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Men's health is no joking matter, but the Bucs are

By ERNEST HOOPER, Times Columnist

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 10, 2002

I'm mad at Bob Samuels.

I'm mad at Bob Samuels.

Here I am, rolling through life with my greatest worries being bills and the Bucs' new coach, and then Samuels comes along and changes the priorities.

Damn him.

It happened Thursday morning. All I knew was that Samuels was gathering media members to brainstorm about publicizing something about somebody named Les Brown. Or something.

Truth be told, I went to the University Club for breakfast, but all I got was a wake-up call.

Samuels is chairman of the Florida Cancer Education Network and a man who is recovering from prostate cancer and throat cancer. His goal is to raise awareness of prostate cancer, particularly among African-American men.

Why? African-American men have a 50 percent higher risk of being diagnosed with prostate cancer and are twice as likely to die from the disease than white men. But they are less likely to be screened.

Did anyone notice that I'm African-American?

If the statistics weren't enough, WFLA-Ch. 8 reporters Rod Carter and Byron Brown were at the meeting. Rod's grandfather died of prostate cancer; Byron's father is recovering from prostate cancer.

When it comes to health problems, I generally have my head firmly planted in the sand, lifting it up occasionally to have a foray with exercise or a momentary change in diet (no bacon on that double cheeseburger, please).

Samuels laughed when I told him I was mad, then told me I'm not alone. Men typically have to be corralled into getting checkups, and their health doesn't become a concern until absolutely necessary.

Samuels is championing a bill that would establish a Prostate Cancer Awareness Program within the state Department of Health. It's not a bad idea when you consider that prostate cancer, a leading killer of men, can be treated successfully when diagnosed early.

Just ask Yankees manager Joe Torre. Or Hall of Fame quarterback Len Dawson.

In the interim, the Florida Cancer Education Network will have its third annual African-American Men's Health Forum at the Hillsborough Community College Dale Mabry Campus. It's scheduled for Feb. 23 from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Les Brown, a renowned motivational speaker and another prostate cancer survivor, will speak. Screenings will be provided for prostate cancer, colon cancer, blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes.

Last year's event drew 1,156 people. The goal this year is to bring in 2,000. I know I'm going to be one of them.

The flagship station of the Indianapolis Colts is owned by Clear Channel, so I'll have to check with local Clear Channel vice president Dave Rinehart and see if one of the stations here will broadcast the games of our new favorite team.

* * *

And just in case you thought the Bucs have not become a national joke, here's one all the way from Washington, D.C.:

What do the Bucs and Billy Graham have in common?

Both can make 65,000 people stand up and yell, "Jesus Christ!"

* * *

If I were in the dry-cleaning industry or the owner of Lysol, I would join the tobacco industry and restaurants in fighting the proposed constitutional amendment that would ban smoking in all restaurants and workplaces. Keeping clothes smelling clean would require much less of an effort if restaurants were smoke-free.

On the other hand, I wonder if we're going to bludgeon smokers into oblivion. Cigarettes already are taxed exorbitantly, we sue big tobacco to death and you can't even watch the Super Bowl without being reminded that cigarettes have cyanide.

When it comes to restaurants, I think size does matter. Smaller restaurants may need to go smoke-free, but from what I can tell, larger ones can handle smoking and no-smoking sections with little or no complaints.

That's all I'm saying.

-- Ernest Hooper can be reached at (813) 226-3406 or Hooper@sptimes.com.

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