OPINION: Do what your favorite athletes wish they’d done. Wear a mask.


Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons dunks on Washington Wizards center JaVale McGee on Jan. 16, 2012, at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. Tribune News Service

With the coronavirus trouncing the United States like the 1927 Yankees ganging up on a Little League crew, numerous states including Indiana have mandated that Americans wear masks in public. Naturally, scientific reasoning has been met with apathy and stubbornness from many citizens.

If we as a nation cannot collectively make a routine of using masks, there will be no sports to enjoy any time soon. Obviously, far worse things will happen in terms of general human suffering, but we’ve made it pretty clear other’s safety ranks fairly low on our list of priorities.

Nonetheless, I think several athletes would agree there are instances during games in which even simple cloth masks are absolutely essential. But what could a thin layer of fabric offer that a helmet or mouthguard doesn’t?

Well, just ask mixed martial artists Anderson Silva and Chris Weidman. It is custom at MMA weigh-ins for fighters to stare menacingly at one another from mere inches apart. At one such event in 2013, as if drawn by an unseen animal magnetism, Silva and Weidman’s mean-mugging inadvertently gave way to a brief kiss. 

There’s something truly poetic about men destined to come to blows sharing a tender moment like this, with sworn enemies finding love on the dawn of war. Even though Weidman later said Silvia had “nice lips,” the whole fiasco could have been avoided if each party had donned a mask. It’s impossible to play tonsil tennis if the ball can’t cross the net. 

Okay, so athletes occasionally share an accidental smooch. But how common is it actually? Apparently, common enough that it happened twice to members of the Cleveland Cavaliers within a two-year span. 

The Cavaliers displayed varying levels of basketball chemistry on the court in the 2015 playoffs, but their romantic chemistry was unparalleled. In Game 3 versus the Boston Celtics, Cavaliers guard Iman Shumpert happened to turn his head as teammate Anderson Varejão was speaking into his ear, resulting in an unintentionally intimate exchange.

In June 2017, tensions ran high as the Cavaliers battled the Golden State Warriors in Game 5 of the NBA Finals. However, the Cavaliers’ Tristan Thompson and the Warriors’ David West cut that tension swiftly amid a bench-clearing altercation that once again led to a split-second kiss. Having to be held back from a fight is usually a mark of ferocity but takes on a much more confusing meaning when the two parties are separated moments after brushing lips. 

Perhaps no competitor has ever had greater cause to shield his mouth and nose from the rest of the cruel, odorous world than Javale McGee. While playing for the Washington Wizards in a 2012 contest against the Houston Rockets, McGee attempted to defend a dunk by Rockets forward Chandler Parsons. 

Not only did Parsons score on McGee, but he swung from the rim in a perfect circle with McGee’s face caught between Parsons' legs for the entire 360-degree revolution. No covering would have spared McGee from giving up a basket, but it would have kept him from empathizing with an unfortunate gym towel for a few seconds. 

As for contact sports, a football helmet is meant to prevent brain trauma, but did little to protect former New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez from the emotional trauma he endured Thanksgiving 2012.

On a botched play, Sanchez found himself staring down a lightless tunnel when he slid face-first into the backside of offensive lineman Brandon Moore. He then dropped the ball in what is now infamously called the “Butt Fumble.”

We mock Sanchez for almost spearing his head into a teammate’s behind, yet we behave as if our heads are firmly wedged up our own rear ends. So please, please wear a mask. I really don’t want to be known as the highly privileged first-world country that utterly butt-fumbled the pandemic.

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