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Entry date: 12-14-2022 - People Like Paul Silas - Letters to My Friends

Dear Friends,

Former Suns great Paul Silas recently passed away. I got his autograph when I was a kid and I remember my dad being excited about that one. At the time, I knew that he had been a very good player for the Suns, but I didn’t realize what kind of person the man was. As pro athletes go, he was quite a man.

This is the goal, right? Be a person that, when you die, people will say good things about you and remember you fondly. If people say they respected you, that means you are doing something right while you are here on this planet. That’s my goal and I have a ways to go, I hope. I need some more time to get better at being a human being.

Silas was a well respect coach and leader of men in his time. He was also one of the best rebounders pro basketball has known. During his time with the Suns, he was a double-double machine and put the team on his back for an early playoff upset of the vaunted Los Angeles Lakers. In short, he helped people start taking the Suns seriously in the early 1970s.

As I got older, I grew to be sort of a fan of his and would pay attention to what he was up to from time to time. I haven’t really had sports “idols” for a long time, but he was one that I really respected. I loved Walter Davis as a kid, too. He was my favorite Suns player for a long time, but then there was the cocaine scandal and coke is something I could never really understand or cut a lot of slack to people when it came to that drug.

I know a lot of pro athletes in the 80s were probably hoovering up a ton of Columbian snow, but still. Davis got caught. I’m guessing my beloved Dusty Baker probably had a little toots-a-roosky from time to time (I think that came from the Rodney Dangerfield movie, Easy Money), but I didn’t know about it.

Davis, though, was all over the news here in town. I was a bit crushed by it. I don’t think I had another favorite basketball player after that, so guys like Paul Silas were a lot easier to root for, even from afar. Even now, I still love basketball, but I would be hard pressed to name a favorite player. I’d probably pick someone who plays hard and forgive the turn of phrase, keeps his nose clean.

Most of the time when I hear young people talk about basketball stars these days, the name that comes up the most is Kobe, as in Kobe Bryant. He was a fun player to watch and an easy player to hate as a Suns fan. He was also, in my opinion, a rapist.

Some people might not think it is cool to speak ill of the dead, but when Colorado wanted to put him on trial for rape back in the early 2000s, that spoke volumes to me. Most rape cases do not go to trial. There is usually not enough evidence for a state to want to follow through with them. Considering that Bryant was one of the most famous athletes in the world at the time, it would also have been very expensive for Colorado to try the case, but they still wanted to go through with it.

This tells me they had some very compelling evidence. In the end, though, dollars won out and the young lady Bryant raped decided to withhold testimony and settle for a large lump sum payout. Bryant’s reputation was tarnished for the short term and after he died in a helicopter crash a few years ago, people seem to forget altogether that he was not the most respectful guy to at least one woman.

It hurts my soul a little bit when I hear kids singing his praises. Just like when I hear them singing the praises of Michael Jackson. I probably rub people the wrong way, too, though when I talk about loving the Smiths or Woody Allen movies. I should probably get off my high horse.

The main thing, though, is that there are good people out there and we should aspire to be one of them. I have to remind myself on a daily basis that no one needs a bitter 53-year-old with a sarcasm problem and a real lack of patience for idiots. It makes me unkind, sometimes, and I don’t want to be that guy. It bums me out that I still, occasionally, think about giving someone a sound beating. I know I am too old and too slow to do that anymore, but still. It does occur to me and that’s not who I want to be.

I’m blessed to have a lot of friends who I admire. Good, solid men and women who seem to do the right thing way more often than not. None of us are perfect, especially me, and I’m sure even the folks I admire most have their tough moments, but I appreciate that they give me something to work towards and learn from on a regular basis.

I suppose this is the type of thing that makes you feel wistful when I man like Paul Silas dies. There doesn’t seem to be enough of them in the world today. Most people who get a lot of attention are doing something that is not to be respected. They are off talking mad shit, as the kids say, or blaming someone else for their own problems, or worse, just being a fucking hypocrite.

Years ago, I wrote a song called “Rockstars and Hypocrites” about a situation I found myself in where someone in the music business here in town was talking out of both sides of their mouth. It wasn’t a surprise, really, but I did have respect for them at one point. There is only so much, “Do as I say, not as I do” that one person can take and when I was younger, I wrote a lot of songs that responded to the bullshit in my life in a thinly veiled way.

Maybe I never stopped doing that.

See you tomorrow.

Check out the Chuck's! Paul Silas from his days on the Suns.

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