8.22.2007

Eddie Grffin, Rest in Peace



As I believe has been reported on this site at some point, I once had a fantasy basketball team named, “The Troubled Griffin,” a fact which makes me feel like kind of a dick today. The moniker was never meant to make fun of Eddie Griffin or his very real troubles, but rather the uncreative sports media that couldn’t seem to mention his name without also mentioning his troubles. But, as has become painfully clear, his troubles dominated his life and ultimately consumed him, so perhaps it was appropriate (or at least accurate) that we fans were never allowed to see him another way.

Since the one thing most basketball fans know about Eddie Griffin is that he was really fucked up, it’s surprising to me to read some of the takes I’ve seen from the MSM this morning (okay, really just the takes proffered in this column). The familiar axis of NBA evil is dragged out once again: a mercenary high school and amateur basketball system, leaving college early, a lack of male authority figures in the black community, having a posse, etc. I’m frankly offended that the real cause of Griffin’s troubles is nowhere to be found—that he clearly suffered from mental illness. The tragic fact of his story is that, even with all of the financial advantages accorded an NBA player, Griffin couldn’t get the help he needed.

Granted, Griffin’s recluctance to get help played a role, as did the deference he was given from an early age as a basketball prodigy, but the point remains that many people in this country in situations completely dissimilar from Griffin’s suffer from mental illness that is not identified and treated adequately. The unwillingness of people to even discuss this issue in this case illustrates how far we as a society have to go in the way we deal with mental illness.

As a postscript, I want to make it clear that I’m not absolving Griffin of personal responsibility, but to some extent, blaming Eddie Griffin for not cleaning up his act and becoming a stand-up citizen is equivalent to asking someone with Parkinson’s if they could please stop twitching all the time.

20 Comments:

At 8/22/2007 12:08 PM, Anonymous Cyanide said...

but to some extent, blaming Eddie Griffin for not cleaning up his act and becoming a stand-up citizen is equivalent to asking someone with Parkinson’s if they could please stop twitching all the time.

Bold statement there. Not trying to call you out or anything, I agree with the base premise of the post very much, but do you know for sure anymore about his mental state and environment other than him having a history of violence and alcoholism? Taking those things and proclaiming some sort of diagnosis of severe mental illness that he wasn't able to get proper treatment for is more than a bit of a reach, especially when comparing it to a neurophysical disorder like Parkinson's.

 
At 8/22/2007 12:19 PM, Anonymous Laphonso said...

That was Recluse's point exactly-that depression IS a neurophysical disorder. I think that most people with a "history of violence and alcoholism" are clearly not mentally healthy, whether they can be clinically diagnosed as depressed or not.

 
At 8/22/2007 12:20 PM, Blogger Bongo said...

I agree the Adande article was crap. I was surprised that Henry Abbott linked to out and called it "terrific", although who knows if he actually believes that or if its an ESPN thing. I thought it was short-sighted and reeked of a fruitless search for good/bad morality and a desire to put blame somewhere. Pissed me off.

 
At 8/22/2007 12:36 PM, Anonymous Cyanide said...

Yeah, I guess the more I think about it, I agree more than I originally though. I dunno, I just have a hard time with the idea that violent people or addicts are victims of mental illness and not just bad apples who chronically make bad decisions being brought out whenever it's for a convenient figure.

 
At 8/22/2007 12:39 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

read some of the stories on griffin out today. everyone who dealt with him remembers him as shy and kind. he never went out, drank in secret alone. and any time you've got people hinting that the guy might finally be at peace. . . i think it's safe to say you're not just dealing with your garden variety knucklehead.

 
At 8/22/2007 12:43 PM, Blogger stopmikelupica said...

Hey Brown Recluse: Great post. I agree with the accessment that mental illness probably played a bigger role in Griffin's life. I also was unhappy with Adande's articles, particularly when he implies that players should be locked up in an effort to get them to leave their posses behind, and that posses are why players get in trouble. I guess I've been misinterpreting Entourage all these seasons, huh? Maybe if someone did an athlete version of Entourage, called Posse, but with the same light hearted MO...

And I don't remember any articles about Josh Hancock's death that tried to link his death to his social background, his being signed to a contract at an early age, who he hangs out with (like noted DUIer Tony LaRussa and noted drug addict Spiezio), etc.

 
At 8/22/2007 1:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

anymore hard evidence that he suffered and was treated for clinical depression or other mental illnesses that you might find in the DSM IV?

I'm still putting him in the "knucklehead" category, but I may be very wrong. I haven't spent a lot of time thinking about Eddie Griffin since he got in a fight at Assembly Hall. (Didn't he get in a fight with Dee Brown too?)

 
At 8/22/2007 2:01 PM, Anonymous The Raccoon said...

I don't have time to look for cites write now, but I distinctly remember hearing about Griffin being treated for depression very early in his career. I took special note of it because one of my academic interests is mental illness and its perception within the african american community.

 
At 8/22/2007 2:04 PM, Blogger seezmeezy said...

i think sml's comment about "entourage" vs. "posse" highlights a very important point, and that's the issue of language when the media discusses super-star athletes' troubles.

for example, vin baker's battle with alcoholism has been well-documented. another tag always associated with his troubles was "clinical depression." adande suggests that griffin was "unstable"and his actions were "self-destructive."

so does vin baker get the kid glove semantics because he's a jazz musician with a drinking problem, whereas griffin gets the tough talk lawyer speak because he has a history of violence?

 
At 8/22/2007 2:05 PM, Anonymous the raccoon said...

actually here it is.

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?sec=health&res=9907E5DC103EF933A05751C1A9659C8B63

its as specific as you can get in media coverage

 
At 8/22/2007 2:23 PM, Anonymous matt said...

I didn't know you, Eddie, but RIP. I hope for my sake that your talent and your misery weren't connected. I hope for your sake the pain is gone.

I don't know why it's so hard for us as a culture to identify with people who embody our fears of ourselves. I always hope this kind of tragedy might help, but the worst thing about tragedy is that actual, galvanized change almost never results from it.

 
At 8/22/2007 3:08 PM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

raccoon--thanks for the link to the new york times piece. i'd definitely be interested in hearing what you think about eddie griffin, given your academic interests.

over at truehoop, henry has a take on this that focuses on addiction, but i think it's still missing the point. there's a lot of this can-do american spirit going around today. people seem to be buying into the notion that if eddie griffin were just more "mentally tough" (or if he found jesus!!!!), he could've forced these demons out of his life. i personally have a lot of trouble with that for a lot of reasons.

 
At 8/22/2007 3:45 PM, Blogger Pichi Campana Aguanta said...

Just want to add my RIP for Griffin.

When I read the news yesterday I was as stunned as I've been about anything. And the use of "Troubled Griffin" in the headlines for the various news outlets is inevitable and sad as well:

http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&safe=off&q=%22troubled+griffin%22&btnG=Search

The fact that the horrible ending to his life seemed so scripted, (and as Shoals just pointed out in an IM conversation: even burning alive to complete the metaphor), makes it all the more unsettling.

 
At 8/22/2007 4:02 PM, Anonymous the raccoon said...

Some of this is intuitive, but here's the perspective I can offer...
While much of white america has embraced (perhaps excessively) the language and culture of psychiatry, black america has been very reluctant to do so. By this I mean that seeking pharmacuetical treatment or therapy for depression (or bipolar) is readily accepted amongst many white american (and perhaps even chic among some groups), it still has a real stigma in the african american community. Studies consistently find that the majority african americans don't acknowledge a biological basis for anything short of schizophrenia. Illnesses such as depression are viewed as character weaknesses, and in men might be viewed as un-masculine.

This remoteness from the very concept of mental health treatment is reflected in Griffin's documented rejection of treatment. For Griffin, to reject anti-depressants is a powerful demonstration of this stigma - because those drugs would have made him FEEL much better almost immediately. This also highlights that treating mental illness in african americans (or other minorities) isn't a problem of access but an issue of cultural competency. (so all those social sciences aren't useless after all).

In a cruel twist, recent studies measuring stress hormones suggest that the effect of going through a day as an african american teenager is similar qualitatively to having PTSD. (these are not perfect studies, if anyone wants citations they can email me). So somebody like griffin who faces clinical depression (or possibly Bipolar) would find it that much harder to cope because of the daily stressors of being black in our society.

Disclaimer - I am not an expert. I'm a soon-to-be grad student who works on the hard biology side of this sort of stuff. This is just from my unguided readings...

akmada%manchi%@gmail (without the %'s and with a .com)

 
At 8/22/2007 4:28 PM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

thanks for that, raccoon. i really appreciate your perspective. there's an interesting disconnect there with taking anti-depressants being frowned upon, but self-medication (with alcohol, weed, heroin, what have you) being fairly prevalent among people who might be diagnosed with mental illness.

that PTSD study kind of blows my mind.

 
At 8/22/2007 4:30 PM, Blogger S-Love said...

I've seen it all lately. First, there's the freelance pallbearing for Henry Aaron when he's not even dead (all to make it easier to hate Bonds). Now there's Adande pissing on the grave of someone not yet buried.

 
At 8/22/2007 4:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks raccoon. that is interesting stuff. But it almost seems to complicate matters more. So he suffered from clinical depression, but may have refused treatment? I have a (white) good friend who is bipolar ex major college football player who didn't take his drugs for awhile because he didn't like them and got into a heap of trouble. His illness absolves him somewhat (and got him out of paying most of the consequences for his trouble), but he was a bit of a knucklehead for not taking them. I'm still tempted to call the millionaire catholic schooled Griffin the same.

But, I throw my hands up and will submit a giant "I have no f*ckin' idea" about the Eddie Griffin situation.

 
At 8/22/2007 4:48 PM, Anonymous the raccoon said...

in response to a few emails, I want to hedge a little bit on the PTSD suff...

I was somewhat in a hurry, and I was sloppy in the wording.

To be specific, cortisone levels change throughout the day in everyone. The pattern of diurnal cortisone levels is fundamentally different in african american teens than it is in their white counterparts. And they seem to suggest that black teens face a qualitatively different level of 'stress' daily than their white counterparts. Those patterns share similarities to similar things in some PTSD patients. Nobody has really compared the two.

There could be biological explanations for this but they don't seem likely to me. And there is a lot of literature that describes the health consequences of facing stress daily.

I'm sorry if that was misleading. and I apologize for hijacking.

 
At 8/22/2007 7:43 PM, Blogger Trey said...

Coming from a Rockets fan who had a few hopes hinged on Griffin becoming a star, it's still sad to see a young man go so soon no matter his problems.

R.I.P. E.G.

 
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