Sports and the athletes who play them can change the world. Sports and the athletes who play them have changed the world.
Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier.
Muhammad Ali punched past the ring and into social and political reform.
Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova, Mia Hamm and Kobe Bryant never let us forget that the girls are here to play, too.
It’s a strange concept, that just because someone happens to be good at a game, we just might listen to them – or at least, listen more. But history shows that we do. Plenty of athletes have used their platform, for better or worse, and we’ve taken note. In many cases, we follow suit.
Ask yourself this: Had Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert never contracted the coronavirus, would the world look like it does at this very moment?
That assumes, of course, that Donovan Mitchell, Gobert’s teammate, never caught it either (he was diagnosed, too) – or that no other prominent athletic figure came down with 2020’s version of the flu.
Had Gobert not caught it, hypothetically, my best guess is that plenty of teams, leagues, tournaments and governing bodies would still be hemming and hawing, still trying to decide exactly what to do. Had the NBA not cancelled games, then placed its season on hiatus, would all the others have acted as they did yesterday?
With just one positive test to a professional, well-known athlete, it seems, the world has been turned on its ear. Gobert has COVID-19, and it’s right there in plain daylight. Time for action.
While it certainly wasn’t Gobert’s fault that he caught the bug (who knows how or where), the funny thing is that Gobert, and even Mitchell, can help get the country (and even the planet) back on track.
“How’s that?” you ask?
Sure. Easy for me to say, sitting on my non-quarantined couch in my non-quarantined house, without a cough or fever – knowing full well that there’s no magic shot or pill to cure Gobert or Mitchell or anyone else. Not yet, anyway.
But if there’s one thing we understand about the coronavirus, it’s that we don’t understand it.
It’s just like the flu. It’s worse than the flu.
It’s not that contagious. It’s very contagious.
It can kill. It only kills those who are already weak.
I can find dozens of links and tweets and posts to support any or all of the above. The media (of which I am a member) has done its best to dump gas on this dumpster fire. It’s a real thing, but by now, “real” has a multitude of definitions. This story sells, even if the country will soon be out of money.
And here we are.
So let’s get back to Gobert and Mitchell and my challenge for them to save the world (Guys, hang with me; it’s not really that unreasonable of an ask).
Fellas, we need you to go through this, the symptoms and all, and bring us along for the journey. People will watch you. People will listen to you. If this new sickness is like a cold, show us. If it’s worse, tell us. Tweet it. Take pictures and plaster them all over Instagram. Film yourselves eating soup and watching Netflix on your Snapchat feed. Tell us what hurts and what helps every step of the way. We don’t have a trustworthy example, so, unfortunately, you’re it.
And in a week or 10 days or three weeks, when you return to good health, maybe, hopefully – if we’ve all been along for the journey – we can all sit back and say, “Oh. That’s it?”
I’m no doctor, but I’m willing to bet my monthly healthcare premium that both Gobert and Mitchell are shooting hoops and running lines before May 1. I could be wrong, and it’s probably irresponsible of me to suggest, but I’d like to think this notion is more responsible than striking ill-founded fear into the masses with guessing and panic.
Because, right or wrong, we follow our athletes. And we just so happen to have a couple in position to tell us the truth.
If they’re telling us and showing us that it’s going to be okay, we might just believe them.
Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell didn’t get us into this mess, but I believe they can help clean it up.
Get well soon, fellas. And, please, tell us all about it.