Charlie Blackmon, Nikola Jokic, Von Miller and all the cool kids in Denver sports are doing it. If they can get COVID-19 and beat it, we can too. Right?
“I like to say that I got coronavirus and I kicked its butt,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone joked during a recent interview with CBS4.
Well, if athletes are our role models and sports rank right up there with sex, drugs and all the fun stuff we Americans often value more than our health, we can skip this flattening the-curve-experiment and move directly to discovering how herd immunity works for all of us.
More than 124,000 coronavirus deaths in the United States ain’t no joke. You’d think that grim statistic would be enough to scare this country straight, or at least cause Jokic to wear a mask when he’s hanging out with tennis star Novak Djokovic in Europe as a global pandemic rages on.
But no matter where I’ve gone lately, whether it was to hike a trail in Rocky Mountain National Park or to stand in line at a liquor store in Florida, the peeps’ reaction to this pandemic has caused me to wonder:
How many Americans under age 50 actually take COVID-19 seriously? The stats suggest this is an illness that kills grandpas, minorities and diabetics at a frightening rate, but almost never people anywhere near as young and strong as Blackmon or Miller.
Is wearing a mask a telltale sign of being weak and scared? Or does that mask represent compassion and responsibility? What’s more, if you want to argue about whether a mask is an instrument of tyranny or the only thing capable of saving humankind from extinction, could you please do it at a safe social distance away from me, perhaps somewhere on the dark side of the moon?
As medical experts and partisan politicians make up the rules of coronavirus engagement as they go along, are you a member of Team Compliance or Team Defiance?
Am I stupid to enjoy chowing down a cheeseburger at my favorite Denver sports bar and want nothing more than to be in the stadium when the Broncos open the 2020 NFL season?
Sports are not only our toy box, but also serve as our community touchstone and often prove to be far ahead of the game, compared to those knuckleheads in Washington, D.C., when addressing societal issues too big to be ignored or easily resolved.
For example: I would argue the coronavirus didn’t get real in America until March 11, when Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive and pro basketball shut down after the Nuggets played in Dallas. NBA commissioner Adam Silver had a more detailed plan to deal with the pandemic than President Donald Trump from the jump, and that’s just as true today as it was more than three months ago.
As LeBron James prepares to lace up his sneakers and shoot a jumper in the face of a heavy-breathing defender, while major-league baseball intends on playing ball without benefit of a bubble, the message sports currently broadcast to Americans who desperately want to get out and play, even as COVID-19 cases spike in more than 20 states, speaks louder than when Dr. Anthony Fauci warns of a “disturbing surge” in a virus not under control.
Here’s betting a lot of us will follow Bron’s lead rather than listen to what the good Doc says. If James is going to take the court in Orlando to bang bodies for a rebound, there’s no way you’re going to stop teenagers from partying on Miami Beach.
Remember when the photo of “Skinny Joker” went viral, during his recent European vacation? I’d argue one image of Jokic smiling in a crowded gym without a mask is as powerful as 10 appearances by Gov. Jared Polis wearing a mask. If Joker isn’t afraid of the big, bad coronavirus, why should we be?
While the health protocols being imposed by professional leagues are well-intended, there’s another word just as apt for sports’ new ’Rona rules: cockamamie.
Why prohibit baseball players from spitting sunflower seeds on the diamond to protect their health, but allow them to risk illness while traveling from city to city for games? While perhaps there’s some hidden logic in requiring NFL players who block and tackle at practice to stay six feet apart in the locker room, it somehow escapes my little brain.
After COVID-19 reared its ugly head and caused Djokovic to abandon a tennis tournament in Serbia that won’t be the last sporting event this calendar year to be rocked by the pandemic, he whined like a kid feeling unfairly persecuted for breaking the cookie jar while grabbing a snickerdoodle.
“You can criticize us and say maybe this is maybe dangerous, but it’s not up to me to make the calls about what is right or wrong about health,” said Djokovic, who’s 33 years old.
The young and strong never worry about culling the herd.