Pursuant of feelings
You could call me a scienceless monster, and I would wonder exactly what you picture when you say that. And then I would still relate the following anecdote to you, leaving you to judge for yourself who carries the lambs in this family.
This past week, Deadspin posted a link to a certain imaginary account of Len Bias's retirement. I found it quite moving, and left said gentleman a comment in which I expressed my admiration and further wept on the subject of this century's most powerful loss. If I ever came into possession of a time machine, after going back and pulling out Hitler's bladder with a fiery hoof, I would tend to the fancy business of saving Bias's life. I didn't feel like this in March, and I might not later this year, but for now that's where my priorities come to rest.
It then occurred to me that the entire universe labors under a central misconception about Bias's cocaine-induced passing. I attempt to share this on this dude's blog, but it has since disappeared from his comments section. Thus, it's getting its own post in the land of FD.
Although Bias is looked upon as a youthful tragedy, he's also been taken as an anti-drug poster child, with no less decent a writer than Bomani Jones having cast his death as the day casual coke use died. Compared to Reggie Lewis or Hank Gathers, whose untimely, cardiac-related ends were martyrdom at its most pure, Bias's legacy always has an undercurrent of darkness. His fate was the direct result of irresponsible behavior; it may have been the eighties, but a man who od's is surely in the throes of an especially sinister drive. Maybe he did too much that night, maybe he'd worn out over time, in either case Bias succumbed to his own demons.
Now, I'm not here to extol drug use, or try to downplay what the world learned from this most unfortunate of events. We need to be honest, though, about what Bias's overdose actually tells us about just how "guilty" he was for his own death. In some ways, Bias was as much a victim of congenital make-up as Lewis or Gathers. Granted, he opted to dabble in the white while his brothers in doom made no such risky decision. At the same time, however, the amount of cocaine it takes to fry a man's heart varies greatly from body to body. In elementary school, we were all scared stiff by the notion that under no uncertain terms, yoru first line of yay could drop you right then and there. It was Russian Roulette of the most bleak variety, a drug seemingly predestined to kill certain unwitting party-goers.
While this take was predictably histrionic, it is true that cocaine's ability to slaughter defies any across-the-board rhyme or reason. Overindulgence can go on unabated for decades, or suddenly decide one day to overwhelm a user who has settled into a comfortable routine. This could involve less than usual as readily as it could more, and Simmons is woefully misinformed if he feels some deep-seeded need to picture Bias reenacting the end of Scarface. Doing lots of the shit is still a bad idea, but a fate like Bias's is by no means proof of addiction or sickening hedonism. In fact, had Bias been born with a slightly different heart, the NBA might have had an altogether different, less complex, patron saint of coke and consequence.