I guess you can say I grew up in the Cheech and Chong Era. Richard “Cheech” Moran and Tommy Chong met in Canada in the late sixties; then became famous for their comedy routines and films. Movies like Up in Smoke glorified pot smoking, encouraging Americans to laugh and embrace the concept of getting high. This genre spawned characters like Jeff Spicoli played by Sean Penn in Fast Times at Ridgemont High and the Doobie Brothers. I bought into this movement, laughing with everyone else. However, a recent death has helped me realize that its not funny anymore.
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: Ecclesiastes 3:1.
Earlier in the week, I heard the news that Rashaan Salaam had passed away. Salaam was the 1994 Heisman Trophy winner and the number one draft pick of the Chicago Bears. I moved to Chicago the same year he was drafted. In 1996, I met Rashaan while I was an Assistant Store manager of the Michael Jordan Golf Shop at the Woodfield Mall. Unlike most celebrities, Rashaan was humble and quiet, not trying to bring attention to himself. I saw him a couple of times after that, but never spoke with him. While nursing a leg injury which kept him out of the 1998 NFL season, Salaam admitted to reporters that he was hooked on marijuana during his rehab.
A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, Ecclesiastes 3:4.
According to reports, Salaam’s death appears to have been ruled a suicide. Beside the note Rashaan left behind, nobody will ever know for sure why he took his own life. Perhaps, 6 years of playing professional football took a toll on his body. Maybe, there was some sort of depression or regret from not living up to the expectations of being a former Heisman Trophy winner. Whatever the reason, drugs cut this young man’s life short. Some where along the way, Rashaan believed the lies of Hollywood that smoking pot won’t harm you. How many more people have to die before America wakes up to see its not funny anymore?
by Jay Mankus