The Vegas, the NBA, and the problem with fame


Recently my wife I traveled to the hardscrabble land of Nevada.  We decided to take a mini-vacation in the city known as “The Vegas.” I spent a few days hanging with my wife by the pool and marveling at the impressive, sad, beautiful and tragic place that is Vegas. Oh, and I also stalked NBA players.

Turns out, Team USA basketball was in Vegas the same time as us. I found myself all giddy and what not as I ran into various NBA players around town.

I stood next to players as they gambled. I gave a nod to them during dinner. I walked down a casino hallway side by side with a few. And I even sized up a couple of them in the elevator, many of whom are quite large when they’re not behind a TV screen, resembling freight trains in real life. And I wasn’t alone in my preoccupation with finding NBA players.

There were young basketball enthusiasts everywhere snapping pictures and posting and hash tagging. The whole time I kept thinking to myself, “Isn’t it funny how we become so obsessed with fame? And isn’t it funny how I care so much about talking to 22 year old basketball player?”

Celebrity. Fame. Status. I see the obsession in my own life all the time. I find myself asking, “Is that who I think it is?” when I see various actors and celebrities around. Now, I’m past the point of autographs and inconspicuous cell phone sniper photography, but I still feel that draw to place extreme value on a person who is notable and famous. Deep down, most of us probably do.

Fame is enticing. We post pictures–the autograph of the twenty first century according to Paris Hilton—and feed our various social connecting points with evidence of our encounters. The whole thing reeks of a deeper issue.

Furthermore, the actual pursuit of fame can happen right from your phone.

In our current culture, people can be famous for absolutely nothing. People are insta-famous for crying out loud. You can be famous for talent, which makes sense, or just famous for your face and your propensity to snap pictures with your I-phone. Some of my students told me of a high school student who attends a local high school who has hundreds of thousands of followers on Instagram. Why? Because he’s good looking and is a master of hashtags. Supposedly at a football game last year, girls were lining up around the bleachers just to take a selfie with him.

It’s no secret that we as a people are obsessed with fame. Perhaps this is nothing new, but the outlet has grown with technology. There are obvious reactions against this pursuit  from a biblical and theological perspective. I’m pretty sure idolatry, in any form, is still a bad thing. Remember the whole golden calf thing? That and a myriad of other examples we find in Scripture should cause us to stop and consider anytime we place someone or something above God. And, then, there’s another part to this quagmire: when we live our lives for the pursuit of fame, we miss out on what we have and where we’re at.

The problem with fame is you forget people are people. Regardless of how much money they make or how known they are we share the same history—we are from dust and to dust we shall return. I don’t believe there is anything wrong with elevating someone’s talent or recognizing their contributions made to the world. No, the real problem lies with a pursuit of fame, as if being famous is something in and of itself.

It’s not. We need to call it what it is. It’s a shallow existence and life is about more than your connections, comments, and status likes.

Instead of caring how we appear to the masses, perhaps we should just focus on making a meaningful contribution to the world. Enjoy the talents of others, but don’t overlook yourself in the process. Fame, like most things in this world, is fleeting. In other words,  it will be gone eventually.

Build something that lasts outside of your name.

Love people.

Create a legacy, not a brand.

Lead a family, not a following.

Live beautifully, full of grace and truth and let the rest take care of itself.


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