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— Jack Stallard is sports editor of the News-Journal. Email: jstallard@news-journal.com; follow on Twitter @lnjsports

In March of 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic was still relatively new, I detected a disturbing trend.

I actually called it an epidemic in a Facebook post – noting it seemed as though we were being overtaken by Super Jerks.

Regular Jerks I can handle, and we all know who I’m talking about.

They refuse to put a shopping cart in the allotted spot just a few feet from their vehicles after unloading their merchandise. They litter. They decide not to tip a waiter or waitress when their food isn’t prepared right, even though the waiter or waitress never stepped foot in the kitchen.

We’re never going to run out Regular Jerks, so I just give them a “Bless your heart” and move on.

The Super Jerk virus arrived about the same time as COVID-19, and it was a bit more troubling. Fortunately, the carriers were easy to spot.

The main symptom was negativity, but those infected with the Super Jerk virus also became hoarders of toilet paper and other products. They jacked up prices on critical items, and some – who had never played a sport or shed blood, sweat and tears to be part of a team — told our high school and college athletes to “just get over” losing entire seasons because of COVID-19.

The Super Jerk virus seems to pop up every time we need compassion or understanding due to a tragedy, traumatic event or even just a bad day. Ironically, I found the best way to fight the Super Jerk virus was to treat it the same way as COVID-19.

Social distancing.

I stay away from Negative Nancy and Doomsday Don, and I encourage you to do the same. Let them swim in their own cesspool of gloom.

Let them know you’re willing to throw them a lifeline if they promise to at least try to become part of the solution instead of being part of the problem, but don’t jump in the pool with them and become infected yourself.

I’ve been pretty good at handling the Super Jerk virus for more than a year now, but this past week it came to my attention East Texas has another serious problem that scares the heck out of me.

On Monday, we posted a story on our website about four more COVID-19 related deaths in Gregg County in a three-day span. One of the first comments was from someone spouting numbers and making sure everyone knew the number of deaths worldwide from COVID-19 was a small percentage – only 4.5 million people.

He actually said ONLY when talking about 4.5 million people who won’t be around to celebrate holidays, birthdays, graduations or the births of children or grandchildren this year. A lot of those folks are his East Texas neighbors.

A couple of days later, we published a letter to the editor from someone saying if an unvaccinated person dies from COVID-19, it’s a win-win situation for everyone because it frees up hospital beds. Oh, and she “could care less.”

At least she was honest. I can’t imagine anyone caring any less for their fellow humans than the person who penned that letter.

I get it folks.

We’re all tired of COVID-19. We’re tired of the sickness and the dying and the constant fighting between the mask/don’t mask, vaccinate/don’t vaccinate and the it’s real/it’s political crowds.

But when 4.5 million deaths doesn’t seem like a lot and the death of someone you disagree with becomes a source of joy for you, that’s a serious issue.

That’s a heart problem, and I’m not sure even the best cardiologists can fix it.

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— Jack Stallard is sports editor of the News-Journal. Email: jstallard@news-journal.com; follow on Twitter @lnjsports