I’ve been a Dallas Mavericks fan since first moving to this area in 1980. I’ve been privileged to attend many games over the years and occasionally interact with the players.
Such accessibility and proximity to the fans is one way basketball games are different from football, baseball, and hockey. There’s much less risk of a basketball injuring a bystander compared to batted baseballs; there are no hockey sticks or pucks to threaten us; there are no behemoths in football pads to injure themselves or us. (Although standing next to seven-foot-tall players is a bit surreal.)
But the coronavirus epidemic is changing much about our culture, not least our basketball experience.
The Mavericks announced recently that the high-five line that forms in the tunnel leading to the court before home games will be discontinued. The team says this is about protecting fans and players. It would only take one infection transmission to make the longstanding practice a threat to both.
At this stage in the epidemic, it’s hard to predict what other cultural casualties we will see from the virus. School closings, everyone working from home, a huge impact on retail and restaurants, massive crowds at hospitals—these are all as possible here as anywhere else. This virus can infect anyone, meaning that it can infect everyone.
Size and athleticism are not enough. NBA players are some of the finest athletes on the planet. The shortest of them is as tall as most of us; the tallest of them seem like a different species. They can do things with (and to) their bodies that the rest of us cannot imagine.
But a virus roughly one-900th the width of a human hair threatens them, despite their athletic superiority, just as it threatens the rest of us.
The best way to live on this planet
This is the way mortality works. NBA players are unlikely to die of lung cancer from smoking since I cannot imagine that any of them smoke. They will not die from obesity-related diseases since they are in phenomenal physical condition. Their hearts, lungs, and other organs must be in peak condition to do what they do.
But they can die in car accidents or plane crashes just like the rest of us. They can die from cancer or inherited diseases or viruses just like the rest of us.
My purpose is not to be morbid but to point out a fact about morbidity: from the moment of our birth, we are all dying. Unless Jesus returns first, we will each die from something, even if our death is caused by proverbial old age.
And we have only today to be ready for that day.
The coronavirus epidemic has not raised the mortality rate one percentage point—it was already 100 percent. But the epidemic has caused us to feel and see the reality of our mortality.
While this is discouraging in some ways, it is vital in others. The longer we can ignore our death, the longer we can ignore our need for eternal life in Christ. Even Christians can live for this world over the next if we ignore the fact that the next world is one breath away. Hebrews 9:27 applies to us all: “It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.”
You probably don’t play in the NBA, but you’re just as susceptible to coronavirus or something else that threatens your future. Here’s the good news: your Father in heaven can be trusted with your fears of death and everything else. The best way to live on this planet is to live every day ready to leave it.
What if it were today for you?