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NOTE: I generally write my blog several days in advance, so by the time his appears, the day mentioned in this piece will have passed.
In 1984 I was sitting on the toilet in the Tulane University library. It’s where I got most of my work done. As I was exiting the stall, I noticed a joke written on the wall with the acronym AIDS in it. I had been studying with my friend Jayne Friedland at a table. As I walked back, I tried to figure out what the acronym stood for. But I had no clue. So I asked Jayne if she had ever heard of it. Since she was from Great Neck, Long Island, I figured she might have different information than we had down in the swamp of Louisiana. She did have a vague knowledge of it. Although she didn’t know what the letters stood for, she said it was a disease only gay people got and it came from anal sex. It didn’t take long from that point for the whole world to figure out what AIDS was – Acquired immune deficiency syndrome. It also didn’t take us long to figure out that not only gay people got it. This disease did not discriminate. Because of the media, I, like several others, considered AIDS a death sentence. It seemed like everyone who got it early on was dead in six months. Over the years, things have changed. The drugs have gotten better, and so has education. We’ve learned that HIV and AIDS are two different things. The very reason I bring this subject up, is because Dec. 1 is World AIDS Day. I think it’s great that we dedicate days to the awareness of AIDS. It can only help to do these sort of things. I told you that to tell you this. In the fall of 1991, I moved to southern California from New Orleans. A couple of weeks later, I was shocked along with the rest of the world to learn that one of sports’ biggest superstars was HIV positive. NBA great Earvin “Magic” Johnson could have easily stepped out of the public eye that day. But if it was possible that a man considered a superhero of sports to become a larger than life human being, Magic did just that. In a day and age where sports heroes show absolutely no class (think Terrell Owens, Michael Vick, Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson…we don’t have to leave the NFL wide receiver group to fill up this list with assholes). Even Tiger Woods showed his true colors just about a year ago. But not Magic Johnson. Instead of shriveling up and going away, he showed the world that HIV was not a death sentence. He showed the world that it was a license to live. I will just list a few of his accomplishments after his diagnosis. He received an Olympic gold medal with the Dream Team, he made the All Star team and he started a national chain of movie theaters. The gym I go to in L.A. is owned by 24 Hour Fitness, but that particular gym is the Magic Johnson 24 Hour Fitness. He’s now working on bringing an NFL team back to Los Angeles. If that’s not enough, Magic did the most super human feat of all…he put a Starbucks in a black community. Yeah, it’s meant as a joke. But the bottom line is, you try to get a cup of Starbucks in a black community, it’s almost impossible. So on World AIDS Day, I say we salute the man who decided to live.