Monday, July 6, 2009

Two More Fallen Heroes

I know that recently I had stated that I would not write articles that were too serious because I need a place that I could just write about the fun things. Not today. In two weeks time, two men that I admired have fallen, and I feel the need to say a little something about both.

The first was Michael Jackson. My cousin Ann was the first person to introduce me to Michael Jackson. She literally had an entire wall of her room from the ceiling to the floor covered with Michael Jackson posters, photos, and other memorabilia. At first, I wasn't that impressed. Mostly because I was 5. In March 1983, I can remember sitting with my cousin, grandmother and aunts, waiting anxiously to see the Jacksons. I can remember the exact moment I fell in love with Michael Jackson. When he Moonwalked across the stage, my heart belonged to Michael. I would tell anyone who would listen that I was going to be Mrs. Michael Jackson. My sister and I had matching Michael Jackson t-shirts, buttons, belts, gloves-I even had a Michael Jackson trapper keeper. I didn't have to by "Thriller" my cousin actually gave me her cassette. We would anxiously gather the tv to see the premeire of each new Michael Jackson video.

The first album I bought with my own money was Bad. It wasn't as good as Thriller, nor Off the Wall, but I didn't care. It was Michael Jackson, and after the "Smooth Criminal" video, I loved him even more. It was around the time of the "Leave me alone" video, that I began to find new crushes (Jr. High-go figure). George Michael (I was in Jr. High, and I did not know that gay did not just mean "happy."), Jon Bon Jovi, Denzel Washington, Phillip Michael Thomas (I was a weird child), Rod Woodson, Derrick Thomas (not so much a crush, as I liked to watch him crush people), Barry Word, you get the picture. To be honest with you, the Michael Jackson I was "in love" with disappeared with the Bad Album. He was starting to change dramatically.

The first time I saw the video to "Black or White," I'll admit that was my first thought about Michael himself. Then, came the allegations of child molestation, and I felt like a part of my childhood was ripped away from me. I am not at all embarrassed to say that I was very naive about a lot of things. Even today, like many of his fans, I find them hard to believe. Why you say? He paid the kid off. As a teacher, I have read many articles and watched many documentaries about pedophiles to try to see signs of abuse. I find it difficult to believe that a guy who was constantly surrounded by children would abuse one child for the first time when he is in his 30's, and then is able to control the tendencies for another 12 years before he touches another. Did he or didn't he? I don't know. I wasn't there, and with so many lies on both sides, no one but he and his victims will ever know the truth. About 5 years ago, around the 20th anniversary of Thriller, I bought updated versions of all of Michael's albums. All except Invinsible. I can't make myself like that album. The crush was long gone, but I still loved the music.

I am absolutely in love now with Twitter, so as usual, I was perusing my page when I saw the first Tweet about the death of Michael Jackson. It felt as if my heart had jumped into my throat. I couldn't believe it. I started googling, yahooing, and binging trying to find more information. I told my aunt, the same one who watched that special with me all those years ago, and she was devastated. He was only a year older than she. We watched hoping he was just sick, then slowly accepting that he was gone. I don't know how other people will remember Michael Jackson, and quite frankly, I don't care. Here was a kid who only wanted to make people happy who grew into a man who really didn't love himself. Many people blame his father, his mother, his handlers. I blame us. We the public built him up, and we the public tried to knock him down. He was never the same. If you ask me, I think he died a long time ago, and his body just finally gave out. If you hate him, that's fine you are entitled to your opinion, but don't poo-poo those of us who chose to admire the musician, the entertainer, and humanitarian and sympathize for a lost genius.

A little over a week later, my sister is checking her Facebook page and reads that Steve McNair was dead. The very idea was unbelievable. He was so young, I thought. Then, came the news of how he died. "Crazy, just crazy" was all I could say. I first heard about Steve "Air" McNair from my uncle who is a sports fanatic. The only crazier fan in the family is me. My uncle would travel to Lorman for every Alcorn State University home game. At the time, I like another purple and gold team-LSU (big Shaq fan). I wasn't that impressed with McNair the first time I saw him. It wasn't until he was drafted into the NFL that I became impressed with McNair. My uncle instantly became an Oilers fan, later a Titans fan actually travelling to see them play. I liked McNair because like Jerry Rice, he was ours. Let's be realistic here for a moment, I am from Mississippi. Most white football fans in Mississippi are diehard Farve fans, while the Black fans, are McNairs. I went to college in Hattiesburg (Farveland), and I never truly liked Farve, not because he was white, but because he went to USM and played for Green Bay.

I would watch Steve McNair play on Sundays many times astonished at this guy who was being held together by tape and rubber bands. I cannot say I was a diehard fan, but I did admire him. The only bad thing I can remember saying about him is that "The only fault I find in Steve McNair is that when he gives an interview, you can tell he is from Mount Olive, Mississippi." Don't worry I have the same problem with Favre. Even though not call myself a McNair fan (I love the Chiefs, and I was just starting to get over Joe Montana's retirement.), I still liked to watch and would root for McNair, because he always seemed to be the local game in our market. He was talented athlete and a descent person, especially during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and with the young children with his camps here in Mississippi and Nashville.

When we heard of his death, I was shocked. My uncle looked like he had lost his best friend. He seemed to walk in slow motion as we all gathered around the tv to "say it isn't so." But, it was, and the circumstances were worse than we could imagine. Shot dead with a woman who was not his wife. I felt sick to my stomach the rest of the night. My Fourth of July essentially ended when, the confirmation came from CNN. Each day since the news seems to be worse. Worse still are reading some of the comments written about him. What he did was morally wrong, and I do not agree with it. But, no one deserves to die for cheating on his wife. No one.

Here's my final word. No one in this world is perfect. No one. Not you, not me. Today, millions of people are going to gather in LA and in front of televisions around the world to say goodbye to Michael Jackson-the amazing thing is seeing children in war torn countries dancing to Jackson's music-united in music. A few days later, thousands will pay their respects to Steve McNair. I'm using my blog today to say thanks to both. Michael Jackson was the soundtrack to my childhood; Steve McNair was a fellow Mississippian who made good. I choose to remember all the good they have brought into this world, not just on the stage or the field, but to those who could not help themselves-the meek, the weak, the sick, and the displaced. I won't forget the negatives, the media will not let us. I choose not to judge these men on their flaws, which we all have. Both became lost somewhere along the way; they both played until their bodies gave out. Both died tragically, albeit one more violently. Both leave behind children and family members who will never truly understand the circumstances into which they have now been placed. May God Bless them all. Rest in peace, Michael and Steve from a grateful fan, Diana.

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