Moments after the Los Angeles Lakers won the NBA Championship last week, Ron Artest gave a short post-game interview. With purple and gold confetti filling the air around him and Kool & the Gang’s “Celebrate” blaring from the loud speakers, Artest thanked an extensive list of folks. Mixed in with his family, friends, business associates and everyone from his ‘hood was Artest’s psychiatrist. “She really helped me relax a lot,” Artest shared with a nationwide audience.
Now that the Finals are over and the NBA draft has come and gone, it seems like the time is ripe to discuss Artest’s interview in a way that doesn’t just involve pointing at it and think “Boy, that guy sure is weird!” There won’t be any NBA news for a while, so we can shine a spotlight on why we should all admire Ron Artest beyond his athletic skill. It’s either this, or read the 205th article about what team LeBron James might sign with, and I know you’re probably as sick of that story as I am.
Behavior that’s, um, interesting…
You might be thinking that Ron Artest is the last person we should be spotlighting on this blog. Even casual sports fans know about the brawl he started four years ago in Detroit, the fight that saw him charge into the stands and throw haymakers at anyone who looked at him funny. He’s admitted to drinking cognac during halftime of games. He applied to work at Circuit City (a choice that itself demonstrates a lack of foresight) during his rookie year in the NBA so he could get the employee discount. There are reports of him riding the team bus to games in his underwear. No conversation about Artest is complete until someone says, “Man, that guy is insane.”
In fact, you too are probably thinking he’s “crazy.” And, based solely on his odd behavior over the years, you might be right. This is exactly why we need to talk about him.
We know very little about the man’s private life, but it’s obvious Artest has some issues to work through. We have no idea how complex they may be, and we don’t know when or even why he decided to seek help. Luckily, none of that is important.
What is important is that Artest is getting help. Either he or someone he trusts recognized that the man needed counseling, set up the appointment and followed through with it. And, lo and behold, it’s working. Or at least working well enough that Artest is willing to talk about it on a highly-rated national television broadcast.
No trash talking here
Sports radio commentators have been making fun of Artest and his interview for the last week, and this is a horrible message to send to listeners. Shouldn’t we celebrate the man for getting professional help and for being open about it? Why aren’t we?
Others have noticed the ongoing discourse over his comment as well, and are commenting on it in depth. I encourage you to follow these links; you’ll see that Menninger isn’t alone in the pursuit to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental illness (but then come back here and share your comments with us, deal?)