I did not watch a minute of the NBA last season, which means I missed what friends labeled a “classic” NBA Finals.
They might be right. Still, I have come to realize our worlds cannot revolve so heavily around sports – basketball and football in particular. Sure, some call sports a distraction from the helter-skelter of life, infusing it with events and people we can root for. Are we cheapening life when we care more about Giannis Antetokounmpo than about the rising number of covid-19 cases?
I found myself thinking about those horrific numbers as I wound down a journey to Lima, Peru, a city bent on taking covid 19 seriously. I have never seen people so committed to tamping down their numbers or eradicating the virus altogether.
You cannot stroll Lima and not spot people in face masks. They do not wear one; they wear two. In fact, some people wear a plastic shield over their two masks.
Think about Lima: a metropolitan city on the Pacific Coast. If you give a thought to the place at all, it is to discuss Machu Picchu, a 15th-century citadel of indigenous people. To get there from Lima is a long bus ride or a flight. So it would be difficult to refer to Machu Picchu as an attraction in Lima proper.
What else comes to mind? Soccer? No. Tennis perhaps? No?
Strip away Machu Picchu and Lima would more than likely be a parcel of land with no reason for anybody to visit it.
To say I understand Limeños would be Trumpian in its truth, which is to say a lie. What I do know about them I like. They seem not to stress outwardly; their lives are not a maddening rush to the finish line. From what I could tell, they squeezed as much out of today as they can. Tomorrow … well, it can fend for itself.
I suspect that is why they look at wearing a mask as important. It serves as an investment in their today, for to not wear one seems too cavalier an approach to life.
Why take the risk?
Life carries a certain risk inherent to it. Hit the streets, and you risk something every day. Risks can be calculated ones, which might lessen the consequences if things go sideways. Nobody can be sure life won’t either.
In a couple of days, Americans will have moved on from NBA championships, the draft and Antetokounmpo. Instead, they will be fretting anew about what they can do to control covid 19, a virus that has tied most of us into a Gordian knot for 18 months and counting.
Limeños did provide me with an at-the-ready answer for loosening this knot. They showed me that commitment to an answer will speed America to a solution. Mask up, they said without uttering a word.
I spent two weeks in Lima, and I looked at the mask mandate there as the most defining part of my experience. The Peruvian government does not have a glut of vaccines to jab into people’s arms. It has something, however, that might prove more beneficial — a public policy that people follow of wearing face masks.
Perhaps Americans will seize this policy and heed it. They have one less distraction now that Antetokounmpo has his first NBA title.