We do this weird thing in sports, where as a player is on their way out, we enjoy poking fun at the aging process right up until they’re gone. Once retirement comes along, then we wax poetic on our fondest memories from throughout their career. We’re seeing it with Kobe Bryant in a basketball sense. A more devastating example, however, has been our treatment of Lamar Odom.
At the time of my writing this (just after 1:00 AM PDT), Odom is still fighting for his life in a Las Vegas hospital. Based on reports surrounding him, there’s no guarantee he’ll make it through the night. Man, I hope those reports are exaggerations.
In recent years, the jokes about Odom’s involvement with the Kardashian family have piled on each other. I get it, I guess. Well, no, actually, I don’t, but whatever. As I was saying, though, it’s really easy to poke fun at someone without having any idea what that person might actually be going through. It’s easy to look at Kobe and laugh at how inefficient he’s become as the years have come and gone. It’s easy to see the millionaire athletes struggling and crack jokes primarily out of jealousy. But what happens when the story becomes too real?
That moment came Tuesday night, when we found out in the middle of the game that Lamar was reportedly found unconscious in a Las Vegas brothel with “terrible stuff” oozing from his mouth. As the stories came in, the jokes weren’t far behind. Granted, it came from a vast minority, but it’s pretty typical of how too many people think of professional athletes.
For some reason we see the feats of physical prowess and equate that to superhuman ability in coping with emotions. It simply isn’t true. I feel ridiculous pointing this out, but athletes are human, too. And someone like Lamar, who’s dealt with enough personal tragedy for several lifetimes (here’s Dave McNenamin to sum that up), would need to be superhuman simply to continue pushing forward. Thing is: he has to this point. The stories of his bringing joy to peoples’ lives are innumerable, despite whatever he had going on in his life at that specific moment.
Look, I’m not trying to act holier than thou. That’s not what this is about. How you take in your entertainment is on you. It still doesn’t feel like too much to ask to consider those sacrificing their physical bodies and all too often their privacy as people as you do so. After Tuesday’s game, none other than Kobe showed up at Lamar’s hospital, which somehow feels artistically right. There is the athlete (Kobe) gathering beside the person (Lamar). There is the athlete (Lamar), fighting for his life, as the person (Kobe) sits there next to him.
I could go back and remember Lamar, the player, but it just doesn’t feel right. He’s so much more than that, and as he fights for his life, easily the most important sentiment is to send positive thoughts and prayers to Lamar, the man, and his friends and family.