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Hockey playoffs are back, so we can finally return to pretending to have very hard and well-developed opinions about the Blackhawks' third line. 

Power Ranking Potential COVID Vaccines

Sports,,, they’re BACK. But over the past four months sans sports in the U.S., I’ve primarily done three things: watch European footy, stare forlornly at walls, and start following vaccines like they’re club teams I’m rooting for.

Now, let’s start with the obvious. The stakes for COVID-19 vaccine development are at least marginally higher than those involved with Javy Baez’s chase for his long overdue MVP crown. And more importantly, there’s no one I’m rooting against in the race for a vaccine. The only way out of this post-apocalyptic hellscape we call Tuesday is with a safe, effective, and widely distributed vaccine. This is serious stuff, and we should all be hoping one of these vaccines works out.

HOWEVER!

That’s absolutely not gonna stop me from power-ranking the potential* vaccines:

1. The Oxford/AstraZeneca Ayzees: Folks, this is what we mean when we talk about an elite vaccine. It’s already in Phase III trials, and Phase I/II showed it delivered those antibodies we all crave with no negative side effects. But the real differentiator here is the timing and scale. AstraZeneca has said if all goes well, emergency doses (for specific high-risk individuals, not for you) could be available in October—and that they could ramp up production for two billion doses if approved. That’s far and away the highest number of any contender, and it puts the Ayzees in a tier of their own. 

2. The Morderna Theranoses: This vaccine is being developed with the NIH and already, Dr. Fauci has lauded its Phase I/II results and Phase III began last week. The early results are extremely promising, but haters remain caught up on things like “Moderna having never brought a product to market in its history as a company” or “that time the Moderna CEO told Trump we’d have a vaccine in a few months… in March.” Fortunately, we’re not here to hate. Company reputation aside, in Fauci we trust.

3. The Pfizer Pfighting T Cells: Big pharma, regrettably, delivers again. Phase III has just begun, after Phase I/II found not only some delectable antibodies but a nice little dose of T cells too—albeit with some moderate side effects. Pfizer gets big ups for promising to deliver 100 million doses by December 2020 if approved and 1.3 billion doses by December 2021. So why are they not higher? Pfizer has already signed a $2 billion deal with the Trump administration to provide doses of this vaccine, and it’s hard to imagine this president signing on to anything that could improve public health.

4. The Sinopharm Chairmans: It wouldn’t be too surprising if Wuhan, the original epicenter of the pandemic (before Scottsdale swooped in to steal the title), produced the vaccine. This one’s in Phase III and showed promising Phase I/II results, with Chinese state media reporting the state-run research company could be distributing the vaccine widely by year’s end. And that’s where we have to dock this Chinese state-run company: sorry if it triggers Ted Cruz, but sometimes I do not believe that the Chinese government is telling the truth. 

5. The Sinovac Stingy Syringes: A promising option out of China, this time from privately owned Sinovac Biotech. Phase III trials are running in July now, but the company really loses points on manufacturing capabilities. They’ve promised the ability to generate 100 million doses per year, which is just not the type of offensive production anyone’s looking for at this point in the game.

6. The Johnson & Johnson Baby Wipes: Apparently the company in charge of ensuring tear-free bathtime for babies is also in charge of our shared survival as a species, which is very cool and good. Anyway, this trial just moved into Phase I/II, but they say they can produce a billion doses in 2021, if approved, so they earn a spot on the list.

7. The CanSinoBIO Cadets: Another Chinese candidate, this vaccine has flown through Phase I/II like many others. It would probably be higher on the list if it weren’t for the fact that instead of Phase III, they’re just kind of… testing it on the Chinese military. And here at Left On Read, we have recently decided we are AGAINST involuntary medical trials. We will not apologize for this.

8. Whatever The Fuck Russia’s Doing: Russia says it’s got a vaccine ready for approval this month, and it will begin distributing to healthcare workers and teachers shortly thereafter. I hope they do! But considering they’ve released no details, proof, trials, or evidence, I have more doubts than the President when he’s informed of something called a “Tiffany.” 

9. The Murdoch Propping Gandas: Not only is this vaccine being developed by something called the Murdoch Children’s Research Hospital, but it’s not even supposed to be a full immunity-inducing vaccine. It’s just supposed to kind of help or something. I’m mad about it, and I’m mad at Rupert Murdoch—for this and literally everything else about him. 

*As of June 1, there were 157 potential vaccines in trials. Using the relegation model, I only ranked the top flight vaccines—those in Phase III or which have shown the biggest promise in Phase II.

MLB End of Season Awards

Whether or not they know it yet, Major League Baseball’s 2020 season is coming to a close. Big boy in chief Bobby Manfred may not be a quitter, but COVID also isn’t backing down, and I know who my money is on (though I obviously also have a couple dollars on the underdog to cover any potential losses. No, it’s not an addiction if I’m good at it). As we approach the final days of the season, we at Left on Read wanted to honor the incredible effort put forth by every team over the demanding six games of the year. Without further ado, here are our picks for MLB’s end of season awards. 

MVP: Covid-19—Day in and day out, ole CoCo RoRo has been putting in work. Marlins? Speared. Cardinals? Shot right out of the sky. Yoenis Cespedes was literally so intimidated, he fled his team to avoid a potential match-up. There have been some impressive performances, but this one has been one for the history books.

Cy Young: Joe Kelly—An icon and a legend. Enough said.

Biggest Idiot Piece of Dogshit: Rob Manfred—Now it’s rare for a new award to be introduced, but this one is so very well-deserved. Rob Manfred has displayed the highest level of total incompetence any professional can, while simultaneously being a complete travesty of a human being. A true double-threat, Manfred deserves this award and the lifetime’s supply of Arby’s that comes with it.

Rookie of the Year: Baseball’s Complete Irrelevancy—Baseball’s Complete and Utter Irrelevancy as a national sport has been working hard in the minor leagues for years, but this is the year it finally squeezed into the Majors. After its amazing showing in the preseason, helping to almost entirely cripple the league’s 2020 season before it even started, we all knew it had potential. However, after this year’s performance, Baseball’s Total Lack of Appeal as the National Pastime has cemented itself as a force to be reckoned with, and I for one am incredibly excited to not see what it can do in the coming years. 

Grading Fauci

Recently, Anthony Fauci was the subject of a scathing op-ed by something called a Peter Navarro (??). Navarri is known, tragically, to have an extremely bad brain and the White House was forced to claim they had nothing to do with the piece. 

But while much scorn has been directed Navarro’s way, what should we make of Fauci himself? He’s been deified on the left, vilified on the right, and sidelined by the White House. But how should we grade his performance during this pandemic?

Criteria 1: death and destruction
Hooooo boy. Ok, so theoretically, as the nation’s top virologist it’s Fauci’s main job to prevent hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths by virus. On that front, the scale of the failure is, um, unignorable. But it’s not going too far out on a limb to say that his guidance hasn’t always been followed, and his advice has generally been to do things like socially distance and wear a mask (we’ll get back to this) that could have prevented the current nightmare we’re sleepwalking through. And considering that the head of the White House Coronavirus task force is the same guy responsible for bringing the HIV/AIDS epidemic back to Indiana, it’s probably fair to say this could have been much worse.
Grade: B-

Criteria 2: scientific adherence
Here’s where Fauci has really shined. In the face of a White House courageously pledging not to let “the science get in the way” of killing teachers, Fauci has been steadfast in forcing the science into the way. It hasn’t always worked out, but Fauci has consistently refused to talk politics or really anything other than the science of the pandemic—and it seems pretty likely that if the president had suggested injecting bleach in his presence, rather than Dr. Birx’s, he would have spoken up,
Grade: A

Criteria 3: protective measures
On the one hand, the CDC committed what epidemiologists refer to as a “catastrophic fuck up” (CFU, in industry-speak) when in March it advised the nation not to wear masks for a virus that turned out to likely be airborne. Fauci doesn’t work at the CDC, but as the nation’s most trusted voice on communicable diseases, he surely played a role in that CFU. On the other hand, Fauci has been adamant about keeping social distance and closing down businesses when needed, even in the face of a president determined to eradicate the state of Florida. 
Grade: B+

Criteria 4: looking sick as fuck
Anthony Fauci is like four feet tall, a billion years old, and would absolutely be able to pipe every intern in the greater Silver Springs area if there weren’t a fucking pandemic. 
Grade: A+, somehow

Criteria 5: keeping his job
As bad as things are, they would surely be worse if Trump’s next choice for the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Disease—the doctor who prescribed Michael Jackson all that propofol, probably—were in charge. Fauci’s ability to publicly contradict the president and not get fired has been perhaps his greatest strength, and perhaps the only thing keeping us from a situation as dire as that in [add country doing worse at this than the US, make one up if none exists].
Grade: A++

Overall
So how do we grade him on the whole? The pandemic has been a disaster for everyone except grave-diggers, so he’s certainly not getting perfect marks. But an A- feels pretty fair. Maybe that’s just because it’s so jarring to see a government official trying to keep people alive, but if he’s benefiting from low expectations, so be it. Now, go have some freaky socially distant phone sex with a GW grad student, Tony. 
Grade: A-

Is Kap Too Big For the NFL?

Colin Kaepernick should be on an NFL roster. 

More specifically, Colin Kaepernick should be on the Chicago Football Bears. Even MORE specifically, every NFL GM who failed to signed Kap in the past five years should be forced to personally bankroll the campaign of one-to-five senators who would vote to reauthorize voting rights for Black people.

But Kap is not in the NFL. And even as the nation comes to agree that—shocker—the man the president called a “son of a bitch” for demanding an end to extrajudicial police killings was probably in the right, it doesn’t appear anyone is set to sign him.

That’s a travesty, but not a surprise. Be it domestic violence policies, player safety, or the definition of a catch, “travesty” is a pretty good word to describe most of the NFL. 

So the question at this point is really whether Kaepernick should even want to play in the NFL. His Nike deal is worth millions per year, with his own brand of apparel reportedly in the works. His Know Your Rights Camp has emerged as one of the most prominent civil rights organizations of the recent movement. He’s set to narrate an Ava DuVernay-produced Netflix docuseries about his life.

He is, in the most cliched way, bigger than football.

Which gets back to the question of whether it would even make sense for him to spend his time playing a game when he could be affecting policy. 

Certainly, he’s got every right to do whatever he wants, and I can say from experience* that it’s exceedingly fun to play professional football when you have his kind of arm strength, speed, and agility. He’s already done more than enough for one lifetime off the field, and no one would blame him for taking a nice payday to back up Tom Brady for the next 15 to 20 years.

But suddenly the NFL feels too small for him. His return would be like Jordan going to Birmingham, or Obama being president. Yeah, he can probably do it… but why would he?

With Washington changing its name and nearly every major sports league embracing his message, Kaepernick’s return at once feels inevitable and impossible. By blackballing him, the NFL has backed itself into a corner from which the only escape is a roster spot. But by so forcefully winning in this billion-dollar-industry vs. mobile-QB-from-Nevada fight, Kaepernick would be almost degrading himself if he were to return.

Admittedly, I’m probably getting ahead of myself. Maybe the NFL will continue to snub him. No one’s ever lost money betting on oligarchs to do the wrong thing.

But if the day comes when Kap suits back up in the NFL, it’s hard to imagine it’ll be satisfying.

*Legal note: I cannot say this from experience.
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