Joakim Noah – Hero or Zero?
This morning, one question rang in my mind as I contemplated the recent newsflash about Joakim Noah: “What makes a hero?” If you don’t count a submarine sandwich at Blimpie or Subway, the first place you might look is in the history books. Maybe even Hollywood (heaven forbid) or professional sports. They could be amongst us as ordinary people. Or you could watch that show on NBC, and maybe you’ll find some there. As I think about what makes a hero, the first person I had to look to was the fictional Superman himself (or for all you ladies out there, Superwoman). What more could you want in a hero – man of steel, super-sight, super-hearing, the ability to fly, and of course, the token suit that he wears. But even outside of the Superman suit, the man who originally played him on screen was a hero outside of life. And so I go to Christopher Reeve to define what a hero is: “A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles”.
Overwhelming obstacles… For Michael Jordan this was getting cut from the varsity High School basketball team. For Lance Armstrong it was recovering from cancer, and winning the Tour de France a record seven consecutive times. But unfortunately, for the Chicago Bulls rookie Joakim Noah, its getting caught drinking in public and possession of marijuana. The former Florida Gator superstar, who led them to 2 consecutive NCAA basketball championships, and who was picked in the 1st round of the NBA draft, is at a fork in the road of his life.
At one road stands Josh Hamilton, outfielder for the Texas Rangers. I can imagine Hamilton looking at Noah and telling him that all of the substance and alchohol abuse will catch up to him, and unless he makes drastic changes in his life, he’ll ultimately be destroyed. But Hamilton would push Noah on being persistant and doing the right thing, and he will stress that persistance will pay off. Hamilton has fully recovered and now leads the Major Leagues in RBI’s and is on a torrid streak towards this years MVP award. Hamilton’s story might be the feel good story in sports this year.
Noah next glances over to the second road, where the late Lenny Bias stands. Noah watches Bias and sees a young and arrogant athlete, and wonders if he is looking in the mirror. Bias tells him, “If you walk down this road like I did, you’ll be sorry”. Bias was in the same shoes as Noah back in the day. He was picked in the first round of the NBA draft in 1986, like Noah, but only to die of cardiac arrest after snorting cocaine.
There is one last fork in the road, and on the road stands Noah’s father, Yannick, the French Open tennis champion from 25 years ago. Yannick insists to his son that it is “no big deal” and “I’ve fooled around for 20 years and am still popular”. Perhaps we have found the influence to Joakim’s problems? Unfortunately, this fork in the road could be the most persuasive: his own father.
So will Joakim become a hero, or a zero? I’m sure some would say he already lost out on being a hero. But are any of us perfect? The real question I have to Joakim is if he chooses to “endure in spite of overwhelming circumstances”. Will it be Hamilton Road, Bias Boulevard, or Noah’s Way? All three lead to different directions, but the decision ultimately must be made by Joakim Noah…