Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Well, Of Course

So the news hits today that Dennis Rodman, having achieved the improbable age of 51 and having that post-athletic winning life that you just knew he would, owes more than $800K in back child support for two kids with his third wife, along with another $51K in spousal support. He's also looking at jail time for not paying, serious health issues, and a possible serious issue in dealing with reality, in that his ex's attorney feels that this is all a big chunk of BS.

And, well, along with the usual ill ease of getting into the personal life of ex-athletes, which is to say getting into the personal life of people who should be seen briefly and then never again...

Well, is anyone really surprised by this?

Basketball players are unique and different from any other major athlete experience in North America, because their careers frequently last a really long time (consider that Kobe Bryant has spent more than half of his 33 years on the planet as a Los Angeles Laker), they were no concealing equipment to distract from their body language or general attitude, and they spend an awful lot of minutes under surveillance. Dennis Rodman has spent the equivalent of over 20 24-hour days playing NBA hoop in front of tens of thousands of people, some of it under the glare of worldwide attention. A football player can take off the pads and go be an entirely different person. A baseball player spends the majority of his career inside a dugout, waiting to perform, and when he's not there he's usually waiting to perform anyway. You don't really get to see when either of those guys play when they are angry, or bored, or happy or discouraged or tired or fresh. It's all pretty much the same. Basketball's different.

And well, you don't get more different than Rodman. In a game of guys who got to this level due to their scoring prowess and then either kept doing that or adapted, Rodman was an outlier; any points he scored seemed like an accident. He existed to play defense with a physicality that never seemed to make sense with his image, in that a guy who was a walking technical foul (212 in his career, ye gads) also seemed to get away with more hand-checking and shoves than anyone else in the Association. And for all of his defensive accolades and relentless hustle -- and give the devil his due, the man had a work rate that defined the term "energy player" - the only thing he really seemed to do well was rebound. Over and over and over again. The one unalloyed positive contribution; no coach, fan or teammate ever complained about being on the floor with a guy who rebounded too much.

Which meant that he was only really safe in society when he was in that cocoon, and everyone watching kind of knew that. Or that when he'd show up in a Madonna video, or a pro wrestling sideshow, it was never a surprise, or something that was going to work... because there was nothing there that he could do that was as simple and useful as Get The Board. The idea that he's in the Basketball Hall of Fame is ridiculous on its face, but rings do matter, and he was fortunate enough to be on some teams. So.

Anyway, he's 51 now, the same train wreck as always, but without any kind of mitigating factor. I'd like to feel bad for the ex or the kids (especially the kids), but it's hard too, really; he is exactly what we thought he was. A plumber in search of a camera, a marketing plan in search of a buyer, a force of nature that never, ever, worked outside of a court.

And the next 5 to 10 years of calculated color, before he puts himself into the ground?

Don't watch.

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