Everybody panic. Armageddon is upon us.
OK, that’s a lie.
It’s an exaggeration, but, still, everybody who was thinking or hoping that the coronavirus wouldn’t affect any of us, wouldn’t strike close to home … well, it will, it has.
Call it COVID-27.
Rudy Gobert, 27.
It has struck the large frame of the Jazz big man, causing him to feel mild effects, but testing positive, nonetheless, and postponing Wednesday night’s Jazz game against Oklahoma City just as the players were taking the floor for tip-off and subsequently causing the NBA to suspend its season — upon further review.
That’s big, bigger than big, bigger than Rudy.
Things like this don’t happen to the NBA, but they are happening now, the whole endeavor grinding to a halt in a state of mystery, a state of discovery, a state of caution, a state of trouble. Obviously, the virus is affecting many other people in many other places, too.
But here, everyone who has had contact with or, for that matter, been around Gobert will be on alert, a few of them — us? — may be quarantined, including his teammates if they, too, show symptoms and are found positive, and/or likewise coaches and other team personnel, and presumably members of the media and who knows who else.
On a personal note, a friend of my family is a close friend of a person tightly connected to the team, a person who was with the team on Wednesday night, and who is being tested. If he is positive, she also will be tested. That friend was in my house Tuesday night, watching TV in close proximity to my family members. This is how this thing works — you can wonder, you can worry, but you don’t know until you know. And if you have mild symptoms and you don’t know, what are you supposed to do?
Who can get tested and who can’t? And when?
Many have been around Gobert in recent days. Many have been around those who have been around Gobert.
Let’s not panic, but at least keep the antennae up, do what you can to stay healthy.
Flipping the famous variously applicable lines coming from Dr. McCoy to Captain Kirk in those old Star Trek episodes, the ones such as, “I’m a doctor, Jim, not an auto mechanic,” or “Jim, I’m a doctor, not a bricklayer,” there is this:
I’m not a doctor, Jim, I’m a sportswriter.
But I am paying close attention to an expert who is a doctor, a top federal health official, who said at a congressional hearing on Wednesday that the coronavirus is a significant issue, a notable problem, and that it would get more significant, more notable in time, that it would spread.
“The bottom line — it is going to get worse,” said Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. And he urged that sizable, crowded gatherings for sporting events, such as NBA games, be discontinued.
“We would recommend that there not be large crowds,” he said. “If that means not having anyone in the audience as the NBA plays, so be it.”
The NBA is listening, or it is after the Gobert Effect.
So this is beyond serious now. It likely always has been.
A word that often is connected to the coronavirus as it has made its way around the world, particularly in certain countries, especially this one, is … overreaction. The way it has dominated the news and caused some people to hole up in their houses, avoiding contact with other potentially germ-bearing humans, has been unlike anything most of us have seen.
And as owners and operators of sports teams and leagues and events have put their heads together to find appropriate ways to respond, some canceling tournaments, some asking healthy patrons to wash their hands and to stay away if they’re feeling ill, everybody’s looking to do the right thing here, without losing their shirts in the process.
The NBA is doing the right thing.
If there’s anything Americans and especially American sports fans pride themselves in, it’s not letting adversity or threats of any kind disrupt their daily lives, their normal routines, their rooting interests.
Some will not want to listen to Dr. Fauci.
Some will think the NBA’s reaction is stupid.
They’ll look at the percentages, the risks of death, they’ll compare those conjured by this virus to those caused by other diseases or accidents, they’ll say to themselves, “Let’s not be paralyzed by this” and “I’m in good health, I’m young, I’m not vulnerable to COVID-19, whatever that stands for.” Or the powers that be might look at the financial implications and determine they’re all for business as usual.
When the directive of playing games, such as in the NCAA Tournament, in empty arenas comes up, or further discussion of wholly canceling the event surfaces, the skeptics scoff at that prospect.
This is America, after all, not Europe in the 14th Century. This isn’t the Black Death. Smart modern minds will figure this thing out, if warmer weather doesn’t handle it on its own.
Maybe they, it, will. Maybe they, it, won’t.
The unknowns surrounding this virus are most troubling. As indicated, that’s coming from press row, not from some brainiac’s research lab. But, then, perhaps we should give ear to the dude who runs … oh, I dunno, the freaking National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
He might be better informed than the overeager fan who can’t do without his basketball fix, the guy with two beers in his hands sitting in seat 12 of row 15 along aisle 20.
In many cases, that seat, and thousands like them, will remain empty now, whether a game happens on the court or not.
We all like our sports. We all want to see the games played. We all want to be on hand to witness what happens in these remarkable contests of great competition.
But how would we feel if the games were to go on per the norm, and numbers of fans are affected, infected? What if other players get sick?
Even worse, what if numbers of fans and players get sick and then they pass the virus on to teammates, to family members and friends and those family members and friends pass it on to other family members and friends?
Right now, I’m a little nervous for my own colleagues and for my family — and also for yours.
As has been noted, some individuals are more susceptible to the coronavirus than others. Just because fans or players such as Gobert believe they are resistant to the illness doesn’t ensure that the people with whom they come in contact will have the same resistance.
I get it. I hammer keys on a keyboard and talk into a microphone about sports for a living. I watch games. Jim, I don’t study diseases or save societies.
But when I recently read a tweet from someone in Italy, where the virus has caused considerable heartache and heartbreak, urging other countries not to do what Italy did, namely, brush it off, not take it seriously, and now, people there are burying their parents and grandparents … whew, that caught my attention.
Just like Dr. Fauci did.
Just like Rudy Gobert did.
I love sports as much as anybody. But they’re not to die for.
GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” with Jake Scott weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone.