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…



11 Responses to “Joakim Noah – Hero or Zero?”

  1. whoa, let’s not overreact here… walking around with a beer, and having a joint in your pocket is a far cry from your implication that he suffers from substance and alcohol abuse.

    i appreciate your opinion that he could ruin his life if he decides to make those a priority over his career, but as far as I’ve seen there’s no evidence that he has any sort of problem with abuse.

    i don’t know enough about joakim to speak to his character, but i think its a shame that he’s being dragged through the mud for something on par with getting caught speeding.

  2. twonateshow Says:

    I disagree with your position. We don’t see the sports section reporting all of the professional athletes who have received speeding tickets lately, have we? The last time I received a speeding ticket, I don’t remember being given 6 months probation for that offense. Was Noah only carrying a joint and holding an open container to play “tiddly-winks” with them? How many times does Noah need to get caught with a joint in his pocket before it is seen as substance abuse?

    Athletes such as Ricky Williams and Rashaad Salaam have shown similar patterns during their professional careers and look where they are now. And I’m warning Noah that if he continues this pattern of behavior, he might be in the same position, or worse…

    And my question to you is, how far does Noah have to go before you “know enough to speak to his character”? Does he have to commit murder to do this? Professional athletes get away with too many poor decisions. As far as him being dragged through the mud, my post was only a warning to him, and he signed up for this scrutiny when he accepted his $2 million+ salary.

    Whether or not we like to admit it, professional athletes are called to a higher standard by the fans and the media. Their lives are already in the fishbowl, and they are suppose to be role models. Carrying a joint in your pocket and walking around with an open container risks sending the wrong message to fans. I’m not out to defame Noah, but I’m out to say to him that he needs to be responsible for his actions, because he could ultimately lose his career.

    Thanks for your post, though, I appreciate your thoughts on the issue. Tomorrow we’ll have a post up about the Patriots and I’ll be interested to get your thoughts on that…

  3. Nate-I quite agree with your post that Noah should take a long, hard look in the mirror. Given that he was held in such high regard as a quality leader/morale boosting type of guy, this type of pub for him and the Bulls is less than flattering.

    And as for gavette’s assertion that a joint and open container of booze is no big deal…what IS a big deal, then? If the standards for character are set so low, then no one should be a hero at all, ESPECIALLY PRO ATHLETES!!!

    My hero of choice – Batman. Or Spidey. Or Iron Man (great movie…). Oh, and don’t forget Mr. Magoo! Funny guy, that Mr. Magoo…

  4. noah is neither a hero nor a zero… he’s most likely just a professional athlete who likes to party. I see nothing wrong with that.

    I ask, doing my best zach de la rocha impersonation, “is all the world jails and churches?”

  5. Is all the world? Nope.

    Is celebrity? Apparently. It’s a thin line. Some walk it well, some don’t. Not all who walk it well are righteous (a certain #23 qualifies here) and not all that don’t walk it well are sinners (for instance a media-shy Henry Aaron).

    But in exchange for the pub, the cash, the adoration you accept a certain amount A) scrutiny and B) social responsibility. Not saying it’s right (goodness knows we need to pick other people for our kids to admire) but that’s the way it is. And as such, you have to learn to walk the line or accept the excoriation that will come your way.

    If Joakim Noah doesn’t want to be Johnny Cash, that’s his choice. But to pretend that his lapse in judgment is no big deal (no matter how uncharacteristic or momentary that lapse might or might not have been) is to continue a disturbing trend that leaves no one accountable for anything they do. Pro jocks yesterday, pop stars today, everyone else tomorrow.

    The Dead Kennedy’s may have wanted Anarchy in the U.K., but we don’t need it amongst our “heroes.”

  6. So, what can you do about Joakim? I would venture a guess that unless you are someone he respects, or know someone he respects that can attempt to get through and explain the potential effects of his irresponsible conduct, both on a personal and public role model level, then there is nothing left to say. The kid has probably been catered to ever since he was found to have superpowers–er, I mean basketball skills and could pretty do whatever he wanted without suffering consequences. I’m sure he’s a little confused when he gets arrested for doing what he’s always done and it’s suddenly a big deal. It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) it doesn’t absolve him of responsibility but it may provide an explanation of his actions.

    To answer the question of Hero or Zero; ask me after his career ends. He certainly doesn’t have a great start, but therin lies huge hero potential.

  7. You’re really arguing against a straw man here. I am not saying he shouldn’t be held accountable. He is on 6 months probation which is precisely the amount of accountability that was deemed appropriate.

    What you want to do is demonize him above and beyond his determined sentence. That’s not accountability, it’s piling on.

    If you think he made a mistake, fine, but let’s not pretend this is some terrible person who is ruining his life and his career. He is not accountable to you just because you follow basketball and want him to be held accountable to you.

    He committed a very minor misdemeanor, he went to court and settled, the issue is closed. Who among us hasn’t committed a misdemeanor? Sure, most of us have never been caught, but most of us aren’t targeted by ambitious police officers with ulterior motives. I mean, if you’ve never committed a crime, then by all means cast the first stone, but you’re going to need a quarry to arm yourself with enough stones to go around.

    It’d be nice if America could learn to be realistic about it’s heroes. There are no angels and there are no demons, only humans. Everyone has their vices, and everyone makes mistakes. Apparently for most people that’s ok as long as the popular figure is good enough about lying and concealing their vices.

  8. I have to amend my earlier comment after (finally) reading the Chicago Tribune article. This was a fairly minor offense. Although not the best example, it wasn’t like he was beating up women, running dog fights or juggling kittens (a la “The Jerk’). Gavette is right that we (or maybe just me) might be piling on.

  9. Gavette –

    I don’t want to pile on the kid. I paid for my open beverage ticket back in the day at UGA, and as for assuming I’m better than Joakim Noah, I would never presume that.

    He pays his fine, does his service, I’m cool with that too.

    And as Chris pointed out, he’s probably been shielded from a lot of the natural repercussions of his actions for a long time.

    My issue was with the idea that it was no big deal. No, he didn’t murder his wife and her friend, no he didn’t forget to pay $400K worth of casino markers, and he certainly didn’t father children with 215 different women. If you want to put it on a sliding scale, go ahead. What concerns me is that we don’t hold athletes accountable for their mistakes.

    If you lower the bar for what you expect of people, then you shouldn’t be surprised when they disappoint you. Expect more. Expect better. Be gracious and forgiving when people err. Help lift them up and become a better person. But please, don’t criminal behavior into socially acceptable “antics.”

    If you do, you’d better be ready to apply that standard to everyone – OJ, MJ, DJ, and anyone else.

    I enjoy the back and forth, Gavette. It’s interesting to hear your take.

  10. twonateshow Says:

    Gavette, I agree with you that everyone makes mistakes (including me) as I said in the post that nobody is perfect. I’m just looking for a little accountability for someone who is being watched by many kids who could just as easily mimic what Noah did a few days ago. But my intention wasn’t to pile on him, just try and prove a point about accountability/consequence/choices. But the bottom line is that I am still waiting for you to give me my squished Meximelt from sophomore year. (remember the one you put in your back pocket and then realized you sat down on it and put it in someone’s glove compartment?)

  11. don’t worry, the meximelt will some day be found… i wonder who’s car that was. i also wonder who puts a meximelt in their back pocket… what was I thinking?

    as for noah, i think we’ve both stated our opinions pretty clearly and there’s no point in me repeating myself or pushing my opinion any further… but I enjoy the back and forth as well. On to the next post!

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