the westminster news
Published by the students of Westminster School
By Hudson Stedman ’21
James Slimmon is the fourth in from the left, top row.
This Veterans Day, I was privileged to interview James Slimmon — an alumnus from the Class of 1945, a former trustee, a World War II veteran and parent to Jamie Slimmon Somes ’76. During the virtual spring term, one thing Head of School William V.N. Philip P’06, ’09 said in an address to the community truly resonated with me: Westminster has gone through global crises similar to this many times throughout history, and we will certainly persevere through the current one as well. So, given the global pandemic, divided nation and whatever else 2020 has decided to throw at us so far, I was curious to learn how Westminster had dealt with circumstances similar to these life-altering events in the past.
The year is 1945. James — or Jim — Slimmon is getting ready to graduate Westminster with a class of just 25 students. Even back then, Westminster was considered a ‘smaller’ school amongst the New England boarding school community: Slimmon said: “You lose a lot when you get too big. Even back then, I remember what a small school we were; we were much closer to the faculty.” He shared with me how Westminster in the 1940s was not very affluent (especially by today’s standards) and how students held minor jobs to help with upkeep of the school community: “We all were assigned different things, different jobs at Westminster and my job was to help out with the trash. Everybody had an assignment one way or another; everybody felt they had to do their part.” I began to sense a parallel between the Westminster community I know today, and his Westminster, but I was more curious to see how these feelings of community transformed to nationwide bonds after Slimmon would graduate from Westminster and leave Williams Hill to be drafted into the U.S. Army.
When asked about the draft, he said: “We heard all the news — the country was very much together whether you were on campus or off. My brother also went to Westminster. He was three years older than I am; we all felt we had to do our part. There was really no way of getting out of it.” Slimmon began his service training in Alabama where it was so hot that, “one by one the soldiers just fainted.” As European treaties were being drawn-up in the summer of 1945, most notably the Potsdam Agreement which would come in August, Slimmon was worried that he may be sent over to fight in Japan, though ultimately he was sent to Nuremberg after his infantry training was complete. After moving around for quite a bit, he was finally transferred to Heidelberg, Germany, where he was in charge of mail for the Third Army. “I was very lucky,” he said, “I didn’t have a hard time at all. [...] I had my own Jeep and my own driver. I just picked up the mail and brought it back and digested priority mail into the colonel’s office; but, overall, it was a very easy task compared to the other people out there.” Some of those ‘other people’ were his brother, Bob, a Class of 1942 graduate and fellow infantry member. During his time in service, “they [the Germans] shot down and killed his whole squad. He lay wounded in the battle for 24 hours, and flew back to Africa where he was hospitalized for nine months. But he came home, and I’ll never forget meeting him down in New York.” Bob Slimmon died in 2010.
This Veterans Day, we as a Westminster community honor fellow Martlets from years or decades past for their service to this country, in addition to the members of this nation who dedicate themselves to our military. Jim Slimmon’s stories of his experience with Westminster and during the war, have truly shown me incredible parallels of community and a nationwide spirit that still resonate with this school and the country today. In the midst of a pandemic alongside social unrest and other issues facing the United States, I am reminded from Jim Slimmon’s experiences how crucial it is to keep spirits high and friends and family close during these troubling times. When reflecting back on the war and his time at Westminster, he said that with life-altering events such as a war or pandemic “you believe more in the local Grit and Grace.” “You will have your ups and downs, but just realize they’re coming. That’s the best way to go about life,” he said. We thank you, Jim Slimmon, and your brother, as well as Westminster and nationwide veterans for their service to this country.
By Alex Shao ’22
Under COVID-19’s threats, nations are finding new ways to reopen and re-boost their economy, which often impose more problems on communities that lack health awareness. Therefore, more attention is paid to digital economics and the esports (electronic sports) industry is one of the newly-rising phenomenons. In 2019, the esports industry generated more than $1 billion and had 443 million viewers around the world — more than the total viewership of American football and rugby combined. It is estimated that the viewership will increase to 495 million in 2020 and continue growing to 646 million in 2023.
Why should one care, some might ask, when sports like soccer or basketball have so many more viewers? In contrast with the NBA, which has fans with the average age of 42, most of the viewers for esports competitions range from 15 to 27, younger generations that are becoming the future of the nations. The industry has a significant advantage compared to other sports due to its appeal to younger people, one of the most valuable and elusive markets. Since younger generations are more likely to watch or participate in them, the industry easily gains more profit through advertising and media rights. Companies that want to reach this market would tend to sponsor teams or leagues, which effectively introduces them to the young audience. Almost 75% of the total revenue ($1 billion in 2019) came from sponsorships and media rights, which helped the development of the industry and increased the influence of the sponsors and broadcasters of the competitions. Besides sponsorships and media rights, merchandise has also attracted younger people.
Because of the coronavirus, esports competitions gained more viewership due to its accessibility. There is no discrimination against races, genders, languages, ages and athletic abilities so that everyone can watch or participate. Streaming platforms gain immense viewership thanks to the simplicity in which supporters may participate. A phone or a laptop is the only necessity to watch the competitions, instead of purchasing tickets to watch the games. As digital competitions become more and more popular when everyone is inside, staying safe, the esports industry is earning increasingly more recognition and rapidly becoming a significant economic factor.
By Rhys Marschke ’24
Image Credit: Nkon21 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Creative Commons (Times Square at night)
It is safe to say that ‘the city that never sleeps’ is not deserving of its nickname any longer. New York City is the largest city in the United States by a margin of nearly 5 million people and the world’s 10th-largest city. It is known to be the cultural, financial and media capital of the world, as well as a place where dreams become a reality for many people. Bias aside, there is a reason people oftentimes call New York City the best city in the world. However, the COVID-19 outbreak has maimed the Big Apple in ways that no one would have expected.
The city has racked up 783,000 cases as of Nov. 6. Back on March 7, with only 76 cases reported, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency. Businesses shut down, the wealthy residents fled to second homes in the Hamptons and upstate New York and the ‘city of dreams’ was asleep for the first time in its history. As time went on, more and more essential pieces of New York were shut down, like the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade, which has been held every year since 1762. More significantly, the subways shuttered from 1 to 5 a.m. daily for cleaning — the largest source of public transportation for city residents. On March 14, shortly after all events involving more than 500 people were canceled indefinitely, New York experienced its first coronavirus-related death. It was time to batten down the hatches for New Yorkers. On March 20, the state was put on complete lockdown: shutting down all schools, closing 100% of nonessential businesses statewide, canceling and banning nonessential gatherings of any size and instituting a 6-foot social distancing rule in any public setting. Elections and tax deadlines were pushed back in hopes that the greatest city in the world would return to normalcy.
As of now, New York City is in a clear economic collapse, and a number of people are left wondering if the five boroughs will ever be the same. The fear of a ‘second wave’ of infections is something that has everyone scrambling, and the government in constant search of the line between safety and normalcy. The nonprofit Partnership for New York City has estimated that one-third of small businesses in the city may never reopen. These closures would be a big hit to the New York economy, considering these businesses are responsible for more than 2.7 million jobs, with payrolls totaling nearly $127 billion a year. Not only would the government be losing substantial tax revenue, but the unemployment rate would skyrocket, with more than an estimated 900,000 people left without jobs post-virus. This gloomy forecast is alarming to longtime New York residents because they fear the energy and atmosphere of the place they call home may never reach what it once was.
While there is still time for New York to return to the promised land, there is no doubt that a lot needs to happen. This pandemic has affected everyone, and while we cannot alter the past, we can shape the future. It is crucial to be one in this time of helplessness and remember where you came from and the company you keep. And most importantly, stay positive, knowing we’ve experienced the worst already. Maya Angelou said: “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”
By Ral Reyes ’21 and Kieran Haug ’21
Image Credits: CGTN.com (top), Patriots QB Cam Newton; titansized.com (bottom), Corey Davis, Titans WR (one of the 13 players who tested positive)
The NFL has created a reserve list for athletes who have contracted the novel coronavirus. This list is called “Reserve/COVID-19.” Athletes who test positive, and those in close contact with positive cases, are put on this list. Athletes on this list are required to follow the return policy, which consists of a second negative test within 24 hours of the initial negative test, increased symptom monitoring, eight days of daily virus testing and a testing schedule following the initial eight days. With regards to team outbreaks of COVID-19, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has stated: “Going forward, if outbreaks on teams require that a game be postponed, the league will continue to move games to Monday or Tuesday, or later in the season by juggling by weeks.” Goodell is also implementing fines on teams that fail to adhere to their health protocols, such as wearing masks properly, physical distancing and limited access to locker rooms and other places of congregation.
An example of a team outbreak would be with the Tennessee Titans. The Titans had 24 people within its organization — including 13 players — who tested positive for COVID-19. The team was fined $350,000 after infectious disease experts sent by the NFL deemed that the Titans failed to wear masks at all times and were unclear with players about the NFL’s health protocols. As a result, the NFL had to postpone the Oct. 4 game against the Steelers to Oct. 25 and move the Oct. 11 game against the Buffalo Bills to Oct. 13 in order to accommodate NFL COVID-19 protocols.
Another team that had to respond to COVID-19 is the New England Patriots. After player James Ferentz tested positive, the team’s week five game against the Denver Broncos was rescheduled for week six and its practice was canceled. Ferentz started every snap at the center for the Oct. 5 game versus the Kansas City Chiefs, which led to increased concern from the Patriots that other players may also have COVID-19. This happened just a day after Stephon Gilmore and Cam Newton had come back to practices from the Reserve/COVID-19. After practices were shut down Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, they were finally allowed back Thursday, but, as mentioned before, they were canceled again Friday. The Patriots were still able to play the Broncos week six and lost 12-18. The lack of practice time likely attributed to this loss in some capacity, but most attribute the Patriots’ struggles to Tom Brady leaving the team. COVID-19 has proven to be a struggle for the country, but fans are excited that football is back.
By Edward Shin ’21 and Aleyna Baki ’21
Image Credit: South China Morning Post
Fifty-five years ago, readers all-around the world learned about love’s ability to transform age and time while reading “Love in the Time of Cholera” by Nobel Prize laureate Gabriel García Márquez. The famous classic tells the story of two lovers who can never be together because of a combination of unforeseen and uncontrollable circumstances. Sound familiar? Just like cholera, the coronavirus is also changing how humans connect for better or worse.
One thing is crystal clear — it will take time before lovers can hold hands, kiss and go for dinner again. Now is the time for picnics, long video calls and long walks in the woods (with masks on, of course). This period also marks the rise of online dating platforms. Before the pandemic, the downloads for the top 15 dating apps were decreasing. Match Group, a platform that controls 60% of the dating app market and owns more than 45 dating brands, including some of the most popular apps like Tinder, Hinge, Match and OkCupid, saw an 11% subscription increase compared to the previous year. Before the pandemic, only 6% of users of dating apps were open for video chatting — now that number has increased to 69%. After states began rolling out stay-at-home orders, Bumble, a well-used dating app, saw a 26% increase in the number of messages sent on its platform. This all makes it seem like the internet is the new Cupid.
Slow It Down
Talking to someone before physical attachments helps understand each other better. Normally, 34% of Americans engage in sex before an “official” first date. Psychologists report sharing one’s innermost feelings might lead to long-term commitment. According to anthropologist Helen Fisher: “The human brain is soft-wired to attach to a partner slowly.” Yet, what does that mean from an evolutionary perspective? A University of California, Berkeley sociologist who specializes in the impact of touching, said: “Touch is as important a social condition as anything.” Touching releases oxytocin, the hormone responsible for attachment. In the age of corona, money is off the table, too. No more expensive dinner dates and discussions about splitting the bill.
“I Do” Goes Virtual
The wedding industry is worth over $300 billion, and it is known to be the “recession-proof” industry since nothing can stop people from getting married. The pandemic changed this notion by postponing and canceling weddings, but most importantly through the transformation of traditional weddings. Even when COVID-19 was only in China, many brides were left dress-less since 80% of the world’s wedding gowns are made in China. Lockdowns all-around the world limited the number of people who can attend the ceremonies. For instance, in England, only 15 attendees are allowed; in Northern Ireland that number is 25. According to The Knot, a wedding planning website, an average American wedding is attended by 140 guests. Luckily, over a 1,000 people can be added on Zoom. Zoom weddings allow people who live too far away to be present on the happiest day of their loved ones. Governments are also making it easier for people to marry virtually. Through “Project Cupid,” New York’s Gov. Andrew Cuomo allowed couples to apply for marriage licenses. In India, 12 million weddings are scheduled for auspicious days, so they cannot be postponed. Popular matchmaking website shaadi.com is providing virtual wedding services that arrange everything from priests to makeup artists. Still, despite these interesting changes, most people hope there will be “real weddings” with offline hugs soon.
Not So Happy
“After the epidemic, the first thing I want is a divorce” wrote a woman named Xuebi, overburdened by “doubling as both man and woman in this family.” The pandemic locked people into their homes and brought financial distress; according to Susanne Choi, a sociologist at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, it also led to a rise in marital conflict. Many couples are spending more time together in closer proximity. Ultimately, many are learning more about each other. Some are deciding they cannot live together anymore; others are thinking more about what kind of life they want to have. Divorces are even faster thanks to Zoom. The hearings that used to take hours of waiting in the courthouse are just taking five minutes now. In the age of coronavirus, separating hearts does not take much effort.
As Márquez once said: “Love becomes greater and nobler in calamity.” In times of war and epidemics, love exposes the magical reality hidden in the human soul. In the darkness and isolation of death, it unites us. Most importantly, love in the time of corona shows we cannot survive by ourselves whether as individuals, communities or countries.
By Kieran Haug ’21
Image Credit: Getty Images
This summer the world was halted due to the coronavirus pandemic. Most capacities of life were affected, but something many people could at least look forward to was sports. The NBA, European soccer, MLB and more were able to compete in controlled environments without much difficulty.
One sport that also competed, but is very different from other sports, is professional cycling. The season was cut short in March, though once August rolled around and the pandemic was coming under control in Europe, an opportunity arose to put these races on. This resulted in a very condensed season, with eight months of racing happening in the span of just three months. Races overlapped one another and, at one point, there were over 40 days straight of racing.
The difference between cycling and many other sports is that fans cannot be regulated. Because races go on roads and through cities where many people live, it was almost impossible to regulate outside contact for the riders. The first race of the condensed season was the famed Tour de France. To maintain a safe environment, organizers tested the riders once every six days throughout the 21-day race. If more than two members of the team, including riders, coaches, cooks, masseuse, etc., tested positive, the whole team would be forced to leave.
Fans were encouraged to wear masks, but on many climbs where the riders travel at low speeds, they took them down to their chins and cheered riders on from far less than 6 feet. Because of this, on three different teams, one member of the staff tested positive. Luckily, however, no team was removed and an exciting race ensued, in which a 21-year-old won — the youngest winner since 1908.
In subsequent races, many were not as lucky in regards to COVID-19 regulations. In the Giro d’Italia, another 21-day stage race, three teams were forced to withdraw after the first testing period. Later in the season, as COVID-19 cases in Europe spiked, the most famous one-day ‘classic’ Paris-Roubaix, in France, was forced to cancel. But the final race of the season, and the third ‘grand tour’ — Spain’s La Vuelta a España — was held and completed Nov. 8. No riders tested positive, and all made it to Madrid for the finish. All in all, cycling is very different from many other sports in the way fans can be regulated, so, given the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been quite an interesting season.