Carlson: Yes, Jazz star Rudy Gobert was a goob about COVID, but he's also become an accidental hero
That video of Rudy Gobert has played everywhere.
No doubt you've seen it because, well, the sports networks don’t have any other fresh video to show.
It shows Utah’s big man standing at the end of an interview session, waving his hands playfully over the microphones and recorders, turning to leave, then actually coming back and touching them. Each and every one.
He didn't know he would test positive for coronavirus two days later.
But even if he had, his actions were foolish. Gobert was sitting behind a table with those mics clustered around him precisely because the NBA was trying to limit the potential spread of the virus. Keep contact with reporters to a minimum. Protect players from outside germs.
Little did we know, it was the reporters who needed protection from the players.
So, Gobert was a goob. A moron. An idiot. No two ways around that.
But in the days since his positive test sparked the shutdown of leagues and prompted a sit-up-and-take-notice response from Americans, he’s become something else, too.
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An accidental hero.
You might think calling Gobert a hero, even an accidental one, is as foolish as him touching all those microphones. At best, you might argue, he was a catalyst. And I agree he was a catalyst for what has already been significant change in how the United States is attempting to flatten the curve. Blunt the spike in coronavirus cases. Limit the impact of this global pandemic.
But make no mistake, Gobert is an accidental hero, too.
His positive test is going to save lives.
Now, I don’t want you thinking I consider Gobert to be the only hero or the greatest hero in this pandemic. He’s neither. There are literally millions of heroes in this fight. Health care workers. Medical researchers. Public-health specialists. And those are just the white-collar folks on the front lines.
There are also heroes who wear blue collars and earn hourly wages. Think about the cleaning crews that sanitized the Jazz locker room after Wednesday night at The Peake. Or the housekeeping staff that scrubbed down the 21c Museum Hotel, where the Jazz stayed in Oklahoma City. Or the airport staff that cleaned the charter jet after the Jazz flew back to Salt Lake City.
Those folks are nameless, often faceless, but in this fight, they are crucial.
They are absolutely heroes.
But Gobert deserves our thanks, too. It’s not just because he has become the unwitting face of coronavirus cancellations. It’s not just because he was the spark that caused the NBA to yell “FIRE!” and prompted all others to follow suit.
Gobert also deserves appreciation because he was us. He wasn’t concerned about coronavirus, neither getting it nor spreading it. He was cavalier about the possibilities, even to the point of touching teammates and their belongings prior to his diagnosis. ESPN has even reported Gobert’s teammates thought he was “careless.”
When he issued a statement Thursday on Instagram, it was largely to apologize.
“The first and most important thing is, I would like to publicly apologize to the people that I may have endangered,” he wrote. “At the time, I had no idea I was even infected. I was careless and make no excuse.”
Apparently, Gobert has some explaining to do to teammates. ESPN’s Adrian Wojarowski reported relationships within the Utah locker room will have to be repaired, not just between Gobert and Donovan Mitchell, who was also infected, but between lots of others.
“There’s a lot of frustration with Gobert,” Woj said.
I get it. Those guys had to sit quarantined in the visitors’ locker room at The Peake for more than six hours Wednesday night. That alone would cause a decent amount of hostility.
But in the end, they shouldn’t be mad at Gobert.
No one should be.
(Anyone who boos Gobert because of this once the NBA restarts is a bigger goob than he was a couple times.)
He was the change agent for how Americans think about coronavirus. Millions of us came to better understand its impact and its reach, and the result has been unprecedented actions to try and get it under control.
Because of that, fewer people will be infected, and because of that, more people will be able to get treatment and survive. And I’m not just talking about people with coronavirus. It's true that if we saw a tidal wave of coronavirus patients, it’s unlikely we’d have enough doctors and nurses and beds and respirators to treat them. But if we saw that surge, lots of other people in need of medical care would be affected, too.
Just because the coronavirus is here doesn’t mean people stop having heart attacks or needing cancer treatments. Too many COVID-19 cases would eventually overwhelm our health care system, and that means many bad outcomes for many Americans.
Hopefully the change prompted by Gobert's positive keeps that from happening.
An unnamed sports executive told Bruce Arthur of the Toronto Star, “Honestly, Rudy Gobert saved America.”
I don’t know if he saved it, but he sure saved lots of lives.
Rudy Gobert didn’t intend to get this virus, become a pseudo-Patient Zero or spark great change. He didn’t intend to alter the trajectory of the United States’ fight against this global problem.
But he did.
For that, we can all be grateful.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at 405-475-4125 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK or follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok.