Columnist’s note: Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl recently stated that abortions make up “well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does.” A member of Kyl’s staff, in response to media questions on his absurd claim, said that Kyl’s argument was “not intended to be a factual statement,” a quote that Stephen Colbert would later abuse as defense for ridiculous statements he made on “The Colbert Report.” It is with Colbert’s attitude that I ask you to read the following piece.
On Sunday night, Americans and lovers of democracy all over the world celebrated the announcement of the death of Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaida leader who had been in hiding for nearly 10 years following 9/11.
Lost in the mix was that bin Laden was once a star who fell on hard times, and it ended up costing him everything.
A common misconception was that bin Laden had been at the forefront of the rebellion against invading Soviet forces in 1979. In truth, he did not join the resistance until 1981. In 1979, bin Laden was beyond pro-Soviet; he was a symbol of the USSR’s might, as a member of its national hockey team.
As a child, bin Laden dreamt of Olympic gold on the ice. The harsh climate of Saudi Arabia, his childhood home, made the maintenance of an ice rink impossible, however. The young bin Laden overcame the obstacles, skating and practicing his slapshot on a makeshift rink, constructed of industrially-welded car hoods, which he stole from a scrap yard.
When he was 18, he got the chance of a lifetime. Bin Laden moved to Afghanistan, and a Soviet diplomat (the Reds had been scouting the land for invasion well before 1979) noticed his skills and invited him to practice with the Soviet team.
Soviet national coach Viktor Tikhonov recognized bin Laden’s talent, and by 1980, at the age of 23, the Saudi youth was a member of the Soviet Winter Olympics team.
What seemed like a dream come true was actually a trying ordeal for the young man. Although a star player known for his ability to draw hits from defenders, leading to the ignorantly titled “Pakistani Power Play,” (a catchphrase he reportedly hated), bin Laden spent most of his time during the Olympics on the bench because of racial tension. His teammates isolated him, and fans taunted him. All he had to hope for was the gold medal. It was not to be.
The U.S. defeated the USSR in the championship round, still regarded as one of the biggest upsets in sports history. The loss broke bin Laden, who soon withdrew from hockey and the Soviet Union. As he had forgone education to pursue dreams of the spotlight in athletics, he had no job opportunities to fall back on. All he could do was plot vengeance on the two entities that had, in his mind, led him to such a low state: the USSR and, even more so, the United States. He returned to Afghanistan to lead the front against the Soviets, and over time, plotted his wrath against the United States.
As time wore on and the Soviets withdrew, bin Laden found himself without a job and without a way to fight his remaining enemy. At the onset of the ‘90s, he engulfed himself in grunge music, particularly Alice in Chains and Mother Love Bone , and also with the hip drug of the musical movement: heroin. Unfortunately, he lived in the highest-supplying nation of the drug. Soon, with mounting bills to pay and an addiction to feed, bin Laden inquired about a job he saw advertised on a telephone pole: an internship with al-Qaida, at that point a fledgling terrorist group. The rest is history.
It’s easy to say that bin Laden’s actions, and ultimately his demise, cannot be blamed on anyone other than himself. But I wonder what would have happened if he had the opportunity to return to school after professional hockey fell through. Would he still have become the heartless terrorist he died as, or would he have gone on to become happy and successful in the “real world?”
On Feb. 27, The Lantern ran an article detailing how the university offered student-athletes the option of returning to finish their degree, free of charge. The article prompted responses from readers such as, “Seriously, cry me a river about the hardships of being a student athlete,” and others about how ridiculous such a program is.
I admit, I’ve been jealous of the perks that many OSU athletes receive, but now I consider the harm that is done if the athlete can’t make it in the pros. Many a Buckeye faithful shook their head and smirked when former running back Maurice Clarett was arrested, carrying an AK-47 variant and two other handguns. Failure to succeed in one’s profession hits athletes harder than most. Clarett’s life is in a spiral that could have been prevented with a simple college degree.
A case like Clarett’s is easy to shrug off; one like bin Laden’s, less so.