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‘Left on base’

Since the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, I’ve had a new phone buddy.

One of my nephews, home from school during lockdown, called me one morning with an update on the New England Patriots. I wasn’t sure whether he knew I was a Pats fan, but he found out quick enough that, like him, I’m a huge sports fan. We started talking several times weekly.

Of course, in those early days, when sports weren’t happening, some of our conversations were about past highlights or even more moral-quandary type discussions, like the use of steroids in baseball.

My nephew and I can talk about football for hours, but when it comes to other sports, our interests don’t 100% align. He’s an avid baseball buff; I’m into hockey.

Over the past year-and-a-half, we’ve succeeded in getting each other more passionate about our preferred sports. So now, when a baseball game comes on the radio, I pay attention. I learned something very insightful recently: “Left on base.”

I’ve always known how important statistics are in baseball, but I hadn’t previously heard of this one, which essentially assesses the opportunities lost. When the game ended, how many players in total were left in position to score, but didn’t?

“Left on base” — a powerful metaphor for missed opportunities. Sometimes we set everything up just right, but fail to execute.

It reminded me of the basic economic principle of opportunity cost. By making one choice, one loses the potential gain from a different choice. In economics this usually has to do with production, but it applies to life in general. One must be careful not to become mired in regrets and what ifs, but it is a good mental exercise when facing a set of competing choices. What potentially is being missed? How does that stack up against what’s being gained?

Society is grappling with that right now regarding COVID-19 vaccines. I understand why some are hesitant about taking a new vaccine, but we know the benefits of vaccination — schools and businesses reopening, lower hospitalization rates, fewer fatalities. For me, what’s gained far outweighs the potential costs.

It’s basic economics.

Shana Goldberg may be reached at [email protected]

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