And why? Because they want to win a trophy.
These teams understood at an early stage of their leagues' respective returns that keeping the virus at bay would be a significant competitive advantage in their pursuit of a championship. They have a shared common goal for which they're willing to sacrifice -- some by adhering painstakingly to strict health protocols at work, others by agreeing to live removed and isolated from their families and all by pledging to their co-workers not to engage in risky social behaviors in their personal time that could endanger such fragile fortunes.
The point being, if they can do it for something as relatively arbitrary as a shiny prize and some champagne, it should be easy for the rest of us to do it for the award of better public health, fewer of our fellow citizens and their families sick and dead.
But it's still too difficult for some, those fed successfully by a toxic mix of intentional divisiveness, cynical misinformation campaigns and unhinged conspiracy theory designed to exploit poor education, loneliness, disconnection, racism and selfish anger. If these people can see the athletes that in some way represent the shirt or hat that constitutes a part of their identity doing the right thing for the sake of their team winning games, perhaps it will cut through the noise in a way that other pleas haven't.
Wishful thinking, perhaps, but it's right in front of us.
The same folks tying to out-tough a virus by ignoring any mitigating steps -- those so oppressed or emasculated by the idea of a face covering that they're willing to lose their jobs after their forced ejection from Walmart is recorded and publicized -- have to understand the genuine toughness manifest across the sports they claim to care so much about.
It's discipline and deliberate care on display, merely for the sake of runs scored, touchdowns, goals and baskets. We may not have appreciated it the same way as golf and auto racing returned, because those individualized sports didn't require the level of internal commitment to others that we're hearing and seeing now.
These decisions aren't imposed from the top down either but are being decided among peers. Athletes know how easily any restart can by undone by carelessness or a lack of self control and are sharing openly their full awareness that any one player can bring it all down.
It's that pledge to each other that matters most, the thought that I will do everything in my power to keep from risking what's at stake for all of us
I've never been one to reach for sports analogies because they're so often facile and dumb, but we're in a time when looking to the pros can be an important lesson to some still choosing to be really bad teammates.