Just curious. Did your body cavities begin to bleed for no reason at the beginning of the week? Did your fillings spring from your mouth and did your skin begin to smell a little sweet and swampy? Yes? You got it then. Florida fever.
Sometime around Monday news broke that the weirdest US state was trying to give the Olympic Games – or was it the pandemic – a sporting chance to make the podium, to get out of the blocks, to take the free world on another year-long lap of living without laughter. Or Larry or Li or Loretta or Liam.
But no one could accuse Florida's chief financial officer Jimmy Patronis, a Republican ally of governor Ron DeSantis, of being entirely mirthless. The Floridian asked the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to consider relocating the 2021 Games to the Sunshine State amid speculation that Tokyo organisers may back out of staging it this summer because of a disease called Covid-19.
Like the havoc-causing Burmese python, Cuban tree frog, giant African land snail and green iguana, thriving Covid is just another of the 500 species of non-native wildlife Florida originally decided to ignore even when the stories started appearing.
Go read them. Giant python crushes pet King Charles spaniel then snoozes in the back garden while digesting dinner as traumatised family look on.
The IOC’s reaction has been a patrician sniff and a revolted look, the nuking of their beloved protocols laid bare in the Patronis letter. They may have also engaged with Florida’s unsolicited offer by trying to understand if their improvisation was just a vicarious act of protest like that of Lapland.
The coldest country in the world has warmed to the idea of running the town of Salla against Jakarta, Istanbul and Seoul-Pyongyang to host the summer games of 2032 as a way of highlighting global warming. “I never felt warm before but I’m sure it’s coming,” says a middle-aged Lapland woman in a promotional video. Their logo is a melting icecap.
But no. Florida doesn’t do ironic or sarcasm. The Olympic grab was eerily serious and, for now, the IOC appear to be treating the Republican official as some randomer who might go away. That is, unlike the meme that has been around since 2013, “Florida Man”.
“Florida Man” is that mythical figure whose bizarre antics have come to personify the craziness of the state: the ageing uncle who is just a little too comfortable with his nudity; the man run over by his van when his dog stepped on the accelerator; the seafront home owner who fights off a giant alligator with a drive-on lawnmower.
According to credible reports last December, it is alleged that DeSantis and his state administration “suppressed unfavourable facts, dispensed dangerous misinformation, dismissed public health professionals and promoted the views of scientific dissenters” amid the gravest health threat the state has ever faced. Cast-iron founding principles for anyone wanting to gazump Tokyo for the Olympic Games.
In a piece at the end of December, the conservative Washington Post ran an opinion column by Lizette Alvarez.
In fairness, Florida has a plan B. It is sitting on more than 980,000 unused doses of hydroxychloroquine, a drug that Trump touted as a 'game-changer'
“Just as Florida neared its 20,000th Covid-19 death, a bit of good cheer popped into the inboxes of 160 state lawmakers,” she wrote. “An invitation (plus one!) to governor Ron DeSantis’s holiday bash at his Tallahassee mansion. No masks or social distancing required; any devotion to science or reality could be checked at the door.”
A month on and a closer look at the numbers. As of Thursday, in Japan they had 376,000 Covid-19 cases and 5,388 deaths. There were 1.68 million cases in the southern US state and 25,832 deaths. Let’s host the Olympics in July.
The Florida “bubble”, a priceless pseudonym for prolonged, blind denial, has lasted almost a year and for many people, it has been a kind of dark, dystopian version of Disney World.
So, when a politician decides to open his kimono and show what they got, it is opened to a charged, global world, not flat; a questioning world, not one faithfully following; a scientific world, not conspiracy theorist. With that they open themselves to ridicule. It’s no more than an invitation to the world to lock into and share a suite of suspended realities.
It also comes with open-carry, Oath Keeper arrogance that appears to deliberately heap pressure and humiliation on the Japanese, who now see themselves as chief usher in the mankind-licks-virus narrative.
"When most of the major states were shutting down their economies, we were fortunate enough to have a governor that recognised the important balance of fighting the virus with keeping the economy open," Patronis tells Thomas Bach, the IOC president, adding: " Florida has 20 commercial airports, 31 urban transit systems, 12 major universities that have existing sporting facilities."
And the virus? It is so all yesterday’s news. In fairness, Florida state has a plan B. It is sitting on more than 980,000 unused doses of hydroxychloroquine, a drug that Trump and his administration officials touted as a “game-changer”, and ordered by devotee DeSantis. Be still thy beating heart, Mr Bach.
Somewhere up in Finland, “I can’t wait for the snow to melt for good,” says a long-haired bloke surfing on an icy slope. Now, that has eased the bleeding ears.