The Steele Drum

August 26, 2009 3:06 PM

The Man, the Myths and the Beas

The tale of Michael Beasley’s recent entrance into a rehab facility, a little over a month before the start of training camp for his second NBA season, has turned out to be both far less and far more than what was originally assumed and reported.

Much has happened to clear the picture up, so we likely can stop blaming Twitter, and stop praising Twitter. We can shut up about this being proof that ballplayers need to go to college, and about spoiled millionaires not appreciating how lucky they are. We should give up on the insta-cyber-polls about what the Miami Heat “should do about him,’’ and on the debate over whether he is a future All-Star or current bust.

In short, time to stop turning 20-year-old Michael Beasley, of Seat Pleasant, Md., into a cautionary tale, and to turn him back into a flesh-and-blood person.

Unfortunately, we probably can’t put that genie back into the bottle. Too many people have already decided what Beasley represents, what he symbolizes, what he means to whatever picture those people happen to be painting. It takes a lot more effort and empathy to see Beasley as a kid who has been troubled for a long time, and is still troubled (specifically, based on the most recent reports, with a substance-abuse problem), and whose instant riches, with the accompanying increased attention and responsibility, haven’t erased those troubles.

It’s an occupational hazard for young men in Beasley’s demographic – not to mention many other demographics – and how he comes out of it will depend largely on who is willing to do what needs to be done for him. For certain, it will take more than a nation of cynics shouting, “You’re a pro, grow up!’’ If it can grant multiple drug-flameout Josh Hamilton extra-large doses of humanity and redemption (as recently as a few weeks ago, in fact, after a spectacularly-decadent relapse was made public), it can spare Michael Beasley one dropperful.

The NBA and the Heat appear to be up to the task – and they’d better be, because if a multi-billion-dollar corporation and one of its sturdier franchises don’t have the resources to truly care for someone in which they have invested so much, then they’re not worth the ink used to sign these kids to their contracts. Contrary to the accepted mythology, the pros are exponentially more equipped to help out a Michael Beasley than almost any college program you can think of.

If your average big-time program even wanted to try, that is. Beasley spent his year of higher education at Kansas State, where Bob Huggins (!) recruited him right before bolting to a better job for himself at West Virginia. Talk amongst yourselves about that for a minute.

Still, Beasley himself can’t afford to be caught up in that argument; his life, literally, is at stake, even though it eventually was determined that the Twitter message that seemed so dire (“Feelin like it’s not worth livin!!!!!! I'm done.’’) was not the trigger that sent him to the Houston-based facility. Neither was the now-infamous photo of him, his tatts and the unidentified baggie.

This all had been building since a year ago, when he got in trouble at the league’s annual rookie symposium, which does try to head off such problems but which realistically can only present its case and hope the target audience takes it to heart.

Also, because of confidentiality provisions, the Heat could not take a direct hand in getting Beasley this help. From then on, though, it’s a collaborative effort – with, of course, Beasley doing his part.

He might, and he might not. But to say he cannot reveals a complete lack of faith in the idea that 20-year-old human beings can and do change. Which says less about Michael Beasley than about you.


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