Robert Browning and Ingmar Bergman in a Bloomberg column

With all those fools going to bars and concerts, or running marathons, it is evident we still need to solve the problem of entertainment, as I argue in my new Bloomberg column.

It is instructive to look back to the days of World War II. The U.S. government played a critical role in encouraging Hollywood to make cheery movies, and it helped by not trying to force every actor into the armed services. Major league baseball, the national pastime of the era, continued to hold a regular season and a World Series, again to distract people from wartime worries. Many top players, such as Ted Williams, were away fighting, but there were adequate replacements. The government knew that wartime drama could not be the only drama on tap.

With Covid-19, the goal is to keep people at home, at least if they are not essential workers. But if staying at home is too boring, cabin fever will take over and people will run out to social gatherings when they ought to be staying put. So solving the entertainment problem is one very real piece of the puzzle for minimizing the effects of the coronavirus and keeping Americans not just in good spirits but healthy.

The very worst scenario is that the coronavirus itself — how it is playing out, how officials and celebrities and neighbors are reacting — becomes our main entertainment. It could become an ongoing horror show that drives us crazy and makes people even more cynical about politics.

To avoid such a mix of frustration and terror, I have a modest proposal: We should restructure a few of our traditional entertainments to be safe from the coronavirus.

As suggested on Twitter, how about inducing a few of the cable providers to offer free streaming for a few months?  The Met has announced a big increase in opera streaming.  And:

Or how about proceeding with some version of the NBA Finals? Take a subset of the best qualifying teams, test every player for coronavirus, isolate them in a remote area with a college gymnasium, and have them proceed with a shortened version of the real thing in front of only a TV crew. With so many other public events closed down, television viewership would probably reach an all-time high, and the sense of drama would be incredible. It would be one NBA Finals we would never forget, and the quality of play would respond to the very high psychological stakes.

Ben Golliver serves up a concrete NBA proposal.  You’ll have to click through to get to the Browning and Bergman parts, the latter being Easter egg.  At least the Candidate’s Tournament still seems to be on in chess, you can all watch that for the next few weeks, starts Tuesday I believe, try

Lecturing alone won’t work: we really do need to make it more fun for people to stay at home!


Major League Baseball could announce an official simulated 2020 season in which it builds a computer simulator and announces the results of each game in real time.

The key is to build in a lot of randomness (just like in reality) so interesting things happen: For example,'s projection for 2020 is that Mike Trout will bat .293 with 38 homers and 84 RBIs: in other words, boring. Instead, program in a lot of variance so maybe Trout hits 74 homers or has an epic off year and doesn't reach the Mendoza Line this season.

I've often wondered why Las Vegas casinos don't have a layout for gambling on live Major League Baseball. Computers could give the real time odds on every pitch, ball or strike, single, double, triple or homer. Just about everything that could happen in a ball game. It would be a lot more exciting than even craps. Pete Rose could commentate.

Ok, boomer, you could already do this on your Xbox. People simulate whole seasons all the time.

OK, bright boy, you can't lay chips out on a green felt table while you're standing next to some knock-out babe from Cleveland on your Xbox, can you? Or do those kind of ladies congregate in your basement to watch you on your Xbox?

Ok, boomer, the point is to quarantine why are we talking about going out? And Cleveland ladies aren't knockouts from what I've seen. More like weigh-downs.

Ok, TDS-in-chief. The housewives of OC aren't going to quarantine either:

So what? This is a free country until you test positive then you get a government enforced quarantine. I'd rather self-quarantine in my house with all my stuff than be forced to put up with lackluster government housing. It's very Soviet I hear.

1) that was a different anonymous, I don't totally disagree, but I would probably not have been so harsh

2) you should really stop complaining that I was right. Pence is soooo much better at this right now.

"2) you should really stop complaining that I was right. "

I'm not sure many people think that you have been right. You've mostly been political rather than analytical.

Sure. But the idea is to have one official MLB simulation that people could converse about rather than to have lots of private simulations.

I dunno, part of the thrill of live sports is people cheering and booing. Unless they can simulate that the electronic games will be a snooze fest.

The media are pretty good at simulating things these days.

Ronald Reagan once had a job simulating the broadcast of a baseball game from another city from telegrams saying things like "Jones grounds out to short."

Surely the answer is to run the game in real life without crowds in the stands? Unless you are thinking of the environmental benefit of doing it virtually? The stands could have spectators spaced out a minimum of 2m apart, with allowances for family groups sitting together. That should minimize the risk of infection. (Wonder how much those tickets would go for?)

The Baltimore Orioles played a game in an empty Camden Yards ballpark in April 2015 due to the Black Lives Matter riot. Kind of eerie ...

I suspect professional athletes -- rich young men with lots of energy and not very bookish -- tend toward being superspreaders.

My impression is that this epidemic is being spread by the affluent, the sociable, and the normally very healthy. For example, I keep seeing news stories about skiers coming down with the germ. Winter sports enthusiasts tend to be among the most vigorous people in most societies.

A virus that selects for bookish nerds is a dream come true for this blog. Someone like me who is actually popular it sucks.

Spend 10 days without any contact outside of your living space, watching the number of cases and deaths grow steadily, knowing that you will need food long before the peak of the pandemic arrives.

Probably need another word than dream in that case.

Relax, people no better or worse than you managed to survive much worse in wartime Syria or the Balkans. Time to man up.

Evidently there's a feeling that sitting back with a good book would be boring and that's probably true for many, tied as they are to their magic phones. Actually there's no end to entertainment for the proles, even if live sports aren't available. The once-popular card games like bridge, canasta, whist, auction pitch, cribbage, etc. maybe aren't even played anymore. Other parlor games like charades, Balderdash, Yahtzee, dominoes and of course the big two, checkers and chess, just aren't thrilling enough for the digital generation. So, maybe a period of time without the NBA, NHL, MBL would be just too depressing. Have suicides increased in the last week?

+1 for mentioning chess, like TC.

I've never played cribbage but would totally be into an online tournament to learn how to play and socialize.

I live alone so playing with family is not an option.

For God's sake, the new Hilary Mantel is out and it's enormous. Get reading!

Boredom was the last thing to cross my mind. I do do the book thing, called reading.

Not having to engage most neighbors, colleagues, and service people is a welcome relief. Unfortunately, the episode will be temporary.

Video games should do well.

I did my social isolation thingy today by going snowshoeing. Didn't see a soul, got some cardio and sun. Lovely day.

I read that some movie release was postponed last week due to theatre closures. Sounded like a bad mistake. There is a captive audience hungry for entertainment right now.

Don't sell yourself short on US politics as entertainment. Warren laying a beating on Bloomberg was worth any price of admission.

I'm sure someone will attempt to first release a reasonably big name movie on pay per view. I also presume Netflix is attempting to get new material out. Expect productions that don't need many extras. Or maybe the same extra with many different hats pasted in.

I find it kind of strange that you think supply of entertainment will be a problem in modern society. If anything, our distractions are too effective.

Pay people to stay home. Incentives matter.

"It is my personal hope that people will start reading aloud to each other"

This might cause people to break the quarantine.

HBO should release all of Westworld season 3 right now instead of the usual weekly drop.

That's a good idea.

"We should restructure a few of our traditional entertainments to be safe from the coronavirus."
Isn't Pornhub offering Italians free access to their premium channel? How can you beat quality entertainment for free?

I know economists are getting a boner of this stupid story, but here's the thing, PORNHUB IS ALWAYS - ALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLWAYS - OFFERING FREE PREMIUM ACCESS just like every paid subscription service since the dawn of time. There's nothing special about Italy except for maybe from marketing strategy.

Economists can be really stupid sometimes.

In Hong Kong so many people have reacted to being cooped up + the closure of public sports facilities that they have turned hiking trails into ideal sites for virus transmission.

I see your idea of ideal virus transmission differs from mine.

Is there an economist or analyst who tracks porn & porn-adjacent spending vis a vis the economy?

Couldn't agree more. All to combat a virus that kills 1% but that could cause US healthcare and whole industries to meltdown. Incredible. Get a grip people.

Couldn't agree more. All to combat a virus that kills 1% but that could cause US healthcare and other industries to meltdown. Incredible. Get a grip people.

To Magaman, I would love to wager on your claim. Please set any odds you like and terms of the bet and a neutral party to place money for wages in escro. Any terms u like please

MAGA Man is trolling.

Sure Cohen. I'm going to buy stocks this week and next and you're going to sell. In April, we will see who's the boss. I expect the mother of all rallies to take place just in time for November. Trump never gets tired of winning. #maga2020

There will be so much winning we will get a headache.

They aren't fools, they are people who listen to Trump, and are enjoying a nice dinner.

"Or how about proceeding with some version of the NBA Finals? Take a subset of the best qualifying teams, test every player for coronavirus, isolate them in a remote area with a college gymnasium, and have them proceed with a shortened version of the real thing in front of only a TV crew."

Unfortunately, to reach anywhere near their potential the playing staff on each team has a huge backroom staff of coaches, nutritionists, analysts, psychologists, physios and other assorted value-added professionals. Difficult to isolate this team away from them for the length of series which would be necessary to alleviate the boredom of the public.

Someone in TC's position is fully aware of the size of backroom staff and how important they are, but as is common among those who rely on such staff, able to simply not think about it at all.

Streaming media and live sports are no substitute for face to face interaction and substantive conversation.
The issue isn’t entertainment - we’re flush with that already - it’s human contact.

City people is strange ;)

I grew up in a rural zone with few neighbors. I live now in in something that may be described as suburb and feels pretty much like the farm. Urban people is panicking for what is a normal day in a lot of places in the world.

Most places in the world you don't talk to somebody outside your family in a given day? I call BS. This is NOT normal. City or otherwise.

On a given day maybe, but not for extended periods of time that could run weeks, or even months. Therein lies the cabin fever problem.

"And whether it is World of Warcraft or Fortnite, many of these games and platforms are indeed spectacular. That said, most of the population still does not participate in gaming. "

The video game industry says aroud 2/3 of the US population are their customers.

Fact-checking is expensive.

"there were adequate replacements"
You mean like one-armed Pete Gray, who led the Browns to the AL pennant?

Jeff Bezos should give everyone in the US 3 months of free amazon prime. Between binge watching and home deliveries, Amazon is the company of the moment.

Like GMs zero financing rate after the last crisis, it would be great PR. I know it’s not a silver bullet (rural internet, the poor, etc), but it would be one meaningful piece of a solution

u could read about how bloombergs lower iq farmers keep the food stores stocked in a viral pandemic

Khan Academy, all those podcasts you've downloaded and not listened to, Audio books (which can be listened to on hikes). is really fun!

I am a tennis fan and have also thought of this. There are five master's 1000 tennis tournaments scheduled from this week through mid-May, all of them in countries with currently uncontrolled corona virus. Three have been cancelled and the other two will be.
Why not find a tennis club or academy in a country that has controlled the virus (Taiwan seems a likely choice), have the top 100 players in the world come over with limited teams, have everybody tested, and play all the tournaments in a single location. I would enjoy watching and following every bit as much as if they were being played in Miami, Rome, etc.

Horse racing used to be the top spectator sport in America... The tracks are open without spectators and one can bet online, watch on TV.. During March and April, KDerby hopefuls are sorting themselves out... And, a recent major drug bust suggests a serious effort to clean up the sport... (My way to early Derby pick is Charlatan...)

During WW2, most good baseball players were drafted or volunteered such as Ted Williamsand Hank Greenberg. Those remaining could pitch and catch, but that was about all. My favorite was Pete Gray, a one-armed outfielder for the St. Louis Browns. He was better than most of a poor lot of players.

>Many top players, such as Ted Williams, were away fighting, but there were adequate replacements.

One of the biggest problems with your writing is that you often wish to inject a stray thought that is passing through your brain, one for which you have zero evidence and feel no desire to research about, and is frankly very very stupid. But you obviously feel compelled to write it down anyway. "If it's in my head it must be said," apparently.

Stop it. People hit the back button immediately when they come across sentences like this.

I'm gonna side with the British strategy on this one. This isolation strategy won't work for even one month, and we haven't even caught glimpse of the peak yet. The US is the hiker who thinks the summit is juuuuuuuuust over that ridge o'er yonder, when in fact, it's another 3 hrs of tough hiking ahead.

Relevant to the Candidates:
Russia's Ministry of Sport has just banned all international sporting competitions. Although it has not yet been confirmed whether this applies to the Candidates, this is the contingency that was mentioned in the pre-tournament information:

The Ministry of Sports on March 16 cancels all international competitions in Russia.
March 16, 2020, 17:07
Football / Other Tournaments
The Ministry of Sports of the Russian Federation decided on March 16 to cancel all international sporting events in the country, RIA Novosti reports.

“To cancel from March 16, 2020, until further notice, the holding of all international sports events on the territory of the Russian Federation, including the participation of foreign athletes (coaches, specialists) in all-Russian sports events previously planned with foreign participation. All-Russian and regional sports federations by sports, executive authorities of the constituent entities of the Russian Federation should ensure control over the implementation of the decision, ”the document says.

The reason for the cancellation is the threat of the spread of COVID-19.

I should mention that I saw this via GM Arthur Kogan on Facebook and that the first paragraph above is my own words. Kogan opines that FIDE's announcement may indicate the tournament is still on---although it is unclear whether the sentence with "...since almost all international competitions have been cancelled due to the spread of the coronavirus” refers to the MinSport announcement.

Added: FIDE Director General and GM Emil Sutovsky, onsite, says it is still on.

Has there been analysis of costs and benefits of self isolation vs supporting small businesses like bars and cafes that justifies labeling the latter behavior as foolish? I haven't seen such analysis.

"With all those fools going to bars, and concerts, and running marathons ..."

I have never thought of you as a fool, Tyler, but weeks and weeks ago you deleted and deleted again some very intense comments I offered on this crisis. Trust me, I hate making intense comments, I would rather be cool and unconcerned.

Weeks ago not days ago.

That being said, if not for you I would never have read that book on Shark Fin Soup.

Please dial down your pleasure in calling others a fool.

To be fair Tyler is not the only brilliant polymath who is at his worst when calling other people fools - Taleb is much worse (imagine if only one out of ten people he disagrees with on complex, near unknowable subjects is not the IYI he says that person is, but actually understands the questions and the answers better than him)...
as for me, a pseudonymous person, I would sound a lot more intelligent if at least HALF my comments were deleted ....
and probably closer to NINETY PERCENT ....
but I will say this

and since you are reading ---- can you guess how many people are going to die from the Wuhan coronavirus and have their families file for Wuhan flu compensation and how many people are going to die this winter from another lethal strain and have their families file for Wuhan flu compensation ?

thx for the bandwidth, as always

and yes I am willing to give tuba lessons for free

but I don't advertise

On the lighter side, not that there really is a lighter side to these things (unless you include things like that dream I dreamed tonight, walking up the stairs of a locked down apartment building while all the residents sang "the stars are gently shining" until I reached the roof where, in fact, the stars were gently shining, and everyone who wanted to join me on the roof was able to do so)

... on the lighter side of things, my favorite second order effect from the Wuhan flu disaster is the recent epic battle between a gang of the temple monkeys in a small Thai city and a gang of the city monkeys over a discarded case of yogurt drinks in cardboard containers (they had not battled before this, the city monkeys gangs and the temple monkey gangs, due to the tourist beneficence, which was diluted by Wuhan flu fears)

Efim Polenov offering free tuba lessons on a day-old comment thread SIMPLY CANNOT COMPARE WITH THAT as an unexpected second order effect

(by the way do not worry about the monkeys - the Thais are a good-hearted people and both the temple monkeys and the city monkeys have nothing to worry about going forward, even if they have been going through a rough patch - they will be loved, and taken care of).

My new plan for chess Grandmastership

Violently sneeze on my Queen every time it is en prise

Go on, take it if you dare.

"With all those fools going to bars and concerts,..."
-but it's OK for me to otherwise travel around the world, spreading germs. Because I'm sophisticated.

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