Thursday, July 8, 2010

Food For Thought

Tonight, "Lebronapalooza" finally comes to a close, when ESPN will televise a one hour broadcast in which Akron, Ohio native, and Cleveland Cavalier free agent Lebron James will announce which NBA team has earned the privilege of paying multiple millions of dollars to purchase his considerable talent. When one steps back and considers what is really important in life, it seems almost obscene that such a spectacle should be made of "King James'" decision. To his credit, James is reportedly donating all of the proceeds from the program to his favorite children's charity, The Boys and Girls Clubs of America, but really... let's think about this for a moment.

In a nation torn apart by partisan political bickering... where the economy is in the tank... where thousands of unborn babies are killed daily in what should be the safest place on earth (their mother's wombs)... where unemployment hovers near 10%... where millions of Americans are struggling to keep their homes, pay their bills, and meet their other obligations... where millions of gallons of crude oil are belching 24/7, unchecked, into the Gulf of Mexico and have already fouled the coastlines of all five Gulf Coast States, killed thousands of sea creatures and birds, and cost the livelihood of fishermen, merchants, and related businesses - countless Americans breathlessly await the answer to the all important question, "Where will Lebron go?"

We are an entertainment and sports gluttoned society. The 24 hour news cycle constantly bombards us with stories about the moral failures of Lindsey Lohan, Ben Rothlesberger, Tiger Woods, John Edwards and other celebs from Hollywood, Washington, and the sports world. They wouldn't report so much of this vile stuff, if we didn't have the proclivity for watching it. Like passers by at a terrible wreck along the highway, we can't seem to turn away, but we watch with a morbid curiosity.

So tonight, another sports millionaire gets richer. The James saga comes to a crescendo, and that will be the top story in all the newspapers and talk shows tomorrow morning. Then our attention will be turned elsewhere - to the next "big story". The beat, as they say, goes on.

Lost in all of the Lebron James news extravaganza, is a sad story out of Lexington, Kentucky about a former NBA first round draft choice.

Today Melvin Turpin apparently took his own life.

Many readers may say, "Who in the world is Melvin Turpin?"

Hard core college basketball fans, and ALL University of Kentucky Wildcat fans remember Mel Turpin.

The 6'11" Turpin, along with 7'1" teammate Sam Bowie, were the "Twin Towers" that led the Cats to three consecutive SEC regular season championships in the early 80's. He was an All American and All SEC player who averaged 15 points per game in 1983-84 and hit 74% of his shots from the field for Coach Joe B. Hall. He went sixth in the 1984 NBA draft, in a field which included Bowie, Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon and Charles Barkley. Ironically he was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers (who also drafted Lebron James straight out of high school) but Melvin was traded to the Washington Bullets. He later played for the Utah Jazz, but his career never hit the heights of some of his fellow first round picks.

Frankly, I had lost track of Turpin over the years since his basketball career had ended. The Lexington Herald Leader reported that he had been living in North Lexington and worked as a security guard at the UK Medical Center. Neighbors expressed shock at the news of his suicide, and characterized him as a quiet guy who always wore a smile. Apparently no one knew he was crying on the inside, and there is no known motive for his tragic action.

Tonight millions of boys will watch breathlessly as their present basketball hero signs a multimillion dollar contract. Mostly unnoticed is the death of an obscure security guard in Lexington, Kentucky, who a generation ago, helped fill up Rupp Arena, won All American honors, thrilled basketball fans in the Bluegrass State from the mountains to the Mississippi, and signed a big NBA contract. Today he took his own life.

Fame and talent are impressive. Celebrity is a fleeting thing. What are the lessons here?

I'll let you draw your own conclusions.

Food for thought.

(by the way, Lebron chose Miami)

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