Just this past Friday, at a local high school before a basketball game, there was a ceremony to retire the number of a former player who had died. He was a sophomore in college when he died. He had been a popular, well-liked student at the high school, but not the star of the team. He was just another player like the rest of his teammates. Normally a school would not retire a player's number unless he was an exceptional player or had been somehow inspirational to his classmates and community. Those criteria did not necessarily apply in this case. The young man's death was really his only claim to fame.
I got to thinking about all his fellow basketball players and all the other students just like him who are going about their lives without any special recognition. They are in college studying and working toward their future. Or they are in the work force already contributing to the community. Or perhaps they are in the armed forces serving their country. They are all still alive and doing what young people do at that age. They are not doing anything that might be considered heroic and their numbers are not being retired in a ceremony before a basketball game.
My point here is not to belittle the young man in question or to make light of his family's grief and tragic loss. It's just that knowing that the young man died because he got stinking drunk at a college bar, wandered outside in a drunken stupor, stumbled his way somehow to the shore of the river that runs through town, fell into the river and drowned, makes me wonder why they were celebrating his life and tragic death. There was nothing heroic in his life and certainly not in his death that would lead us to such a celebration.
Am I wrong in thinking that the wrong message may be sent to young people who are familiar with this story? That it's alright to drink yourself into insensiblity and die too soon so that everyone will think what a great guy you were. He did something incredibly stupid, risky, and iresponsible and is being feted for it. There is something terribly wrong with all this.