Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Who Do You Love?

I haven’t written anything guaranteed to send me to hell lately. What better time than Christmas week to break the skid?

Chris Henry died last week after falling out of the back of a moving pickup truck driven by his fiancé. For those of you who are not football fans or crime reporters, Henry was a wide receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals who had a brief and—to put it mildly—checkered career.

His NFL record is undistinguished. He caught 36 passes in his best year; the league leader is usually around or above 100. He last scored more than two touchdowns in a season in 2006, when he had nine, which is a considerable number.

Henry would have had better stats had he been able to stay on the field; he never played in all 16 games of a season. Far more impressive than his on-field accomplishments is his rap sheet:

December 15, 2005 – Stopped for speeding. Had no valid license or insurance. Marijuana found in his shoe. Pleaded guilty; no jail time.

January 30, 2006 – Arrested on multiple gun charges, including concealment and aggravated assault with a firearm. Pleaded guilty; no jail time.

April 29, 2006 – Allowed three underage females (18, 16, and 15) to consume alcohol at a hotel. Pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and sentenced to 90 days; served two. (That’s right: two.)

June 3, 2006 – Stopped for erratic driving; failed breathalyzer.

November 6, 2007 – Allegedly assaulted a valet parking attendant. Found not guilty at trial.

March 31, 2008 – Punched a man and threw a beer bottle through his car window. Henry later claimed it was a case of mistaken identity; he thought the man was someone else who owed him money. Sentenced to house arrest.

The past eighteen months had been relatively quiet for Henry. There were reports he wanted to clean up his act, and had done so. On the other hand, a 911 call received the day of the fatal accident describes him “with no shirt on, and he's got his arm in a cast on the back of the moving truck…beating on the back of this truck window... I don't know if he's trying to break in or something. It just looks crazy. It's a girl driving it."

No one but his fiancé knows what went on during the preceding domestic disturbance, but what we do know doesn’t sound like someone who had made material changes from his previous conduct.

Why do I care about this? Mostly it’s because of the outpouring of grief over another life wasted. Please. Chris Henry had done a hell of a job of wasting his life all by himself long before this unfortunate episode. A lot of people died that day; he was just one of them.

Am I glad he’s dead? Of course not. I’m not feeling bad about it, either. I didn’t know Chris Henry. From what I know of him, I’m okay with that hole in my life. I do know my daughter’s boyfriend’s father, who was just diagnosed with colon cancer at 51, in large part because no one bothered to mention to him that it ran in the family. My Beloved Spouse’s best friend’s mother broke her hip. My mother may have had a small stroke a couple of weeks ago. These are people I know (and in my mother’s case, love) who did nothing to contribute to their misfortunes. These are who I feel for today.

I sometimes wonder how many people who shed tears over Chris Henry, Dale Earnhardt, Kurt Cobain, or Heath Ledger have someone close to them who is in need. Maybe it’s a health problem. Maybe they’ve been laid off and don’t have a pot to piss in. And their families are sending flowers and making contributions in the name of someone they didn’t know, never met, and who might well not deign to say hello if they met on the street.

I’ll never understand it. But thinking about this makes it a lot easier to understand how things are as fucked up as they are.

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