Don't fight Rodman relax and enjoy him

June 10, 1998|By Ken Rosenthal

CHICAGO -- In a sporting landscape populated by drug users and wife beaters, spitters and stranglers, it's silly to get worked up over Dennis Rodman.

Is Rodman a selfish, childish fool? As sure as his hair is green.

But strip away his artifice -- his dresses, his tattoos, his hair dyes -- and you're looking at a ruthless, devious capitalist, laughing all the way to the bank.

Rodman's latest crime was a spectacular twin bill of self-indulgent behavior, in lieu of Monday's mandatory team film session and NBA-required media session.

For his afternoon activity, Rodman showed up at a downtown Hooters restaurant in Chicago.

Later, he took a flight to Detroit and appeared live with Hulk Hogan on TNT's "WCW Monday Nitro" program. Rodman didn't wrestle, but did hit a rival with a chair.

"I made some good friends and I made a lot of money," he said yesterday while fleeing a media horde at the United Center.

Two Chicago columnists called for Rodman's immediate release, with one arguing that the Bulls could win their sixth NBA title without him.

The team's reactions ranged from sympathetic (coach Phil Jackson) to annoyed (Michael Jordan) to downright amused (Ron Harper).

If the Bulls aren't outraged by Rodman's behavior -- and they've sanctioned it for three seasons -- why should anyone else get upset?

"I told him he did a great show," Harper said. "The chair scene was really cool. I enjoyed it."

In fact, Harper seemed downright envious of Rodman -- or "Rodzilla," as he's known in the wrestling world.

"He's a great businessman," Harper said. "If they paid him $250,000, gave him his own jet, the league fined him $10,000 and the Bulls fined him $10,000, then he made $230,000."

The NBA fine was the only confirmed figure, but Jordan said he told Jackson that Rodman should divide his wrestling income among his teammates.

Are you kidding?

Rodman got exactly what he wanted -- money, attention and more attention. He was the subject of the first five questions Jordan answered yesterday, on the eve of Game 4 of the NBA Finals.

Reporters stormed onto the court the moment the Bulls' workout ended, and Rodman took off in the opposite direction, heading for the locker room.

"Run, Forrest, run!" Joe Kleine shouted, referring to a scene from the movie, "Forrest Gump."

Dickey Simpkins grabbed a microphone.

"Excuse me, Dennis asked me to speak for him," he said. "I didn't make practice yesterday because I was getting my hair re-dyed."

Steve Kerr put it best: "It's happened so many times, at this point, you really don't care."

Jackson, however, again found himself defending his double standard for Rodman -- and all but suggesting that the 37-year-old forward was mentally ill.

"I think the focus should be that Dennis is a unique individual and in some sense handicapped," Jackson said.

"He's found an occupation that he performs very well at. Rather than trying to make him look like a dysfunctional character, Dennis is probably functioning as well as he can under a system like this.

"I don't know that he could have employment in any other part of the business world. I doubt he could. But he's made it in this world, and that's great."

L Ah, nothing like a little psycho-babble from the Zen master.

"No one has authority over Dennis," Jackson said. "That's what his symptoms are. He will rebel against any authority, and always has.

"We're not talking about getting away with stuff. We're talking about something different. When you start approaching it from that sense -- breaking the rules, toeing the line, authority figures -- you're dealing with logic that doesn't work.

"When you start getting into that sense of authority or organization, Dennis runs aground, and that stops his ability to function."

So, is Jackson the only NBA coach who could handle a player as mercurial as Rodman? Or, is he simply selling his soul to the devil in pursuit of more titles?

Probably both.

The strange part is, Rodman was barely a factor in the Finals against the Jazz last year, and is again playing a minor role in this series.

The Bulls apparently believe they need him to guard Karl Malone. But did Rodman take Malone out of Game 3, or did the Jazz simply collapse?

Rodman often isn't even on the bench when the game starts -- Jackson has to summon him to play. It's all rather ridiculous, as it always is with No. 91.

So naturally, here was Utah's Jerry Sloan yesterday, saying that he could never coach a player like Rodman, that winning was just not that important.

Please.

Almost every team makes compromises. Almost every team places winning first. Professional sports abandoned its dignity long ago.

"Phil handles it the best way he possibly could," Kerr said. "There's nothing you can do with Dennis to deter him from missing practices, being late, whatever.

"Phil basically gives him a lot of leeway, tries to remind us that Dennis is different. We don't need much of a reminder. We know that."

Everyone knows it -- the team that panders to him, the league that is embarrassed by him, the media that have helped create the monster.

"I think we've reached the point where we're going to have to accept Dennis for what he is," Scottie Pippen said.

Indeed, it's not as if Rodman won't be motivated for Games 4 and 5. He's intent on helping the Bulls end the series in Chicago.

"I don't want to go back to Utah," he said. "My life just goes to complete hell when I go to Utah. That means I have to revert to going to Las Vegas, or going somewhere to get some excitement, to try to keep my mind rolling."

It's a twisted mind, but a cunning one, too.

Save your outrage for someone truly despicable.

With Rodman, the joke's on us.

Pub Date: 6/10/98

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