Trading places with a superstar

By Staff Writer
October 16, 2003

Try to make yourself 25 years old. Now become fabulously rich, globally popular and supremely gifted with a beautiful wife and a healthy new daughter.

You’re already experiencing an imagination overload, but try.

Next, admit publicly to cheating on your beautiful wife, and stand accused of a crime that could get you locked up for life. Remember, most people think you’re innocent of the crime, and you can afford the best lawyers in the world to defend you at a time when fame can get a man elected governor of California.

You’re black, bilingual, intelligent and articulate. You’ve been raised in an upper middle class family and the only previous problem you’ve ever had with the law was an unpaid speeding ticket.

Do you want to be that person? Would you trade lives with Kobe Bryant?

Not today, obviously, because you just had the worst day of your life. But after the trial and for as long as you live? Think about it. Your answer might tell you how you really feel about pro athletes.

Some of you will say that Kobe Bryant was in a courtroom Thursday because he was rich and famous, and some of you will say he was there in spite of that. Most of you probably expect him to walk.

None of you wants to be in Bryant’s shoes for the next six months or so, but if he’s acquitted, he’ll still be fabulously rich and supremely gifted with a beautiful wife and a healthy daughter. Maybe a little less popular than before, but with hundreds of thousands of people he doesn’t know still praising him. See if Bryant doesn’t get a standing ovation the first time he steps on to the Los Angeles Lakers’ home floor.

“To be honest with you, I’d much rather play basketball and not be famous,” Bryant told reporters this week. “I’d rather do something else that I love doing, getting paid well and do it and being married to my wife and raise our children without anybody bothering us when we go out in public or everybody scrutinizing every little detail, and everybody making up rumors about our lives.”

Bryant wants it both ways. He’d take the money without the fame, as if one didn’t flow directly from the other. The pros discovered a long time ago that privacy is the tradeoff for privilege, and Bryant seems to think he should have both.

Of course, that’s how you’d feel, too, if you were Kobe Bryant, but you’re not. You’re used to living your life without attracting much notice from strangers. Would you be willing to have your mistakes magnified along with your accomplishments? Would that depend on how much it paid?

You might answer that you wouldn’t have been in that hotel room with a 19-year-old in the first place, and there would be no arguing with that. But athletes make bad decisions every day on topics that hardly ever come up for the rest of us. How would you do with that if you were Kobe Bryant?

So here you are in a courtroom facing the biggest competition of your life, with your reputation, freedom and livelihood at risk if you lose, and a fairy tale existence of wealth, fame and power to resume in the more likely event that you’ll win.

Would you take a chance and trade places with Kobe Bryant? And would he trade with you after losing 15 pounds to stress, becoming the target of thousands of racist morons, and knowing his life will never be quite as golden as it was six months ago?

But his can still be awfully good, much better anyway than the one his accuser can look forward to.

I’m guessing you wouldn’t trade, but I’m wondering if you have children who might. Maybe you should ask them.

Posted to the web by Angelina Wagner

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