By Demarcus Robinson (Slightly Factual)
I’m only 23 years old, but I’ve gone through my fair share of woeful events.
Within the last few years I’ve dealt with my dad being on the edge of death on two occasions. The first occurred in December of ’07 while I was in my dorm room, alone, during finals week. I received a late-night call from my mom telling me my dad had a heart attack while at work. Hearing that one simple statement immediately made my eyes swell with tears. It only took her a second or two to tell me he was still with us, and had been taken to the hospital. In the brief moment of silence my mind darted to the possibility of my dad dying, and that brought more tears to fight back. I’m not sure if my mom could tell in my voice that I was having serious trouble not breaking down on the phone, but it’s exactly what happened as soon as the call ended. No one ever saw those tears though, and I soldiered on as best I could. I even managed to hang out with some friends that night after I told them what happened, because they begged me to be around them to free my mind. I was there physically, but my mind was elsewhere.
My dad ended up recovering from his heart attack, but the damage had been done. A hereditary heart problem, plus serious heart trauma, meant he would eventually need a transplant. At first he was given a pacemaker which worked just fine, but he would soon need an upgrade device. The procedures were simple and didn’t really alarm me. I wasn’t around for his upgrade surgery because another school year was underway, and I was now living in an apartment with two friends. I awaited a call from home on the day of his surgery to tell me if the new device was successfully put in.
Once again I received a call from my mom which made everything stop. Something had gone wrong during the surgery and my dad stopped breathing. He had to be resuscitated, and the surgery was aborted. Once again tears flowed that night. In the aftermath of the surgery he was given a device that literally kept him alive through battery power. He was so weakened from those events that he spent 43 days in the hospital. For those 43 days, I cried myself to sleep nearly every night. None of my friends knew exactly what I was going through, not even my roommates. I told them the general details, but never how I was doing. I went to class everyday, and kept doing what I had to do. As soon as the day was over and my head hit the pillow, I just let it all out.
After my dad left the hospital things regained a bit of normalcy, but now I feared late night phone calls from home, and I still do. Eventually December rolled around again, and we received a very early morning phone call from the hospital on New Years Eve. I was home this time, and knew that it was a different type of news. Doctors told us to get ready and head to the hospital, a heart had been found. I helped my parents get ready, as well as my aunt who was visiting. I stayed back from the trip, because I knew it would be an all day ordeal, and I knew there was nothing I could do. Other family members would be there, and it would be a bit crowded. Instead I made a trip to spend the day with some friends. I never told them what was going on, but sometime shortly before midnight or after I got the text telling me everything went perfectly. Oddly enough the heart transplant was the easiest time for me and my family. My dad was in and out in seven days.
That was a little over three years ago, and my dad has been back to work for a while. He just had a health hiccup recently that required a three-week hospital stay, but it was nothing compared to past times. He’s recovering well now.
I spoke of hardships, and the previous things have only been the most recent. A quick rundown of some other things, but not everything by any means. My favorite aunt who was like a second mother to me died before I was 10, followed by my favorite uncle when I was about 13. Two of my older cousins, who were brothers, were shot to death within one year each other. This happened during my senior year of high school, and first year of college. Another cousin died of illness a year before that. All of my grandparents have passed away already. One of my sisters, my oldest, has battled drug addiction for nearly my whole life. I fear for my older brother at times, because he’s involved in the street life and has been shot once already.
Would money have prevented all of these things from happening? No, absolutely not. These are all things for which money has no answer. I, like many others, would love to have access to more money, but not because I think it would wipe away hurtful things. It wipes away bills and some struggles in life, but it doesn’t make you immune to being beaten down by the realities of life.
What’s the point of me putting all of this out there? The point is I look at the commentary about Lamar Odom, and much of it sickens me. It all comes down to money for many people, and it’s why they won’t bestow any empathy upon him. I wanted to give you a quick view of some of the things I’ve been through, because I know there are things in there that someone somewhere can relate to. They relate to those things because they’re tough things to go through, and not because my bank account is similar to or less than theirs.
Odom, like me and others, has gone through some difficult situations throughout his life. His mom died when he was 12, and his grandmother who raised him died in 2004. His infant son died in 2006. One of his cousins died last year. Also last year, Odom was a passenger in a car that had an accident with a motorcycle which then hit a 15 yr old who later died. I’m sure there are other things that he’s dealt with in his life and during his time in the NBA. It has been said by some that Odom never really took time for himself to decompress after another round of personal tragedies last year. I think this is something he desperately needed to do, because he doesn’t have one of the luxuries that I have. He’s not allowed to deal with life altering occurrences outside of the public eye. People look at him as a brand, player and celebrity before they look at him as a person. They say he has millions ($) of reasons to get on with his life and just do his damn job. The same people who don’t think twice about giving a co-worker a little leeway to grieve, are the same people ready to throw Lamar Odom to the wolves. To them he’s a spoiled athlete who threw a fit because he got traded. To them he’s a sulking millionaire that has stolen from the Dallas Mavericks. Even some of Odom’s former colleagues think he should just suck it up, and go to work.
I say to them, you’re only partially wrong or maybe partially right. Lamar Odom is not a spoiled brat who’s throwing a fit, but he is a wounded man that’s letting his tragedies greatly affect his work. You may point to his time with the Lakers as evidence that Odom is indeed capable of leaving his baggage at home and performing his job to the fullest. This would be a correct assertion. This assertion though, would lead you to believe his Dallas performance is based completely on his dislike of the trade. You would be wrong here, but not completely. Odom did not want to leave the Lakers, and therefore he was unhappy that he was dealt to the Mavericks. His poor play has not been in defiance of the trade though. His poor play shows that once you settle into a groove and create a routine, you can push your personal demons to the side. He loved being a Laker, because being a Laker meant he had a secondary family. I’ve read reports of Odom being the locker-room glue, and the guy that initiated a sense of camaraderie. He was the guy that scheduled team dinners and hangouts.
When Lamar went to Dallas all of his regularity was shattered. He was in a new city, setting and amongst new peers. Sure he knew these guys, because he played against them all the time, but it’s just not the same. Add to that the things he went through in 2011 which were on top of previous tragedies, and Odom just shut down. Maybe he did it subconsciously or maybe he did it knowingly. Either way it came about, I don’t think it was malicious in intent. He didn’t go to Dallas to hurt the team or its fans, but that’s what happened. At the end of the day both sides have lost. Odom has lost himself and the respect of some for a while. Dallas has lost money and a player who was supposed to be a major contributor. Mark Cuban is allowed to be angry, and so are the Dallas players and fans. But I do think they all can be angry while still being empathetic. Just because a person does something that angers you doesn’t mean you can’t put yourself in their shoes and identify with them. If Odom had done this as a Chicago Bull, I would be really angry, but I’d still understand why.
I know people will point to other players who have dealt with things in different ways, but it doesn’t matter. Every player is different, because every person is different.
I hope Lamar is able to repair his image next season, and return to being a productive player. I hope nothing else tragic happens in his life. I hope the Mavericks are able to work things out with him, and if not, move him for something of value. Both sides are losing and both sides deserve better. The main thing I hope for is a level of understanding from the masses. It’s not necessary to dehumanize those who we don’t have uninhibited access to. Stars have money, and stars have problems. The heartbreaking things that happen to us still happen to them. Money doesn’t make everything right.