At the Precipice of the Lamar Odom Blame Game

Lamar OdomA very long time ago, moving between careers, my decision was to become an EMT for the City of New York. I worked on the streets as an EMT and then unwisely – or wisely, I went back to school full-time to become a paramedic. My territory was primarily Harlem and Spanish Harlem.

However owing to the fact that Manhattan is a place where the have’s, have-not’s and all those in-between are within feet or buildings of one another, there was never a typical evening nor a typical patient nor a typical situation. One call you could go to the 27th story of a million-dollar high-rise, the next call your patient could be living with rats in an abandoned subway tunnel.

I worked with incredible partners. I was a “fair” paramedic; some of my partners were amazing. One of my partners was on the first ambulance into the first World Trade Center bombing; another partner and former classmate, would go from being a paramedic to a firefighter; he died on 9/11. Sometimes there is no justice for good people; at least not on this earth.

Things we could not do

Here is what often tied together the very wealthy from the very poor and those of every race and religion, age and level of education: drugs. We treated them all. Sometimes we got lucky, we got to them in time and we knew what they had taken. There is a fine balance with a drug overdose. The human body is frail and fragile. It is the rubber-band that once snapped, is almost impossible to return to normal.

We treated big, strong athletes and those small and completely devoid of athletic ability. After a massive overdose and enough time passed before 9-1-1 was called, it made no difference. We did our best in such situations and it was never enough. Were there miracles? Frankly, no.

What we also could not do was to prevent it in the first place. There was no re-wind. We found most of them after the rubber band had snapped.

For a paramedic in a busy service, there is no time for mourning except many years after the fact. If you want your heart broken, try being a sports fan of limited ability and then go on a call as a paramedic where the drug OD is a real athlete.

A major difference between then and now is the social media and its first cousin, reality TV. I am an “old guy” with plenty of gray hair, wrinkles and saggy skin. Yet, I am not opposed to many of the aspects of the social media (obviously) or technology or change. It is inevitable. On the other hand, I have seen enough of life to know that most of it is a fake world.

This leads me to Lamar Odom.

The tragedies

I love working with Chuck Gallagher on Sports Ethics because Chuck is all about reality. Psychologists and psychiatrists are repeatedly warning us that social media is helping many young people (and old ones too) lose empathy. Many equate “Friends” and “Followers” and “Connections” with real friends and followers and connections.

Reality TV is not real. It is staged and artificial. We have created all kinds of Reality TV stars and made them very wealthy. We know almost nothing about them once the lights are turned off. What we do know is carefully filtered through publicists and the studios.

Lamar Odom is at the crossroads of fame, Reality TV and the social media. In the few days since his overdose, the examination of his life on the social media (and we guarantee, soon on Reality TV) is a tragedy on top of a tragedy.

We are puzzled, but not shocked at all of the mock tears and finger pointing. Where were his friends and followers and connections before the rubber band snapped? Most were busy collecting more friends and followers and connections.

However, this should not be about Lamar Odom; it should be about helping anyone descending into their personal valleys in an unreal age. It should be about better mental health programs and counseling and yes, ethical training.

On the social media, Reality TV and even music video stations it is so easy to see staged acts of physical attraction, sexual gyration, shaming and violence. What we don’t see is real emotional outreach and support. Many have become comfortable with being voyeurs; are we helping each other by being more human? There is a lot of “saying the right thing,” but how many are “doing the right thing?”

Lamar Odom’s fight is not a television program and it cannot be summed up in 140 keystrokes complete with hashtags. I don’t know his future; I just have a damn good hunch. I do know that a great number of people ripping his life one way or the other on social media should shut up. Anyone on Reality TV who will capitalize on his situation is reprehensible.

If you are an athlete or coach or a sports executive and you personally know of a teammate who is having problems with drugs, help them. Get off your mobile device and help them. For this much we know: the snapped rubber band is almost impossible to fix. Take a chance. Help them.


Sports Ethics LLC  (828) 244-1400



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