Opinion: Troubling social media reaction to Lamar Odom

Matt Poe

Professional athletes can be idolized as larger than life. We often forget these athletes we love watching week in and week out live very different lives off the field. As a society, we have become hastily ready to rush judgment onto athletes whose private matters become public. This certainly rings true with the recent events surrounding former NBA star Lamar Odom.

By now, almost everyone has read something about Odom’s recent hospitalization. The former 6’10’’ NBA star was hospitalized last week after he was found unconscious in a Nevada brothel.

Odom was said to have taken 10 herbal Viagra supplements along with cocaine and liquor during some point within his timespan at the brothel, according to the 911 dispatch call. He spent the next 72 hours on life support and eventually regained consciousness. Odom is now breathing on his own and has been transported back to Los Angeles to continue his recovery.

Odom’s incident and present recovery have been covered in two major news genres. Some read his story through the eyes of the tabloids and mainly know Odom through his marriage to Khloe Kardashian and his association with the Kardashian family. Others read about his incident through a traditional sports outlet because, after all, the man is a two-time NBA champion with the Los Angeles Lakers and had a very prominent basketball career.

Both of these general media outlets, tabloids and sports, covered the story in their respective, presumable manner. Tabloids have made the story out to be a reunion and wake-up call for Odom and Kardashian’s marriage as the two had been separated for some time. The sports world shed a different light on Odom, who is known as a generous man off the court and someone who would avoid the limelight and stick to basketball, which is almost impossible when married to a Kardashian.

However, many reactions on social media to Odom was severely troubling. When the story was first reported, many on social media jumped to forgone conclusions about how the Kardashians somehow influenced Odom’s addiction and whether they could use this event to benefit their reality television series.

Others proclaimed Odom as just another celebrity drug addict who doesn’t deserve the media coverage he’s garnered because he is wealthy, as if wealth directly correlates to a person’s desire or attempts to overcome addiction.

It is an alarming trend people have linked with toward sports figures. We build athletes up and put them on a pedastal as people who are larger than life and do not have real issues and problems like everyone else. Then when they experience any real personal issues, like Odom’s apparant drug addiction, we tear them back down with social media leading the cavalry.

American society arguably values professional sports more than any other society. The amount of time, money and emotional investment we commit to it can be unhealthy at times (this is coming from an avid sports junkie.) Nonetheless, Odom’s case in particular is one where we need to remind ourselves that our athletes are more than just athletes for our viewing pleasure.

Matt Poe is an opinion writer for The Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].