Being a UCLA alum, I planned on selecting a fellow Bruin grad at random and writing a “where are they now” column. But with the Super Bowl, a de facto national holiday, just 48 hours away, I figured I’d better make some comment. (OK, given the above photo, I obviously didn’t pick the Bruin at random.)
After endless hype, the Super Bowl at Lucas Oil Stadium will air at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday. I don’t know which I find more annoying, the Super Bowl’s use of Roman numerals (in this case, XLVI) or that the stadium is named after an oil company.
By the way, on the off chance you want a stadium named after you, Forrest Lucas is paying a little over $6 million a year. Meanwhile the game will be on NBC and, for the first time ever, will be streamed online. (Yes, commercials, too.)
Speaking of commercials, they’ll cost a mere $3.5 million for 30 seconds (defining “time is money”). Kelly Clarkson will sing the National Anthem and the always-fit Madonna (53), 27 years after her first hit, will provide the half-time entertainment. (I’m rooting for a wardrobe malfunction.) An estimated 120 million Americans will watch, and yes, albeit reluctantly, I will be one of them.
How perversely popular is the Super Bowl? In a recent nationwide poll 15 percent of Americans said they’d miss the birth of their child to watch. (They must have only polled men because women pretty much have to be on site for the delivery.)
My “random” Bruin by pure chance (yeah, right) is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who has led one of the most fascinating and productive lives of anyone with whom I’ve ever crossed paths. He won three NCAA championships at UCLA, six NBA championships (five with the Lakers and one with the Bucks), a record league MVP six times and is the all-time NBA scoring leader. (Other than that he didn’t accomplish much.)
In fact, one could say that growing up Kareem was my hero. One could say that, but unfortunately, I’m two years older than he is.
But it may be Kareem’s post-athletic career for which he will be most remembered. I call Kareem the Jimmy Carter of athletes. Promoting social justice and African-American history, as a historian, best-selling author, and documentary filmmaker, Kareem may wind up influencing the lives of more young people off the court as on. And his latest chapter may be his most fascinating.
Kareem is currently in Brazil (or on his way back home) having spoken to hundreds of Brazilian youth sharing three of his lifelong passions: music, basketball and education, all in his role as a cultural ambassador for the United States. Pretty amazing for a kid from the streets of Harlem.
The idea behind the prestigious appointment began last year when Kareem received the Ford’s Theatre Lincoln Medal, an award given to individuals who exemplify the character embodied by President Abraham Lincoln.
In D.C., Kareem attended an awards luncheon given by philanthropists Wayne and Catherine Reynolds. They introduced KAJ to Assistant Secretary of State Ann Stock, and soon thereafter the idea was born.
And what a tremendous idea it has been. (At YouTube type “Kareem in Brazil.”) After Brazil, Kareem will be visiting three more countries in 2012 in his role as cultural ambassador.
On Kareem’s website are some of his personal heroes, including Harriet Tubman. She organized the Underground Railroad and risked her life in freeing hundreds of slaves. As Kareem says of her, “She definitely left the world a better place than she found it.” The same could be said of Kareem.
So how’s that for a typical Bruin “where are they now” column? OK, now you can go back to preparing for the Super Bowl. (More food is consumed during the Super Bowl than any other day except Thanksgiving. Burp.)
May I suggest, however, that if you’re expecting the birth of a child near or on Super Bowl Sunday, maybe it’d be a good idea to record the game.
To learn about Kareem’s life’s work and his documentary “On the Shoulders of Giants” and his children’s book, “What Color is my World,” visit: www.Kareemabduljabbar.com. Jack blogs at www.Jneworth.blogspot.com and receives e-mail at Jnsmdp@aol.com.