Thursday, December 9, 2010

That Crazy, Brilliant Ron Artest

Artest makes thanking your therapist cool.

This site focuses mainly on reviews of movies, music, and television shows, yet popular culture does encompass a much broader range of topics.

One of our culture's most interesting characters is Ron Artest, a member of the Los Angeles Lakers. Artest has often been considered crazy by most fans (many who can't forget the awful brawl at the Palace of Auburn Hills back in 2004). While this may be true, he is also one of the most sincere basketball players on the planet. Check out this article posted today on by the great writer, Rick Reilly, who spent a whole day following the man around Los Angeles.

While Artest's play seems to have atrophied a bit since his game-winning heroics in Game 7 of last season's NBA Finals against the hated Boston Celtics, he has found a soft spot in my heart with his efforts off the court.

After Game 7, Artest inexplicably thanked his psychiatrist during a post-game interview, and while it seemed par for the course for the zany player, it was only the beginning of his personal effort to make the importance of psychological care a national story. Since that day, Artest has been on the forefront of a movement to draw attention to the necessity of psychological counseling for children in public schools.

When he was a kid, struggling in the New York City school system, he claims not a year went by without him being suspended from school. Later on, this repressed anger led to struggles with rage, depression and alcoholism. He doesn't want to see the same happen to more kids.

So, this fall, Artest made the decision to raffle off his prized NBA Championship ring. Not auction, but raffle off his ring. He felt that auctions provided the wealthy with better opportunities to obtain prized sports memorabilia (shocker!), and wanted to give the blue-collar joe schmoe's out there as equal an opportunity as possible. The proceeds benefit school psychiatry programs. Currently the fundraiser has raised more than half a million dollars -- including the $15.00 I just spent for 10 raffle tickets.

I am impressed with Ron Artest, and believe wholeheartedly in his cause. I'm a high school teacher and spend the majority of my time with low-performing students. The causes for low-performance are varied, but many times it's due to poor home structure, low self-esteem, and other issues with a psychological root. Our guidance counselors, as caring as they are, are often overwhelmed with administrative tasks keeping them from working with a child's problems. At my school, alone, which currently has over 3400 students, we have 8 guidance counselors and 1 school site psychologist. The stats make Artest's point for him.

If we want to do good in the lives of our children, we need to get them people to talk to, who will listen and provide educated ideas for how to manage problems and build esteem. Obviously, Artest's fundraiser won't put an end to this massive problem, but it's a start, and for any fan of the L.A. Lakers, it's a boon!

So, take some time today, head over to and buy some raffle tickets. The odds of winning his gorgeous championship ring are slim, but the satisfaction of knowing you paid for a little bit of face-to-face time between a troubled kid and a therapist is more than worth the price.

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