All the games have been postponed or canceled in and through nearly every sport due to the concern over the spread of COVID-19, except for one.
The blame game.
That one is still being played.
He is the athlete whose positive diagnosis not only closed down the NBA, it shuttered every league, every tournament, every practice, every sport, every … thing, at the pro, the college, the high school, the intramural levels.
Seems like he shut down the world, which is what the two-time defensive player of the year always wanted to do, only in a much different context.
His face is now the face of a disease.
The coronavirus is the Gobertvirus, the Rudyvirus.
COVID-19 might as well be COVID-27, the number the big man chose to wear on account of his being drafted, much to his indignation, at that disrespectful spot. He wanted to make a point. He wanted to make it famous. Now, it is infamous.
Infamous first via contraction, and then expansion.
He contracted the virus, and then possibly shared it.
Some have taken to making Gobert out to be a villain, the most hated man in basketball. He didn’t intend to single out Gobert in that manner, but NCAA president Mark Emmert cited Gobert’s positive test as significant in that organization’s decision to kill March Madness. Its effect on the NBA was obvious.
And even Donovan Mitchell, who also tested positive, has indicated frustration with his teammate for his initial carelessness regarding coronavirus. Gobert has since apologized and donated considerable cash for those affected and for aiding awareness about the virus.
Mitchell had every opportunity to figuratively embrace Gobert during his quarantined video appearance on Good Morning America on Monday morning, but he didn’t really do that. He and his other teammates were angry at Gobert for his earlier cavalier attitude about the virus. There’s no way of knowing with any exactness whether that “were” hasn’t barreled on into an “are.”
The fact that Gobert is contrite isn’t in question. He is. You can see it in his apology. You can see it in his expression. You can see it in his worthy financial contribution.
But the blame game goes on.
Gobert has always found ways to strain relationships because of his drive for excellence. The goal is the thing, not anyone’s feelings en route. He is strongly motivated. And he believes he can make his team better. Throw him the damn ball, has been his message, and typically he earns that privilege via his effort at the defensive end. He’s not afraid to say that, and that forthrightness has made a dent or two on his teammates, now and again. On top of that, Rudy likes himself some Rudy.
Still, he should not be blamed for this latest, biggest thing.
If it wasn’t going to be Gobert who got the virus, it would have been another player, causing the same reaction, the same result, the same consequences for basketball, for sport, for everything, for everyone.
It could be said that Gobert’s contracting the coronavirus saved lives. For such a high-profile athlete to have gotten it earlier rather than later, and for the NBA to have responded the way it did, and for all the other sports organizations to follow suit, bringing attention to the seriousness of the matter, Gobert could be praised rather than scorned.
It turned out the way it did, and for a few short hours and days, after the Jazz took the court in Oklahoma City, then left it in a rush before the opening tip, then were holed up in their locker room, as a buzz flew out to news outlets everywhere, the Utah Jazz were at the absolute middle of the sports world. Maybe the world world.
The word got out. And then, Mitchell was positive, too, doubling up that word.
And thanks to that, awareness and more thoughtful consideration and urgency went with it.
Only Gobert and Mitchell know the depth of their discord, and any other discord that exists between Gobert and the rest of the team, and only they can repair it. The two of them, and the team as a whole, appear to be mature and conscientious enough to make that happen. And when basketball begins again, it’s likely that they will go to battle, side by side, same as it ever was.
But for the rest of the blamers, instead of loathing Gobert, how about a little empathy. And that’s not meant as a question. Same thing if a neighbor or a family member is unfortunate enough to get the virus. You may not want to literally embrace them, but that figurative hug is important.
This damn virus is nasty enough without allowing it to divide those who are vulnerable to it, whether they play basketball for a living or chop wood or sell carpet or manage an office. All of us.
Coronavirus is the monster, not the people victimized by it.
We can be smart, smarter, we can be vigilant, more vigilant, we can be considerate of others, more considerate, and compassionate, more compassionate. We can be teammates in the fight. We have to be to slay this thing. We may not know a whole lot about the virus, but … we know more now than Gobert did when he got goofy with it.
He shouldn’t be hated or blamed. He should be heard.
Turns out, Rudy Gobert isn’t the face of the coronavirus. We all are.
GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” with Jake Scott weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone, which is owned by the parent company that owns the Utah Jazz.