When we encounter long numbers with many figures, our ability to abstract becomes cornered and then starts accumulating dust.
“There are more than a hundred trillion (one hundred million million) galaxies, and ours, the Milky Way, has 300,000 million stars” you might have heard.
Given these data, few stop to count zeros and simply pile stars in their imaginations. How lazy!
Laziness is a very tempting capital sin, and with age it may become the most irresistible sin. However, both in football and in the coronavirus crisis, we find astronomical numbers that are so juicy if we forget our capacity for laziness and want to squeeze them.
The last clásico between Real Madrid and Barcelona was watched by 650,000,000 viewers on television. So many zeros are very lazy, but if you exercise your brain a little, and relate them to the 7,700 million humans on the planet, you are left dumbfounded when concluding that almost 10% of the world population saw a Spanish league game. In the case of the World Cup final in Russia, which saw France beat Croatia 4-2, it’s estimated that at least 1,120 million people watched at least one minute of the match (for their sake I hope that minute was Mbappé’s goal, France’s fourth).
Elite players may avoid thinking about these numbers so that their legs don’t shake when going out to play a game. Still, the pressure sometimes can tell, and they collapse. As happened to Ronaldo before the 1998 World Cup final in France. On the day of the final, Ronaldo took a short nap and woke up with seizures from a nervous breakdown. When Edmundo was ready to play in his place, Brazil coach Zagalo decided that Ronaldo would play because his mere presence raised the spirits of his teammates. Ronaldo played one of the worst matches of his career, and Brazil lost the final 3-0 against Zidane’s France.
However, Ronaldinho never seemed to mind the pressure or the number of people who were watching him. He played laughing at his successes and failures. The happiest player I have ever seen was born in Porto Alegre, which is a coincidence. There, in a mostly white city, the black Ronaldinho played football on the street with friends and at home with his brother Roberto. Ronaldinho says that when he had no humans to play football with, he made stretches and elastic bands for his dog Bom Bom, who must have died with his hip destroyed from eating so many dribbles.
Confronted with the COVID-19 numbers, there are people who react like Ronaldo in the World Cup final in France, and others like Ronaldinho. I do not know how your body will react if I tell you that, if you are infected with SARS-CoV-2 and I put a stick in your throat, I can get up to seven hundred million RNA molecules from the virus 10. I’m going to put the zeros together: 700000000. And you can have this in a handful of epithelial cells from your oropharyngeal cavity, and without having symptoms 10. As many hundreds of millions of viruses are in your nasal mucosa, it is so important that, even if you do not have symptoms, do not sneeze or cough with people around you, and if you do it; make sure it is on your mask or on your elbow. Given the amount of SARS-CoV-2 virus you could carry around, Ronaldo’s panic doesn’t help because it prevents you from playing well. I’m not telling you to be all day laughing like Ronaldinho, but at least play as well as he did and respect the sanitary recommendations. If you go out, do it with a mask. Wash your hands frequently. If you do things right, perhaps someday, unexpectedly, you will win the applause of your neighbours, or your coworkers. Like when Ronaldinho raised the Bernabéu to their feet to applaud him, during the 2005 clásico, after scoring two goals that contributed to F.C. Barcelona’s 0-3 victory.
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