Friday, January 2, 2015

The Gamblero…and an Altercation with my Sense of Humanity.

I'm a Brooklyn Nets season ticket holder.  If you asked me 20 years what my goal in life was, in general, it was paying rent through music and eventually getting season tickets to basketball.  I love the game, to me when played correctly it's poetry in motion and I can't get enough of it.  To that end, I have been driving in and out of Brooklyn close to 30 times a year to see my team play.  Even when they lose, I love it, because usually someone has to play beautiful basketball to get it done.  

Since the first few games at the new Barclays Center, a new fan favorite appeared in the lower section.  We've always had Mr. Whammy, an older local attorney who sits behind the hoop and curses the other teams free throws with his devil horns and funky gyrations.  But now appeared the Gamblero.  On the screen, every game, I'd watch this dude wearing hipster big glasses, neon undershirts and hats and a Jersey that says "Gamblero #44".   During timeouts or any stop in action, he would take to the aisles and do his signature dancing to the stadium music.  Soon enough, the camera people took enough attention that he was a regular stadium fixture.  You couldn't get through a game without seeing the Gamblero.  Always smiling, always dancing, always rooting on the Nets.  

Sounds nice enough doesn't it??  Well, here come my blaring lesson in humanity.  I ALWAYS used to make fun of him.  I wondered, who is this clown?  With the hipster rimmed glasses, the neon clothes, the funky dance moves.   He always had the best seats in the lower deck, something I assumed was hooked up through the Nets to have a famous super fan guy to promote, which I resented.  Most of the time when he came on the screen, I, like an asshole, made fun of him.  

About a month ago, he died.  Not in some natural fashion, but by suffering injuries leaping out of a 2nd story window in Queens.   I was shocked and immediately saddened and tried to get any information I could.  Digging through his history has been what's haunting me about my general attitude and judgement towards people.   

He was only 38 years old.  Had a loving fiance who was ruined by the news.  He, for whatever reason, lived life with a prosthetic leg.  He was a pretty well known graffiti and graphic artist.  He has parents and family and a life asides from what I knew of him.  Funky, dancing, smiling guy at Nets games.  

It turns out, in early December he was removed by security at Madison Square Garden during the Nets/Knicks game.  I'm not sure how it happened, but a video surfaced of him being carried up the aisle without his leg and eventually dropped by security guards.  I briefly heard about this story and brushed it over, not knowing the humiliation and pain he felt from this event left him scarred.  By word of his fiance, this was an extremely traumatic experience for him that lead to a lack of sleeping and some fits of panic and hysteria.  He was in bad shape due to this and was having a hard time getting back on track.  

Oddly, I saw him dancing at the Sixers game on December 12th without knowing any of this occurred.    I passed him off as I normally did, I had no reason to think otherwise.   Turns out it was the last time I or anyone would see him there.   The following night while sleeping at his father's house, he woke up hysterical, and threw himself out of a second story window.  The injuries suffered took his life not long after.  

I haven't been able to stop thinking about this.  My personal judgement, passed off for what reason?  Because he's not like me?  All subtle and wearing black in the upper deck, un-willing to show my spirit and judging people from afar.  What is it about me, about people, that has this tendency.  A tendency to de-value anything or anyone you don't know, minimizing them out of your conscious as something not worthy of authentic thought or compassion.   Was I insecure because he had the balls to wear what he wore?  Put himself out there like that?   He was always positive, always having a good time.  From the reports that poured in after his death, he was warm and giving and only looking to have a good fucking time.  I didn't see this guy with a story, with parents, with pain and suffering like everyone else, I just saw this image.  An image that wasn't congruous with my own, distorted sense of what people "should" be like.  

Luckily I never met him, or his fiance or loved ones.  I never took to social media to bash him and only shared personal shitty jokes about him in private to my friends I share basketball games with.  Harboring my own sense of judgement, almost definitely predicated on my own insecurities.  He never knew my attitude, and I'm glad.  But I'm living with guilt.  Am I really THAT guy?  Someone who sits hundreds of feet away holding vitriol in their stomach for no apparent reason.  What a dick.  

It's no way to live.  And it's no way to be with other people.  It's no way to help the world and my own personal community.  We should all be more positive and warm and giving.  Actually, he was doing that, and I wasn't.  I was silently judging the person who was putting themselves out their in a positive and refreshing way.  I mean, fuck, this guy was so positive he wouldn't allow disparaging remarks or signs about the other teams, because it brought the wrong message.  

All these things I learned about the man posthumously.  I had no idea his story was complex and cool and rich.  A full life that is not mine merits the same respect as my own.  And I will no longer view people as random, and less important than me.  Everyone has a story.  Everyone has pain.  Everyone.  It will have to be my responsibility moving forward to make that a focused and serious discipline for my life. 

See you later Gamblero, I hope you're in a good place.  You taught me a lesson without even knowing me.  


  1. If it makes you feel any better, I can tell you from experience that you, your band, and what you guys create have helped ease people's pain, mine included. I think most people have been guilty of judging others without first trying to understand their situation. It sometimes takes a conscious effort to not do that.

    But another facet of this is the fact that he committed suicide. That's kind of a touchy subject for me. I've had friends who ended their own lives when I was in the military. Those left behind, this man's fiancé, his parents, his friends, they suffer now. It is tragic. I'd bet money that if he had reached out to them, they would have dropped everything to help. I'd talk to a complete stranger to try to help. I just wish more people understood that they really aren't as alone as they think they are, and you can't undo a suicide. so if anyone reading this is hurting, call someone. talk to someone. It helps.

  2. I've read all your entries here. And now, this is a strange coincidence to find what's the topic of your first entry of the new year. A year, that'll be the most difficult for me. My sister died unexpectedly last month aged 38. She was the most important person in my life and a wonderful human being.
    So it was touching twofold this time to read your words.

  3. Your most thoughtful yet. Something for all of us to think about and employ in our own interactions with all the humans out there just trying to mosey along in this world.

  4. I had a couple years of bad health-related stuff go down in my life. No one but my husband knew what was happening. No one in my work or my personal life knew why I was being vague about time spent at "appointments" or why my mood went up and down for no obvious reason.

    That time in my life taught me that you NEVER know what someone else is going through. My health is improved but that lesson is still with me every day. Even if I can't manage to be fully compassionate all the time, I'm much slower to anger and confrontation and dismissing the unknown than I used to be.

    Don't beat yourself up about your past action. All we can do is move forward with the lesson and try to do better in the future.

  5. Everyone is guilty at one time or another. What's important is that you recognize your faults and want to grow and be a better version of yourself. These days most of what I read on social media is negative or just plain rude. Its refreshing to read something although sad, yet have a positive twist.

  6. This is such an awesome outlook and story!

  7. You can't let tragedy get you, especially one that isn't know to you. Don't get me wrong, I encourage you to feel compassion. However, it would be impossible for all of us to know everyone's burden all the time, despite the social media age.

    Take comfort in knowing you have learned a lesson. It's in our human nature to want to judge; after all, we live in a fallen world. It is easier to see what we perceive as faults in others than to take an honest look at ourselves. I do it all the time.

    And I can't expect you to get to know everyone's burden, but man is this a chance to be something better than you were before. Thanks for sharing this story.