Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has declared that the pandemic is over. In relative terms, that’s better than some other governors who are now claiming that it never existed. Things are indeed heading in the right direction, but there are people in our society who are dragging their feet, making us wait longer for a return to normalcy. And, for whatever reason, a lot of them are athletes.
One really shouldn’t delight in the misfortune of others, but sometimes you just can’t help it. This is especially the case when the misfortune was completely avoidable and only happened because of wrongheaded and selfish behavior on the part of the person whom Fate smacked upside the head.
Jon Rahm is the No. 1 golfer in the world. The 26-year-old Spaniard was rolling in the third round of The Memorial tournament earlier this month. Rahm had an apparently insurmountable six-stroke lead over the rest of the field and the $1.674 million first prize was pretty much money in the bank. Except for one small thing. Rahm, like way too many athletes in America and the world, had turned down the opportunity to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
The PGA had made a pretty sweet deal with the pro golfers. All the players had to do was get vaccinated and they could go about their business like it was 2019. No restrictions on using the clubhouse or any part of the facilities. No masks, no social distancing, nothing. Here’s the best part. If the golfer was vaccinated, he wouldn’t even have to get tested for the virus.
But Rahm, showing that athletic excellence and smarts aren’t always on speaking terms, turned down the vaccine, tested positive, was ignominiously ushered off the golf course, and said goodbye to a fortune. Now, he’s young and really good and will probably win a lot of money in his career. But tomorrow is promised to no one. He could suffer an injury. He could try to drive a car like Tiger Woods. All we know for sure is that Jon Rahm is currently the world’s greatest walking, talking Public Service Announcement for getting vaccinated.
Rahm is not alone. Athletes across the spectrum are dodging the vaccine and their stated reasons for doing so would be hilarious if it weren’t so serious. After an NFL team brought in a coronavirus vaccine researcher to answer any questions about the disease and the vaccine in an effort to convince players that it is in their own best interest to get vaccinated, Montez Sweat of the Washington Football Team said, “I’m not a fan of it. I probably won’t get vaccinated until I get more facts and that stuff.”
Apparently he’s going to “get more facts” (and that stuff) from somebody who is more knowledgeable than an esteemed immunologist.
He then followed that up with this gem of deep thinking: “I haven’t caught COVID yet so I don’t see me treating COVID until I get COVID.”
Yes, he thinks that the need for the vaccine comes after getting the disease. And he went to college. Of course, it was in Mississippi, but it was still sort of a college.
Recognizing that it is every American’s right to refuse the vaccine, the NFL is offering its players every opportunity to return to normal, but many of the players are having none of it. After suffering through last season with COVID protocols having an impact on virtually every aspect of a player’s life and career, you might think that many players would go out of their way to get vaccinated, but it’s not the case.
The NFL has offered the players a huge carrot—vaccinated players can go without masks and don’t have to get tested on a daily basis. Meanwhile, unvaccinated players have to wear masks, have to get tested every day, and are still subject to contact tracing protocols. Unvaccinated players cannot interact with other players when the team is traveling and can’t have any contact with family or friends when on the road. There is a strict limit to how many can be in the weight room at one time and they’re not allowed to eat in the cafeteria.
Montez Sweat was actually outdone by Buffalo Bills wide receiver Cole Beasley, who has said that he will retire and leave behind the $12 million that remain on his contract rather than get vaccinated. His “thinking”: “I’m not going to take meds for a leg that isn’t broken.”
Beasley says that he is going to build up his immunity by eating better and drinking water. Well, why didn’t we think of that?
I understand that athletes tend to think of themselves as indestructible. And their body is their fortune. But it is OK—at least occasionally—to think about somebody other than oneself.