Whitt's End: Mavs as 'Second Responders' - And A Letter From the 'Front Line'

Richie Whitt

Whether you’re at the end of your coffee, your day, your week or even your rope, welcome to Whitt’s End … 3.3.20

*I have a long-time friend who for 5+ years has been a respiratory therapist and adult critical care/trauma specialist at Dallas’ UT-Southwestern Clements University Medical Center near Parkland Hospital. Cuban, Dirk Nowitzki and other members of the Dallas Mavericks recently donated $500,000 to help provide childcare for employees during the coronavirus pandemic, but it’s nonetheless a house of horrors these days. Though not formally trained to combat coronavirus, she has been called to volunteer with the influx of incoming infected patients. Adding to her stress, a year ago her daughter was in nursing school at Texas Women’s University in Denton. Today she’s on the COVID-19 response team in ICU at Baylor Scott & White McKinney. She texted me Thursday, just to vent. Trying to cope.

Here is the raw, unedited version of what it’s really like on the front lines of COVID-19:

I went to the covid 19 unit to train yesterday. I felt nervous, the icu where I’ve worked for 5 years, looks completely foreign.

I just happened to walk into the unit as a 35 year old woman was crashing. She can not breath. Her heart rate 150+, respiratory rate 35+ a min. On 100% oxygen her saturation is south of 70% and the oxygen in her arteries is well below the critical range. I couldn’t help yet, not properly trained. So I sat back and watched them emergently intubate a 35 yo woman.

She isn’t positive yet but we have to treat them like they are.

Everyone looks scared and hyper focused.

I couldn’t get over seeing a pulmonary attending and an anesthesia attending wearing all the equipment (nurses tell them how to put it on and how to take it off, and where they can do this safely). The doctors look stressed and scared ... that was unsettling. I’ve never seen these men look like that. They have no idea what this is, or how to slow it down.

I read notes from the infectious disease fellow and they have no proven treatment that can stop this. Stuff I’ve read and heard in the news is not the truth.

What I do know: I’ll be reusing disposable equipment, that is being shared between different health care providers.

One very seasoned nurse is standing next to me, “look at the patients, they are dressed in space suits and we have only coffee filters tied to our faces.” Yes we are essential, but disposable.

I then walked to each room and read all the notes written on the glass doors.

I study each ventilator set up, the setting for each patient. Fascinated with all the IV pumps and what meds are being pumped into each patient from a distance.

This is while making sure I am walking inside the tape on the floor, the glorious 6 feet that saves us. I’m wearing the approved PPE while in the negative pressure unit. The surgical mask, knowing this might not be enough.

Starting tomorrow there is a new employee entrance. When we come in they will take our temp and put a mask on us. Something must have happened to one of us.

I’ve volunteered to help these strangers. I chose this career to help critically ill patients; a calling of sorts that I experienced in my late 30s. Wouldn’t trade it for the world.

*Day 23 without sports … Good news: We will eventually win this game. Bad news: We’re down big before halftime. Put on your mask. And your rally cap.

*Government providing stimulus checks. Landlords cutting slack. Everyone sheltering in place. But amidst the COVID-19 crisis, Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys are conducting business as usual. At least, that is, when it comes to sending out 2020 invoices to season-ticket holders. Fans received their bills for the upcoming season this week, accompanied by a letter which said, in part:

IMG_0237

As the situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to evolve, we want to assure you that we are here to support you. Please contact us if you need to discuss your invoice. … We have every expectation of playing a full schedule in 2020 …

The price for AT&T Stadium’s 10 games – two preseason, eight regular season – including a parking pass and two low-level seats on the 8-yard line of the Cowboys’ side? A cool $8,150. Deadline for payment: May 1.

Additionally, in 2009 the owner of those seats paid a $32,000 licensing fee, ensuring him the right to annually renew his season tickets. If unable to pay this year’s invoice within 30 days he will not only lose his primo seats, but also be forced to sell his license at a drastically reduced cost in a market softened by coronavirus concerns.

Look, there’s no downplaying Jones’ philanthropy through the years. And on May 5, the Cowboys will be a part of a COVID-19 relief and recovery online fundraiser for North Texas. But asking full price on a regular payment schedule in these times is a bad look. I know one owner who wouldn’t take this approach: Mark Cuban.

*March Madness, make way for August Anarchy? Like you, I can’t find a drop of hand sanitizer, a square of toilet paper or a single piece of mind during this shutdown. But I am saturated with two commodities: 1. Time to miss sports; 2. Time to fix sports. 

How about this for the NBA? A single-elimination tournament. 

Yeah, I know! It’ll come complete with brackets and office pools and Cinderellas and even its own Final Four. Birthed by unprecedented circumstances, we’ll get a unique NBA champion, wrapped in a NCAA tournament. 

Cuban admits “I have no idea” when the NBA will return, but surely we’re back by August. Throw out everything you know about the NBA Playoffs because here’s your 2020 format, extreme makeover edition: All 30 teams. Seeded according to regular-season record. Playing in conference tournaments at two sites: East (Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee) and West (Staples Center in Los Angeles). 

As the top seeds, the Lakers and Bucks get first-round byes and hosting rights. (These games may be played sans fans, so the less buildings the better.) With 14 first-round games, that’s an intense, winner-take-all, early-late, made-for-TV doubleheader every night for a week. Couple nights off and then, yep, Sweet 16 and Elite 8 games Thursday-Sunday at the same sites.

The top two teams from each conference tournament advance to the “NBA Finals Four” – Labor Day Weekend at, duh, the mecca of basketball, Madison Square Garden. 

As for the Dallas Mavericks’ path: They are seeded at No. 7 in the West and play the Grizzlies in the first round. A win there, and they would face the Clippers-Suns winner in Round 2. For a berth to NY, they’ll likely have to then beat the Nuggets.

*Day 24 without sports … March roared in like a Lion, and out like a mutha effin’ Tiger King. But you know the craziest thing I learned watching the wacky Netflix docuseries? That there is such thing as a $500 bill. It rolled off the presses in 1945, but was discontinued in 1969. If you have one, it’s worth about $900.

@tigerkinglords

More on "Tiger King''? Fish writes a film review here.

*America, 2020: United by Separation.

*Charles Haley. Alonzo Spellman. Dimitrius Underwood. Josh Brent. Greg Hardy. David Irving. Randy Gregory. Robert Quinn. And now, for their latest gamble on a pass-rusher with off-field baggage, the Cowboys are taking a chance on Aldon Smith. The No. 7 overall pick by the 49ers in the 2011 NFL Draft, Smith was a Pro Bowl player littered with numerous legal troubles including DUI, vandalism, assault, false imprisonment, domestic abuse and substance abuse. 

Smith hasn’t played a snap since 2015, making him the kind of low-risk, high-reward oil well the ol’ wildcatter Jones has always coveted. 

The Cowboys also acquired non-choir boys Pacman Jones, Tank Johnson and Rolando McClain, who helped turn “Talented-but-Troubled” into its own position for the Cowboys. Jones’ move to nab Haley worked big time. Since then, mixed reviews with a side of disaster.

One important note about the risk/reward: How much are they paying Aldon Smith? CowboysSI.com has that scoop here.

*Day 25 without sports … So, in retrospect, our goal of getting back to normal on Easter was only “aspirational.” Hmm. Definitely filing that one away. As in, I was going to take out the trash, but that was just “aspirational.”

*From South Korea to Southlake, Texas Rangers’ outfielder Shin-Soo Choo has seen it all. But last week was a new, troubling vision. One that prompted the soft-spoken 37-year-old to yell to anyone that would listen. In a world supposedly sheltering in place, Choo’s essential visit to his local grocery store gave him a view of people in the streets, people at the park, people not wearing masks. 

“Why is the United States getting worse? Because people are not taking it seriously,” he said. “People are not wearing masks. People are going outside. I understand. I’m sick of this, staying in my house. This is my third week. Honestly, I’ve got everything in my house, but still I’m tired of it. I know it’s hard to do, but we have to minimize the social stuff. Everybody has to be on the same page and do the same thing. We have to treat this like a really big deal. So, I want to say something: If we want it back to a normal life, everyone has to stay home.” 

Choo also announced he has donated $1,000 to all 190 of the Rangers’ minor league players. Good on him.

*Day 26 without sports … Nobody should be pointing fingers these days. I think we’re all trying, but most of us really confused. We’re in Week 3ish of “Shelter in place” and I’m still not 100 percent sure what makes a business essential. 

That said, I’m pretty certain the 3-on-3, shirts-’n-skins basketball game I witnessed last Sunday was in violation of all ordinances. No masks. Definitely not six feet apart. More social contacting than distancing.

Strangest part: The game was played on a court behind a Collin County fire station. Between teams of … first responders?

*The NFL should postpone its draft. Wimbledon being canceled this week is just the latest thump to our noggin’ that, no, everything is not normal. Every sport is making concessions, except the NFL. I know it’s deleted pre-draft visits and will likely shelve OTAs and off-season programs, but holding the draft – even without fans – just smacks of “we’re above the law.” 

Said NFL insider Adam Schefter this week on ESPN, “The draft is only happening through sheer force and determination and, frankly, lack of foresight. They are determined to put this on while there is carnage in the streets.” Amen.

*Day 27 without sports … New perspective: Our $1.1 billion structures shouldn’t be sports stadiums, but rather hospitals.

*Had all the Andrew Cuomo and Dr. Anthony Fauci you can stomach? Wednesday will give those of you with satellite radio some Grade A quarantainment: Tom Brady on Howard Stern. Yep, the GOAT interviewing the GOAT.

*Nobody welcomes COVID-19. But some will benefit more than others. The Dallas Stars, for example, had a six-game losing streak when the NHL pulled its plug March 10. “For the break, I think it couldn’t have come at a better time for us,” said star Jamie Benn said. “We were slipping a bit.”

*Hot.

*Not.

*Schedule mysteries and Opening Day delays into the dog days, Rangers’ manager Chris Woodward is fixated on other coronavirus issues. His wife is an ER trauma nurse at a Level 1 hospital in Arizona.

*Day 28 without sports … Reigning social distancing champion: Bigfoot.

*The NFL expanding its playoffs to 14 teams is delicious. Gives only one team a bye, invites 44 percent of the league to the party and makes for even juicier Wild Card Weekends featuring tripleheaders on Saturday and Sunday. But as seemingly close as they’ve been to the playoffs through the years, the expanded format wouldn’t have helped the Cowboys sneak in during the last 10 years.

*Sad: Six Flags closed at least another six weeks. Sadder: With civil courts on extended pause, some couples that desperately want to be officially divorced are remaining technically married. Saddest: Nursing homes, closed to visitors.

*Day 29 without sports … The longer we go outside in the present, the longer we’ll have to stay inside in the future.

*Golf courses are … open? Kinda. Hidden Creek in Burleson, for example, has a closed Pro Shop but is offering walking only, with bunker rakes and water coolers removed and gimme putts encouraged, as to leave flagsticks untouched.

*Day 30 without sports … With masks in style, lip-reading just got harder.

*Once upon a time, Terry Bradshaw tried out for the Cowboys. No, really he did. In 1992, I chronicled the CBS studio analyst film a made-for-TV tryout at Valley Ranch under the watchful eyes of Troy Aikman and Jimmy Johnson.

Jimmy-Johnson_s-Hall-of-Fame-induction-will-involve-Troy-Aikman-Terry-Bradshaw

*Day 31 without sports … So, how you enjoying sleeping until whenever and dressing in whatever? Welcome to why I became a sportswriter.

*Wouldn’t you know it, $1.41 gas and nowhere to drive.

*Rangers’ shortstop Elvis Andrus has taken up meditation during the world’s longest 7-inning stretch. “I thought it would be easy but it’s super hard,” he says. “Hopefully when we go back, I will be a master at meditation.”

*Day 32 without sports … Not sure who needs to hear this, but I’m guessing one or more of you. It’s okay to have a hard time with all this. To be confused, even depressed. This pandemic touches us all – in a variety of dastardly ways – whether directly or not. It’s traumatic. It’s different. It’s difficult. Deal with it the best you can, and be assured there is no proven blueprint, no suggested steps to make it go smoother. All we can know is that, at some point, the virus will be eradicated. All we can hope is that, when that happens, we finally realize the harm and folly of our political, national, racial and religious divisions. Moral to the story: We’re teammates, not opponents. Let’s start acting like it.

*This weekend? Finish Ozark. Watch Ricky Gervais’ After Life. Mix in some Scott Van Pelt. A little running. Maybe yard work. Surviving the monotony. Trying to find little things to make me smile. As always, don’t be a stranger.

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