Jason Gibbs | Reflections on Kobe, Sports Stars and Politics

Commentary

People often ask where my inspiration for topics and issues comes from when I sit down to write these columns. 

Turn on any news station for five minutes and there are plenty of the “world is ending” segments being pontificated that seem to necessitate the need for real-fact discussion, or at least a less emotional response to matters that deserve more than a headline analysis. 

After the State of the Union Speech this week, there have been thousands of articles and commentaries pouring out to discuss the, apparently, two most significant points of the event: President Trump not shaking Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s hand and Pelosi ripping up the speech at the end of the night. 

But today, it is not the apparent immaturity of our current statesmen that weighs heavily on my mind, but the tragic loss of Los Angeles sports icon Kobe Bryant, along with his daughter and seven other helicopter passengers who lost their lives just over a week ago.

With any sports superstar, their lives unequivocally get valued on what happens at their place of business. Mr. Bryant’s 81-point game against the Toronto Raptors in 2006 was a show not soon to be repeated. 

Eighteen All-Star Game appearances, five championship rings, and a 20-year career here in Los Angeles will undoubtedly bring about a statue at the Star Plaza to join the likes of Magic Johnson, Chick Hearn, and Shaquille O’Neal. 

Off the court, philanthropy and charity from Mr. Bryant were often omitted from discussion, and new outlets reported on tawdry but damaging personal and family situations. 

However, it is not my personal reflection on Mr. Bryant’s life that causes me pause (as there are people far more qualified to provide a proper and deserving eulogy), but the callous and disconnected comments and memes that flowed from the fingers of unfaced individuals after his passing.

Even when reports had not yet been confirmed about the loss of these nine individuals, commentary and opinions surfaced meant to politicize this event for their own moral conquests. 

“He just played basketball, what’s so special about him?”

“We care when a sports star dies, but why don’t we care about the other people in the helicopter?” 

“Why do we not grieve like this when our soldiers die overseas in places we have never heard of?”

The old expression, “Never let a good tragedy go to waste,” was on full display.

All of those questions do deserve a real discussion, but not on the backs of Kobe, his daughter Gianna, and seven other men, women and children who lost their lives that day. 

If we want answers to the politicized questions above, then try answering them without politics! 

Learn the importance and impact sports stars have on our lives from more than a highlight reel, but from the countless hours they spent learning and perfecting a craft, honing and expanding their capabilities, and be amazed at how a seemingly benign talent can provide hope to those who are searching for it. 

Take the time to learn what our soldiers are fighting for, what is happening in those reaches of the world, and make sure they are fighting battles that are not simply political point-scoring exercises, but for righteous, moral and constitutional reasons. 

Then, when we read of their loss and passing, we will all reflect on those who serve this country with honor and gratitude, and not disdain or disinterest. 

It seems to be in our nature to let politics, misapplied guilt, or unethical misuse of terrible tragedies, overshadow what we all know, deep down, how to do: show compassion, empathy and love. 

Why do we let ourselves become hypnotized, jaded and consumed by a labyrinth of unnecessary complexity when it comes to loss? 

Kobe Bryant was the millennial generation’s Michael Jordan. He inspired and instilled passion, determination, and the never-ending quest for greatness into young girls and boys around the world. 

But like many of us, when you strip away the spotlight and glory that he earned in his sports career, you find that we all are more like Kobe than we realize. 

He was a son, a father, a husband. He undoubtedly loved his family and children. 

He failed and succeeded, sinned and repented, and as we all do, he strived to do great things in his world. 

We all want to leave a better world for our children, to find happiness and relevance in our lives. 

Kobe was not just a sports star, he was you and me. 

Jason Gibbs is a Santa Clarita resident. “Right Here, Right Now” appears Saturdays and rotates among several local Republicans.

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