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Olympic Profiles: Margaret Bertasi and Jillian Zieff, Rowing

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NBC Sports Boston

Olympic Profiles: Margaret Bertasi and Jillian Zieff, Rowing

After winning gold at the 2019 World Rowing Championships, Margaret Bertasi is ready to take on another huge challenge.

Bertasi, who rowed at Princeton University, will team up with Wayland, Mass. native Jillian Zieff as they look to qualify for the women's lightweight double at the 2020 Summer Olympics. 

It'll mark the duo's first time competing together as Bertasi won her gold medal last year with Cara Stawicki.

RELATED: Olympic Profiles: Abbey Cooper (D'Agostino), Track

"Even though Jillian and I row at the same club, we never really got in a boat together before, so this is actually going to be our first race together," Bertasi said.

"You never know what kind of racer someone is until you actually race together. That's the most important thing for us now, is being able to trust that we're going to show up and race the way we trained every day."

That training has been tireless for Bertasi and Zieff, as it's consisted of 15 hours per week of aerobic rowing along with multiple weight-lifting sessions.

Zieff partly credits her hometown for that dedication.

"One thing we like to say around here is Boston rowers are tough because Boston winners are tough," she said.

You can learn more about Bertasi and Zieff in the video above.

Appreciating how sports world is helping those most affected by COVID-19 pandemic

Appreciating how sports world is helping those most affected by COVID-19 pandemic

Jeremy Jacobs' actions are shameful. Full Stop. End of discussion.

The dead ringer for Montgomery Burns of Simpons fame is reportedly worth 3.3 billion dollars and is the only owner in sports stiffing his staff

I thought about piling on here, but honestly, Chris Gasper of the Boston Globe did the work for all of us. Plus, I can’t compete with Gasper’s Webster’s Dictionary brain. 

I do, however, think it is important to point out that not every owner, team, or league in sports is filled with self-centered, rapacious, me-before-them jerks. 

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The minute the NBA announced it would indefinitely postpone its season, a number of prominent players jumped into action. 

It began with Kevin Love of the Cleveland Cavaliers pledging $100,000 to the event staff working at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. Love was followed by dozens of players and teams committing resources to make sure their game-day employees did not lose money during this uncertain time. 

This included Celtics owners Wyc Grousbeck and Steve Pagliuca. Grousbeck, whose net worth is estimated at 400 million dollars — and Pagliuca with an estimated net worth of 450 million dollars — agreed to advance funds to their game-day employees for the remaining nine games on the schedule. These workers will receive regular paychecks as though the Celtics were still playing. 

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban (reported net worth of 4.3 billion dollars) will not only pay his arena staff while games are postponed, but he’s supporting local businesses as well. Cuban is reimbursing Mavericks employees for breakfasts and lunches purchased from Dallas-area restaurants. 

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry and his wife Ayesha gave one million meals to the Alameda County Community Food Bank for children in the Oakland Unified School District.

Major League Baseball and its Players Association also jumped in early to assist those financially affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

MLB as a whole donated one million dollars to Feeding America and Meals on Wheels. 

"In these difficult times of navigating this pandemic, it is important that we come together as a society to help the most vulnerable members of our communities,” said MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred in a statement, ”As an institution, Baseball is extending our commitment to addressing childhood hunger and food availability issues during this crisis. We are grateful for the partnership with our players on this critical issue, which has the potential to deeply affect children and seniors.”

Additionally, each MLB team donated one million dollars for a total of $30 million to support ballpark staff during the shutdown.

The fortunate helping the unfortunate. Novel idea. 

The giving didn’t stop there. A group of nearly 100 athletes including David Ortiz, Rob Gronkowski, Patrick Chung, and Aly Raisman are taking part in the Athletes for COVID-19 relief fund

Each of the Boston stars donated autographed items. Anyone who donates a minimum of $25 will be entered to win memorabilia. Proceeds will go to those directly affected right now, as well as health professionals on the front lines. The fund is also set up to help vulnerable students from falling behind in school and small businesses making a comeback. 

Yesterday, Roger Federer donated $1 million to support the "most vulnerable families in Switzerland" and encouraged others to follow his lead.

It’s not only athletes and owners walking the walk. 

Boston-based New Balance pledged $2 million to charities worldwide during the pandemic. Those benefitting locally from the athletic company’s generosity are the Boston Resiliency Fund and Groundwork Lawrence.

Nike is assisting in a different way. The sports behemoth is exploring how it can help in making PPE (personal protective equipment) for frontline health workers. Nike is currently working on a prototype for a face shield with Oregon Health and Science University. 

While this time is filled with uncertainty and anxiety, I’m continually impressed with the ways we have found to help each other. 

Once again, sports are leading the way. 

When the games restart, I hope we remember who cheered on their fans during this difficult time and who didn’t show up for the fight of a lifetime. 

If MLB, NBA and NHL really want to limit spread of coronavirus, they'll shut their doors

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AP Photo

If MLB, NBA and NHL really want to limit spread of coronavirus, they'll shut their doors

LeBron James isn't going to like this, but shut 'em down.

Empty the arenas. Clear the ballparks. Drain the rinks.

The rest of the world is acting aggressively to slow the spread of the coronavirus before it becomes a pandemic that overwhelms global testing and treatment capabilities. U.S. leagues should follow suit, absorbing short-term pain in the interests of the long-term public good.

James, the Lakers star and MVP candidate, has already declared he's not interested in playing without fans, and it's an understandable sentiment. They're called spectator sports for a reason, after all.

But the response to coronavirus is a matter of public safety, and the window to act is rapidly closing.

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The NBA, NHL, MLB, and MLS took a microscopic step in this direction by banning reporters from locker rooms and clubhouses, as if those 20-50 media members pose a greater threat to the leagues' players than, say, the 20,000-50,000 fans packing their facilities. It's akin to providing the Andrea Doria with one sparkling new bailing thimble as it sinks off the coast of Nantucket.

A cynic might wonder if leagues are acting opportunistically, with the goal of cementing these bans in perpetuity, but this cynic will suppress those suspicions for the time being in the interests of the greater good.

And this is about the greater good.

The World Health Organization believes that, unlike the seasonal flu, COVID-19 can potentially be contained (plenty of experts disagree). Large swaths of China, Italy, and Korea have been effectively shut down, and draconian measures enacted in Wuhan, where the outbreak originated, have dropped the number of cases from a high of 3,000 a day in February to about 200 now.

Unlike authoritarian China, however, the United States can't quarantine 15 million people and make them order their food online. There are limits to what we can demand of our population in a democracy.

Giving up our games for a few weeks doesn't cross that line, however. Skipping a Red Sox matinee or watching the Bruins at home instead of in person isn't an overreach. It's common sense, especially in places like Seattle, where the sickness is spreading; about 40 cases have been diagnosed in Boston.

It's hard to imagine every ballpark and arena in America being fitted with padlocks until the threat has been reduced, but the alternative — sporting events as mass incubators — strikes me as far worse. The product will suffer in the short term, especially as it's played in eerie silence, but that's a small price to pay.

As a first step, teams in affected areas should be proactive about closing their doors.

We're going to hear a lot about "social distancing" in the next few months, because it's our first line of defense against the spread of disease. The more people packed together, the greater the odds of transmission. If you didn't know that spit travels six feet in the course of regular conversation with someone who's coughing, you do now. Sorry.

Harvard and Amherst have already moved classes online and told students not to return from spring break. The Ivy League will not hold a conference basketball tournament. Apple employees are working from home. Boston canceled its traditional St. Patrick's Day parade and Austin its massive South by Southwest music festival. Other schools, businesses, and events will undoubtedly follow suit.

"What's the big deal?" you might ask, perhaps spurred by a certain hyperactive Twitter account with roughly 75 million followers and a vested interest in wishing this entire ordeal away. "More people die of the flu! The mortality rate is only 1 percent! I'll be fine!"

You probably will be, but this isn't about you. It's about our older, higher-risk populations. Every infection a healthy 30-something beats with little more than a cold is an opportunity to pass the sickness to a more vulnerable community. Because this virus is new, no one is immune, and a vaccine might be two years away.

We live in a peculiar political age where a significant chunk of the population feels a knee-jerk desire to scoff at clearly established dangers to our health and safety with know-nothing denialism, be it guns, climate, or illness. Some of them even stare directly into eclipses, giving new meaning to the lyric, "blinded me with science."

There's no wishing away coronavirus, though. We're slipping from the containment phase of this epidemic to the mitigation one, and if leagues really want to do their part, they'll start telling their fans to stay home.