Gunn-column-logo-1One of the coolest stories I’ve come across since joining Local Sports Journal was the resuscitation of the Muskegon Heights basketball program.

Not that it ever hit the skids, but danger was lurking.

That’s because the school district got in financial trouble a few years ago, forcing a state takeover and a last-minute conversion to charter status.

A lot of kids – including a lot of athletes – fled to other districts.

But a group of Heights basketball players – including Marquis Gresham – stuck around. They took pride in helping to conserve the proud tradition of Muskegon Heights basketball.

And now, barely a month after appearing with his team in the Class C state semifinals, Gresham is gone.

He was shot to death while walking down Fifth Street Wednesday night – on his way to the team banquet.

There’s obviously a lot of pain, anguish and grief in Muskegon Heights today. Everyone at Local Sports Journal extends their deepest sympathies.

What an incredible waste.

Not long ago I had the chance to write about a little boy, 6-year-old Gavin Sima, who made friends with the Muskegon Lumberjacks a few weeks before he died of leukemia.

A lot of hearts were broken when Gavin passed away, but a lot of hearts were touched in the final weeks of his life. The Lumberjack players took him under their wing, showed him a good time, and dedicated the final weeks of their season to his memory.

The difference is that Gavin lost his ultimate battle to an enemy we sometimes can’t control. More people are surviving different types of cancer these days, but we still lose our share of loved ones.

It’s a sad fact of life.

But why in the world did Gresham have to die? What logical reason could be applied to this horrific turn of events?

There is no logical reason. Gresham was murdered by an out-of-control culture of anger and ignorance.

Somehow too many of our youth have gotten sucked into a twisted lifestyle focused on self, greed, machismo, inebriation and violence. Murderers are admired. People who sell drugs that kill other people are celebrities. Men who physically abuse women and abandon their children are respected.

And guns are the ultimate status symbol. Only they’re not just to carry and look cool with anymore. You’re expected to use them. You’re manhood will be questioned if you don’t.

Who benefits from this kind of lifestyle? What lessons are learned and values gained?

And who can we blame for this mess? The parents? There are certainly bad ones, but there are also a lot of good ones who simply lose control of their offspring.

I personally think it has a lot to do with a huge entertainment industry that makes billions every year packaging brutality and violence to children.

The games they sell, the songs they sing and the movies they film depict human life as cheap and disposable – easy come, easy go. They teach children to despise and abuse themselves, and to treat others in a similar fashion.

There is no genuine friendship or loyalty in this type of lifestyle. Ultimately it’s every man, woman and (sadly) child for themselves. They hurt each other, and they hurt innocent bystanders without blinking an eye.

If a young person has to die, it should be in a way that we couldn’t prevent.

It should never happen for no good reason, except that some macho idiot wanted to settle a score, or show off for friends, by killing a teenager as he walked to his basketball banquet.

High school should be the beginning of life, not the end.

Marquis Gresham, and far too many like him, should still be here. There’s no good reason whatsoever why they’re not.