First Take

Stephen A. Smith says it's on Chris Paul if the Rockets don't win a championship

The Rockets continue to keep rolling and Max Kellerman is very bullish on the Rockets' chances this year. He believes that the Rockets will get healthy just in time to make a playoff run. Stephen A. Smith on the other hand, believes all the blame falls on Chris Paul and his health if the Rockets don't get it done and win it all this year.

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As the Ronaverse continues, emotions are high. People are getting upset over the dumbest things. Maybe it is simply because Twitter has the worst people in the world, but endless topics are being "debated" that really have no reason to be questioned.

One of the oddest of these is starting to pop up as athletes opt out of returning to play among the Covid-19 shortened seasons. People are actually critical of athletes who make these decisions.

Those people are simply what we call "dumbs."

It doesn't matter what their reasoning is. Athletes - like all of us - have the option to worry about things other than their job. Simply because they have the wherewithal to take time off without pay is no reason to be critical. David Price became one of the latest this week and explained his decision well.

But they owe it to us, the fans.

Sports is not life. These athletes do not owe you anything. You choose to buy their gear and wear their numbers. That's your right. It's also their right to be concerned for their own health and that of their families.

They are young. The disease barely affects young people.

True. But if you are the one young person it does impact? And what about your parents and grandparents? Are we to fault players for caring about things like that? They are people. There are those who dehumanize them because they are famous, make a lot of money and live lives most people will never have. But that does not mean they aren't real people with real life concerns.

They make millions. It is worth the risk.

What good are those millions if you are dead? Or a family member becomes gravely ill? This should not even be a debate. Players have the right to make up their own minds, just as you do. I am not one of the Rona Paranoid Crew, but I don't rip people who are overly careful. We should all deal with this in ways we think are best. Everyone loves to throw out terms like "personal freedom" and "it's my right" when it suits their needs. In this case, it applies to the athletes.

The sad thing is not everyone can afford to stay away from work in order to survive. Many waiters, cooks and bartenders were forced to go back to work to pay bills. Many were not comfortable doing that, but they had no real choice. That sucks.

But those who do have a choice should be able to make it without facing criticism. Maybe it costs your team a World Series if a key player opts out. Or an NBA title. So what? There will be other years, other chances. That won't be the case for a lot of high school and college athletes who may never get to play again. Sure, they might be bitter that pros can sit out, while they have been robbed of one last chance at the game they love. But the Rona is not their fault. Neither is the fact that these athletes have the means to follow their principles.

What will their teammates think of these players abandoning them?

That's a fan argument. Most players will completely understand, because they, too, are human. If the season winds up shutting down halfway through or never getting started, no one will remember who wasn't there. Nor should they care.

But for some reason, people do. They have the right to choose whether toplay or not. You have the right to choose whether or not you will keep buying their jerseys. That is how freedom works.

It would be nice if we would all just allow people to make the best decisions for themselves without turning it into a stupid debate.

In today's world, I realize that is not reality. The dumbs are inheriting the earth.

So memo to athletes: If you want to be on the field, awesome, we will be rooting for you. If you believe it is not worth the risk to you or your family? Stay safe and we will see you when you feel comfortable again. Simple, right? That really should be the end of it.

Sadly, it won't be. That's not the world we live in anymore, if it ever was.

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