Even though the recent chain reaction of sports shutting down opened a lot of Americans' eyes to the effects of coronavirus, more people need to get the memo.
The thing you learn about sports when you pay attention to them long enough is that they’re a microcosm of society. Everything that happens in life with education, politics, business and science, to name a few things, happens here. It’s just that when these things happen in sports, you get the added bonus of having to watch athletes do fun stuff for a living.
Of course, it was way easier to watch that fun stuff before the coronavirus spread. Now the pickings are getting much slimmer since a positive test in the NBA started a chain reaction leading to other currently active leagues, tournaments and the like taking action to suspend or outright shut down all operations within a day or so of the Rudy Gobert news breaking.
I’ve been following the news on COVID-19 for most of the year, have seen the social media discourse and have talked to plenty of folks in real life about this virus, especially now that Hillsborough County has reacted by closing schools and stopping events and, most sadly for me, suspending sports. I’ve even been asked if I think the virus is real, though that was exactly a week ago today — which now feels like an eternity ago based on how much things have changed. I’ve heard differing opinions.
On one hand you have people who are treating this extremely seriously, especially now that it’s a certified international pandemic. That’s perfectly fair! It’s better to err on the side of caution, especially with something that’s putting the hurt on entire countries as we speak. We may not know the extent of what the virus is like in America right now since those tests have been pretty hard to come by, but we have to assume the actual numbers are greater than what we do know.
A problem we have in America, though, is that instead of buying all of the food and enough of the other essentials, people have been buying some of the food and all of the toilet paper (but none of the toilet cleaning products, for some reason) to prep for a virus that mainly targets the upper respiratory area. Bless your hearts, this thing’s not gonna turn you into Harry Dunne. Save some TP for the rest of us and buy the things you’ll really need, like soaps, hand sanitizers, disinfectants and whatnot.
On the other hand you have people who think concerns about coronavirus are overblown. It’s still true that the majority of people here who catch it are going to recover, sure. But if you’re calling it completely overblown, especially if you’re calling it a hoax, you’re hurting our odds of getting back to normal sooner than later. It’s probably still going to be spreading next week, though I sincerely hope I’m wrong about that and the virus dies off in hot weather like some others do.
When you’re so determined to windmill dunk on cautious people that you turn tempting fate into performance art, maybe like Gobert did by touching every microphone or recorder he could find on March 9, you’re being an idiot for three reasons: you’re way more likely to get it, you’re probably going to give it to people close to you and you have a much higher chance of giving it to someone with a much higher risk of dying from it. But I also have to give Gobert credit for publicly recognizing the error of his ways and putting up a pile of his own money to help people during this time. He deserved to get roasted on the Internet when his test news broke and now he deserves to get our support for redeeming himself.
Look at coronavirus this way: it has plenty in common with the flu as far as visible symptoms go, but we know way more about the flu and that’s why no one worries nearly as much about that anymore. It’s more likely to do a number on your lungs than the flu is, and it’s also different enough structurally that everyone medically smarter than me is right to say “stop calling it the flu.” If the flu is a seasoned amateur boxer, the coronavirus is a new pro with a devastating jab.
When you get the flu, you probably don’t want to give it to other people or be in a situation where someone near you might accidentally transmit that sucker to you. Why should we be careless at all with something we know less about right now, especially in the area of treatment? Why would you call something “fake” just because it hasn’t affected you or anyone in your social bubble yet, even though it’s clearly hitting other places hard? It all strikes me as being irrational.
I don’t want to get sick and neither do you, and I don’t think either of us wants to get sick with something that’s not as preventable as the flu just yet. When they start offering coronavirus shots at your doctor’s office or drug store in a year or so, that’s when we can all afford to chill completely the heck out. Some of you and I may not die from it, but I don’t want someone who is vulnerable to this to catch it and develop more serious health problems. And if we all tried to catch it just to develop immunity for the time being, even with the “quarantine the elderly and immunosuppressed” thing in play, a lot of people could still die. Someone would have to help the quarantined folks get food and supplies and pay bills, after all, so we’d only put them at greater risk.
You may not have to completely shut down your life to get through this thing, but at least following the social distancing recommendations will help. It’s not hard to stay several feet away from people, avoid big groups and stay home more often. Trust me — I’m an introvert. Shutting down all these sports and events goes a long way toward fighting spread.
If your job, the county or the state tells you to stay home for a little while or go get tested, and you have the ability to do so without wrecking your source(s) of income, just do it. If it makes you feel better, pretend you’re doing what you’d normally do with the flu. I’m glad to see that public schools and restaurants are stepping up to offer meals to food insecure students who are at risk of being hit extra hard over this extra-long spring break they’re on. I’m just hoping that the owners of restaurants, bars, salons and other tip-heavy businesses will step up to the extent of their abilities and help their employees get through this.
The coronavirus panic is hitting a lot of small businesses hard and there are plenty of employees out there at companies of all sizes who will have a hard time paying for their healthcare and other bills if they’re not making any money. Over the weekend, I talked to a friend of mine who works two hospitality jobs in Tampa and she said she was scared of what a complete shutdown could do to her life, as neither of her jobs allow her to work from home or give her health insurance. A few days later, Governor Ron DeSantis announced bars and nightclubs were to close for a month. There are people like her in Plant City, too, and you probably know some of them.
It’s not fair to throw people in situations like that under the bus because they didn’t or couldn’t choose to work a 9-to-5 with insurance and paid sick leave. America depends on the working class. If there’s any way you can support these people while protecting yourself — be it through online ordering of their goods or food, buying gift cards now to use later, getting take-out or whatever options are available to put some money in their pockets — please do it. If we all want Plant City to thrive, we have to find ways to help small businesses and their employees get through this thing without drastically increasing the risk of catching the virus.
So the actual worst thing about sports leagues shutting down or reducing operations is that arena vendors and workers are going to take a big hit financially. If you know anyone like that and know of some work opportunities they can have while they wait for things to go back to normal, please hook them up. Shout-out to all the pro athletes who have stepped up to help arena workers by kicking some cash their way during this time while many of the billionaire owners are taking a more Darwinist approach to this thing.
These sports teams, schools and other organizations are well within their rights to suspend or shut things down as a precautionary measure. Have you ever used the men’s room at a pro or college football game? It’s already a breeding ground for things you’re better off not thinking about in a normal year. I’m good with teams that try and put coronavirus into the world’s largest petri dishes right now.
So if it takes a month or two to get on the better side of a flattened curve and keep many more people from getting sick, so be it. You can still watch any games without fans on TV, online or at your preferred chicken wings and beer joint. You can get a refund for those courtside seats you bought or at least get credits to go to a future game, and if not then you might even be able to force their hand by lawyering up. If your biggest complaint as a fan (or even an athlete) is that the atmosphere of an empty stadium completely ruins the whole thing before you even start watching or playing, you have a very charmed life and should save some of that good luck for the rest of us.
And don’t get me wrong here just because I may not agree with some of you or your crazy conspiracy posts on Facebook: I’m bummed out about this. All of the journalists are bummed out about this. I hope no one really thinks legitimate reporters local and national have been pushing this thing so hard just to scare people, because we’re not. I don’t like having virtually all of my sports coverage taken away for at least a month, and I’m not even one of the journos who depends on freelance work to make a living. I was looking forward to the Saladino Tournament just like a lot of you, and I especially feel for all the seniors out there who won’t get another shot to win the trophy. I love so many things I can’t watch live right now while we wait for leagues and the NCAA to give the all-clear, and that won’t even bring back my beloved March Madness. I was really looking forward to making another terrible bracket! At least we can watch all the young NBA players streaming their video games on Twitch, I guess?
But if all this preventative action means we have a way better shot at containing this fast-spreading virus we need to learn more about, then so be it. Going the extra mile to keep too many people from getting sick is not the end of the world, just a temporary setback we need to keep calm about and stay ready for. If for some reason medical experts around the world are wrong and this doesn’t end up being as big a deal for America as it’s been elsewhere, then at least we tried to be safe when we could have been very sorry.
Wash your hands and be cool about this. We’ll get our sports — and our lives — back.