O'Hara: Suh reminisces on hosting Whitney Houston

Posted Oct 5, 2012

"Ndamukong Suh has lived in the national spotlight in his three seasons with the Lions, but he often steps out of his football environment to meet stars and celebrities."

The stars of sports and entertainment live in different worlds, but they cross paths often and make news when their orbits intersect.

Ndamukong Suh has lived in the national spotlight in his three seasons with the Lions, but he often steps out of his football environment to meet stars and celebrities and satisfy his curiosity for how people outside his world live.

One of those celebrities was the late Whitney Houston. Suh hosted Houston and the cast filming the movie “Sparkle” in his suite at Ford Field last Oct. 23 for the Lions-Falcons game.

There was nothing especially memorable about the event – nothing to make tabloid headlines or have TMZ poised outside Suh’s suite with a hand-held camera.

After the game – a 23-16 Falcons victory - Suh had pictures taken with members of Sparkle’s cast. Houston had departed before Suh arrived.

Houston was photographed during the game, and she looked like a normal fan – not a mega-star, or a person who was ravaged by addiction and whatever demons had taken control of her life.

Less than four months after watching the Lions’ game, Whitney Houston died. On Feb. 11, 2012, she was found dead in her room at the Beverley Hills Hotel. She was 49.

A toxicology report concluded that she accidentally drowned in a bath tub because of chronic drug use and heart disease.

I asked Suh the other day about hosting a star of Whitney Houston’s magnitude, and specifically the pictures that showed her spontaneous reaction to the game.

Regardless of what problems she may have had, she looked like a fan – thoroughly immersed in the game.

“The biggest thing is that we, myself and my family, love to have celebrities up and to enjoy a good game,” Suh said. “Family, friends, celebrities – whoever it may be – it allows them to come up there and be like kids.

“It’s tough sometimes to go to particular games, and now you have an environment you can be comfortable in, not allowing people to come up and bug them.

“It was nice to be able to have somebody of that stature – her worldly image that she carries, to see her family. I know my mom is a big fan. They got to hang out and meet each other.”

Suh’s mother and father, Bernadette and Michael, and sister Ngum attend ever Lions home game.

Suh compartmentalizes his time and usually speaks to the media in a group session on Wednesday.

For this story, I approached him in a quiet moment on a Thursday at his locker and pitched the idea. Suh spoke eagerly about the day Whitney and the Sparkle cast watched the Lions play from his suite.

Suh talked about the pictures he saw of Houston showing her reaction during the game.

“I remember it,” he said. “My sister said she enjoyed herself and had a blast.”

Like any other fan, he was shocked when the news came out about here death.

“It was definitely unfortunate,” Suh said. “Just months prior, she was hanging out with my family in my suite at Ford Field. You feel for her and her family and the things that they had to encounter, or are continuing to encounter right now.”