health supplies, and water for the Navajo Nation and Hopi Reservation. An Irish donor, Pat Hayes, wrote, “From Ireland, 170 years later, the favour is returned! To our Native American brothers and sisters in your moment of hardship.”

Gary Batton, chief of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, said that is tribe is “gratified – and perhaps not at all surprised – to learn of the assistance our special friends, the Irish, are giving to the Navajo and Hopi Nations.” He continued, “We have become kindred spirits with the Irish in the years since the Irish potato famine. We hope the Irish, Navajo and Hopi people develop lasting friendships, as we have.”

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