Sports Curmudgeon 8/12/21
Yesterday’s rant focused on formulaic reports emanating from NFL training camps with an emphasis on a relatively new line of such stories over the past several years – – reporting on progress or lack of progress in contract extension negotiations. In addition to the sorts of things mentioned yesterday, there is a new line of reporting that I hope will be unique to 2021. Here is the storyline:
- Joe Flabeetz tests positive for COVID-19 and/or Joe has previously said that he has not taken the COVID-19 vaccine for any of a variety of reasons.
- Joe returns to training camp after the separation called for in the league’s COVID-19 protocols.
- The first report is not about how he did at practice but about what he said when asked if he would now take the vaccine.
If the storyline ended with Joe’s answer to that question – either yes, no, maybe or it is none of your business – I would be fine with that. The problem is that the reports all go off into predictable realms:
- If Joe says yes, then why did it take him so long?
- If Joe says no, then does he realize how he is potentially jeopardizing his family members or “the team.”
- If Joe says maybe, then reporters take that as a license to ask the vaccine question repeatedly.
- If Joe says it is none of your business, then he is being a petulant, spoiled, entitled brat.
Those storyline paths are well trodden; we really do not need any more of them. I realize that I may step on some toes here, but I want to talk about COVID vaccines and vaccinations today. My education is in the physical sciences; I have a PhD in physical chemistry (from LONG ago); I am not a medical professional nor an epidemiologist. My science education has convinced me of a specific reality:
- Many of the workings of life and of the universe are only partially understood – – and yet they can be counted on to behave in a predictable and reliable manner. Gravity is one such thing; no one quite knows how – or why – gravity works, but every building, road and bridge relies on it behaving tomorrow exactly as it has since people began to observe it as a force back in the 1650s.
The nature, behavior and mechanisms of viruses in general – and of the COVID-19 virus specifically – are not perfectly understood. Nonetheless, they are understood sufficiently that the various vaccines that have been developed can and do reduce the chances of getting infected and the chances of harboring the virus such that you can pass it on to others and the chances that the vaccine recipient will get a severe case of COVID-19 and die. Controlled tests using known and reliable procedures have shown those facts over and over.
Because the virus and its mechanism are only partially understood, the vaccine is not perfect; it is not as reliable as gravity, but neither are many other things that people rely on with their lives:
- The welds holding the wings on an airplane are not perfect – – but we fly on airplanes.
- Dams sometimes burst with disastrous results – – but we continue to build them and rely on them.
- Sunscreen reduces the chance of contracting skin cancer; it is not perfect as a prevention by any means – – but people are still well advised to use it.
Personally, I believe the odds are so tilted in favor of vaccination that I was early in line to “get jabbed” when my age group was given access to the vaccine last February. Moreover, I believe that everyone who is of an age where the research has shown sufficient rates of efficacy and safety should “get jabbed.” Having said that, I think it is wrong to be a “Vaccine-Crusader” just as it is wrong to be a “Vaccine-Know Nothing.”
I have to suppress a laugh when I hear an athlete say that he has not taken the vaccine because he needs to “do more research on the topic.” If he tried to do a double-blind test on several thousand random citizens out of his basement, he would probably be arrested for practicing medicine without certification. He is not going to “do more research;” he is either going to use that a justification why he continues to avoid vaccination, or he means that he will continue to search on the Internet for information that supports his decision not to be vaccinated.
My problem is that the reporters writing these stories know that this is the case. There is no reason to write about it again; it has already been done to death. If a reporter wants to be a “Vaccine-Crusader” here, he/she should be pestering the NFL and the NFLPA about why they do not agree to make COVID-19 vaccinations a sine qua non for NFL employment. If a reporter just wants to write a story about the ignorance or the stubbornness of a specific athlete who has refused the vaccine, then just say that specifically and move on. Stop pretending that there is any “news information” in a report that the athlete is “continuing to ponder the question of inoculation.”
I said above that I hoped that 2021 would be the only year we would have to deal with this particular narrative. That is an aspiration; I would hope that COVID-19 is not a matter of concern by the time the 2022 sports calendar begins with pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training. I certainly would not bet that to be the case – – but I can hope it is the case and I can hope that we will have much less formulaic coverage in 2022 if need be.
Finally, let me close with an observation from playwright and satirist, Karl Kraus, which seems appropriate today:
“Stupidity is an elemental force for which no earthquake is a match.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………