It may have started off as a joke, but now America runs the risk of becoming the laughing stock of the sporting world, as the coronavirus pandemic remains a significant threat across the USA. 

Back on 9 March, when the world was starting to learn about the threat of Covid-19, Utah Jazz centre, Rudy Gobert, thought that great hilarity would ensue at a press conference should he rub and touch as many microphones as possible to highlight his antipathy towards the virus. 

Standing at 7ft 1in, wingspan an unbelievable 7ft 9in, Gobert reportedly took a "cavalier attitude toward the virus", while cajoling players and touching their belongings. 

Two days later, Gobert was floored by his toughest opponent of the season thus far.

The France international would become the first NBA player to test positive for the coronavirus, and as a result, the NBA suspended the season.

Gobert went into quarantine, before sticking his head above the parapet once again, naturally, to beg forgiveness, admit embarrassment, and make the obligatory charitable donation. 

No laughing matter for Gobert's team-mate Donovan Mitchell who tested positive for Covid the following day. 

Now, almost four months on, Gobert is still paying the price for his stupidity, as he is yet to fully recover, reporting that his sense of smell has not fully returned. 

Gobert may stay off the comedy circuit for the foreseeable

So with basketball benched, baseball on hold, and the NFL a long way off, having timed their season-ending Super Bowl to perfection, finishing up just before the pandemic took flight, it was up to another outdoor endeavour to lead the way back for American sports. 

Back in March, just one day after the suspension of the basketball season, the Players Championship kicked off at TPC Sawgrass in Florida, with full crowds on the opening day of the tournament known as the 'fifth major’. 

As a result, golf, an outdoor, contactless sport, which had been considered to be virtually immune to the pandemic - under the right set of guidelines – came under the spotlight, and while the PGA Tour thought they could complete the four-day event behind closed doors, the inevitable suspension of the tournament and season transpired. 

However, despite some progressive moves, with the immediate postponement of the Masters in April and the US Open soon after, the PGA Tour appeared intent on getting the show back on the road as soon as possible. 

The theory was perceived possible, as the Tour took the angle of no crowds and relied on the platform of television to kick-start the resumption, beginning with a four-player charity skins match on 17 May, where safety concerns included asking players, including Rory McIlroy, to carry their own bag for the duration. 

Then on 11 June, less than three months since the opening day of the Players, the PGA Tour kicked back into life with the Charles Schwab Challenge in Texas. 

The players all said the right thing. They felt safe. Precautions were all being adhered to. Social distancing was in effect. It was a behind closed doors event. And most importantly, it was beamed across the world on live television. Normal service had resumed.

Or so they thought. 

The successful return to play on the PGA Tour prompted Rory McIlroy to offer his advice to fellow pros back in Europe who had chosen to stay away from the resumption of the world’s top tour. 

"If you really care about your career and care about moving forward, you should be here, I think," said McIlroy ahead of the next week’s event on the resort island of Hilton Head. 

McIlroy may now look back, with the benefit of hindsight, and regret those words, chastising players who put their health and welfare ahead of their golf world ranking. 

To his credit, McIlroy has apparently acted impeccably in the process, following all guidelines, while hosting caddie Harry Diamond in his house for two weeks in order to quarantine. 

But reports were rife on social media, and then backed up by eye-witness accounts and inevitable video evidence, that Hilton Head was in holiday mode with packed beaches and restaurants, with social distancing less than lax. 

And then Nick Watney tested positive after the opening day of the South Carolina event, the RBC Heritage. 

The PGA Tour’s house of cards started to flutter, however, the tournament continued with the players speaking about how much care was being taken around the course and venue. 

"Unfortunately, it had to happen to him," said Sergio Garcia, who had shared a private jet with Watney en route to Hilton Head.

"There’s a lot of other people that probably deserved it a lot more than him, and he’s the one that got it," added the Spaniard. 

Well we’re not privy to who might be on the 2017 Masters winner’s Covid list, however, the candidates would soon start to present themselves as the Tour moved onto week three – post Covid – the Travelers Championship in Connecticut last weekend. 

Graeme McDowell pulled out of the tournament as his caddie, Ken Comboy, contracted the virus, while Brooks Koepka followed suit as his Irish caddie Ricky Elliott tested positive. 

Koepka’s brother, Chase, pulled out as he had been in close proximity to a person with a positive test, and likewise Webb Simpson, as it appeared the players themselves were the ones acting most responsibly in the matter. 

Cameron Champ and Denny McCarthy withdrew after testing positive, while Bud Cauley, returned a negative test but pulled out for precautionary reasons. 

Remarkably, Jason Day requested a test midway through the tournament, and the PGA Tour scheduled the Australian to play by himself in the third round, provided he tested negative. 

Chad Campbell is the latest PGA Tour player to contract Covid and has pulled out of this week’s Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit.

Meanwhile, the second tier of the PGA Tour, the Korn Ferry Tour, was also hit with a spate of positive tests, which has firmly shone the spotlight back on the golfing world, and it remains to be seen where it goes from here. 

"We are now having 40-plus-thousand new cases a day, and I would not be surprised if we go up to 100,000 a day if this does not turn around, so I am very concerned," said the USA’s top infectious disease expert, Dr Anthony Fauci on Tuesday.

"We are going in the wrong direction," he added, as it was revealed that 37 of America’s 50 states have shown an increase in cases. 

Jabari Parker tested positive last week

Travel restrictions have now been placed on a lengthy list of states by New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, including California, Georgia, North Carolina, Nevada and Tennessee, which are all scheduled to host PGA Tour events ahead of September’s US Open at Winged Foot. 

But yet the show goes on, and the golfers will again tee it up at this week’s Detroit-based event. 

And while the PGA Tour look set to plough their own furrow through this pandemic, attention is now turning towards the return of the NBA Basketball play-offs. 

A special post-season play-off is planned, starting at the end of the month, with all games taking place in Walt Disney World in Florida. 

At least, there is some sense coming from the sport’s commissioner, Adam Silver, who said: "We are testing daily. We haven't put a precise number on it, but if we were to see a large number of cases and see spread in our community, that would of course be a cause to stop as well." 

Sixteen players from a pool of just over 300 tested positive last week, while three more were confirmed in New Orleans earlier this week. 

Silver remains confident that the play-offs will go ahead in the relative safety of the campus environment at the Florida resort, however, somewhere in the back of his mind, he must acknowledge that as things get going in Walt Disney Land, there is always the chance that it will turn into a Mickey Mouse event.