BY DIANE DIMOND
Can I just vent this week? Please? Thank you.
I am a sympathetic person; really, I am. But the excessive and fawning news coverage of former NBA player Lamar Odom’s illegal drug use and self-imposed near-death experience has been disgusting. To say the coverage has been excessive and out of proportion to its value as a news story is an understatement.
If this guy hadn’t played professional basketball or married into the camera-craving Kardashian clan we never would have heard about his recent medical emergency and every tiny detail about it.
Every single day — in cities across the nation — there are countless thousands of troubled people who succumb to illegal and prescription drug overdoses. People who live in despair and, oftentimes, grinding poverty with no hope of change. Maybe it was their hopelessness that led them to poison their own bodies or maybe they had a negligent childhood or one scarred by death or sexual abuse. We never hear about their backstories. Don’t these people count?
We rarely hear about those brave men and women of our military who come home psychically damaged after dodging bullets in Afghanistan or Iraq and turn to drugs to quiet their minds. There aren’t enough government programs for these heroes, and the sad fact is they often don’t seek treatment for fear it could damage their long-term goals. Don’t the troubles of these folks deserve some coverage?
Oh, you might hear occasional news about a former addict who found a way to break the cycle of treating their pain with illegal drugs. Maybe they went on to start a program to help others. But those news items are few and far between and nothing like the blow-by-blow recitation of the Lamar Odom story.
The nonstop details have been ugly. After years of reports about his infidelity and drug use Odom was found unconscious and foaming at the mouth in a brothel in Crystal, Nevada. He had, reportedly, spent more than 75 thousand dollars for a four-day stay.
Prostitutes, lots of booze and various kinds of drugs including cocaine were apparently part of his excellent weekend adventure. The 6-foot-10 Odom was too tall to fit into a medevac helicopter so he was driven to a hospital in Las Vegas where, reports say, he was put into a medically induced coma. Brain damage was mentioned. Khloe Kardashian, the wife who filed for divorce a couple years ago, was suddenly back at his side; paparazzi followed because, of course, that’s what happens when a reality-TV family has a crisis.
TV newscasts, front-page stories in major newspapers and magazines galore have written sympathetic stories about Lamar Odom. Poor guy. His mom died early; his dad was a heroin addict. The six-month-old son he had with a common-law wife died of sudden infant death syndrome. His cousin was murdered, and just this past June his best friend died of a heroin-induced infection from dirty needles.
Forgive me if I don’t bow down to the Altar of Odom. This man has certainly had some tragedy in his life (who hasn’t?), but he’s been given lots of opportunities. Check his history. You’ll see what I mean. Despite poor grades and an NCAA investigation into his suddenly improved marks (Odom refused to cooperate with investigators), he somehow got into college. He made the NBA but was suspended by the league — twice — for his marijuana use. There have been DUI arrests and other offenses that spit in the face of the chances he was afforded.
Certainly, Odom had a much more charmed life than all the others who overdosed on the same day. I’m betting none of them had $75,000 to blow on hookers and cocaine.
Don’t mistake what I say to mean that I don’t feel for Lamar Odom. I feel for him like I would for every other fellow human being whose suffering drives him to be dangerously reckless with his life. I only question why there has been so much coverage of his case and so little said about all the others. Life isn’t fair — that’s for sure — but good journalism should be.
Rockland resident Diane Dimond is a syndicated columnist, author, regular guest on TV news programs, and correspondent for Newsweek/Daily Beast. Visit her at www.DianeDimond.net or reach her via email Diane@DianeDimond.net