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A new series about how athletes' lives and livelihoods have been disrupted by COVID-19.
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Host Anna Sale and the logos for Death, Sex & Money and WNYC Studios, all on a beige background.
There was a period in my life when I was a very serious college football fan. (Let's go, Mountaineers!) My weekends from August through November were organized around kickoff times. Whether at noon or late in the evening, everyone would be wearing blue and gold. There'd be snacks, pizza, beer. And if the game went well, you knew you'd end it arm-in-arm with your compatriots in a rousing singalong of "Take Me Home, Country Roads." 

I loved these rituals, and the way repeating them helped ease the slide from sweaty September into the post-Thanksgiving chill. My dedication to football fandom has faded over the years, as I got more uncomfortable watching football injuries and less interested in cheap beer. But man, what I wouldn't give to be in a stadium of people, swaying back in forth, belting out some John Denver. I do really miss that. 

Especially right now. And I'm just a fan. Think what the pandemic has been like for elite athletes, who have organized their lives around training camps, playing seasons, or Olympic trials. How do you make sense of all your long-term goals, and years of sacrifices, and then, this happens? 

That's what we're looking at over the next three episodes of Death, Sex & Money, in a series we're calling Game Changer. You'll meet three different athletes who are all at pivotal moments in their careers, each of them making different choices about the risks they're willing to take to keep competing. And I'm cheering them all on.

—Anna and the Death, Sex & Money team
This Week on Death, Sex & Money
A baseball player in blue looks down the diamond, which is reddish dirt with the cracked ground. The stands of the baseball stadium and the sky are also red and dark orange, and the stands appear to be empty.

We're kicking off a new series called Game Changer this week, examining how the lives and livelihoods of three very different athletes have been upended by the pandemic. First up: Minor League Baseball pitcher Mitch Horacek, who started the pre-season having just been signed on a free-agent contract with the Minnesota Twins—and hoping to make his major league debut in 2020. 

But the minor league season didn't happen—it was cancelled this spring. And rather than making the salary Mitch had negotiated with the Twins—one that paid him much more than he'd been making for the past seven years—he says he ended up getting paid a weekly stipend that amounted to $400 a week before taxes. "It is something," he said. "But it's a long shot from what I was expecting." 

Listen to hear why Mitch turned down his one shot at playing in the big league this year. And look out for our second episode in the series coming this Friday. 

Your Stories: Food During A Pandemic
Last week, we started asking for your stories about your relationship to food right now. And we've heard from a lot of you so far—from those of you who have found comfort in cooking, to those of you who are finding thinking about food overwhelming right now. Here are three listeners' stories about their current relationship to food:
"The act of cooking and eating home-cooked dinner each night during this pandemic has been the one ritual that is essential to me and my husband's wellbeing, and the single activity that I put the most energy into planning for. With all the uncertainty in the world right now, the food we consume is one of the few things we have sole control over. As a city-dwelling couple who loves to travel (and obviously no longer can right now!), eating and cooking diverse cuisines has been a way to cultivate our adventurous side. 

My husband actually grew up with food insecurity, so to the extent that we can afford it, eating healthy meals with high quality ingredients is non-negotiable and dictates our shopping habits & budget. The experience of dining out at a restaurant was usually reserved for special occasions and was more about the ambiance, energy, and social experience than the food itself. With most restaurants being reduced to take-out only, we find ourselves almost exclusively cooking at home now and it's pushed us to be more innovative than ever before. The biggest challenges have not been in finding inspiration to cook, but rather with the food/ingredient shortages that have plagued all of our local grocery stores these past several months."

—Meredith, 35, Boston, MA
"We are a family of five, with kids aged 10, 7 and 3. We just moved two states away and, during this time, food has become a grounding part of our family life. Baking or cooking are also one of the ways we can have quality family timewhen we can't go outside, when we can't see other people, we rely on each other and creating moments in our home that are memorable and comforting.

In the early pandemic days, my mom wanted to help our family, and felt helpless because we couldn't see each other in person. She offered to sign us up for meal delivery or to drop meals off. But I surprised myself by saying 'no thank you,' because cooking and eating together became our anchor in chaotic days. We pulled our stress and worry together, moved around each other in the kitchen, often cried over what we missed, what we were worried about, but showed gratitude for our health and good fortune by sharing a delicious homemade meal together.

We found we didn't want fast and easy. We soaked beans, we tried to make homemade pizza dough so many times. I drew the line at the sourdough trend, rationalizing that we had enough things to feed without adding a starter to the list. We started baking cakes and eating them on any day of the week that we wanted cake. My 10-year-old can now make corn tortillas start to finish. My 3-year-old grabs his stool when we are making dinner and asks for a job. My 7-year-old is the designated 'taster.' 

Yes, it's a chore, and the dishes just never end. We finally ordered a ton of paper plates and would use them about once a day, especially during the moving process, because, well, we needed something to give. But food has also created a space for us to connect, learn, and come together every day in such a simple and basic way. Two nights ago, I threw together a spaghetti sauce without even thinking of looking at a recipe, with the help of my kids, after a full day of work and Zoom school meetings, and thought 'look how far we have come.' The next morning I work up to a broken dishwasher, because pandemic life, right?!"

—Whitney, 37, Bainbridge Island, WA
"I’m writing from Germany, where we can mostly live a normal life. But food these days is difficult. I used it to comfort myself through the worst of the shutdown, and allowed myself to buy anything I liked at the supermarket since I wasn’t doing any other frivolous spending. Now I’m back to work full time and exhausted. Food has lost its comforting charm. I’m wishing for someone to cook for me, or the creative energy to want to cook for myself. Right now, lunch is tortilla chips with hummus and an apple and I guess that’ll have to be satisfying enough."

—Madeline, 31, Leipzig, Germany
We want to hear from you. What does your relationship to food look like right now? Send us your food-related stories in an email or a voice memo to deathsexmoney@wnyc.org.

Listen to This: Audio We Love

The green, white, and dark purple logo of for the Slate podcast Amicus with Dahlia Lithwick. The show's title is slightly off-centered on a white backdrop, the Slate logo is in the bottom left in purple, and Lady Justice is on a green background in the top left corner.
A black square with the words Fresh Air on a light blue and a dark blue background. The NPR logo is in the top left corner, and WHYY is centered at the bottom.

The late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was one of nine women in Harvard Law School's class of 1959. In 1956, when they all started, it was only six years after Harvard Law began admitting women. In a new series from Slate's Amicus podcast, "The Class of RBG," we hear from some of RBG's surviving eight women classmates and their family members about navigating a space that barely accepted them, studying alongside their husbands, and the many reasons why they wanted to study law in the first place.

Last week, writer Cord Jefferson was a guest on Fresh Air. If you are a fan of the HBO series Watchmen and want to know more about the development of its storyline around the Tulsa Race Massacre; are curious about racial politics in a Hollywood writers room; or wonder about anger, generational trauma, and donating a kidney to your father, you should listen to this. (And then you should watch Cord's Emmy acceptance speech: “Thank you to my therapist, Ian."

"You provide solace especially in this scary time. You help cut through the isolation and anxiety and touch me with hope. Thank you Anna and your team for all you do."
—Sarah, Connecticut

Join Sarah in supporting our work at Death, Sex & Money!
Donate now at deathsexmoney.org/donate.
Stay tuned for our next episode in the Game Changer series on Friday. Here's a hint about what sport we're featuring next:
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