(Don’t) Say Anything

Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose, a former league MVP, tore his ACL during the first game of the 2012 playoffs. He subsequently sat out all of 2012-13. Three weeks into the 2013-14 season, he tore his meniscus and missed the remainder of the season.

Due to an assortment of injuries, the 26-year old has missed six of the team’s first eleven games so far this season.

Last week, Rose said the following:

I feel I’ve been managing myself pretty good. I know a lot of people get mad when they see me sit out. But I think a lot of people don’t understand that when I sit out, it’s not because of this year. I’m thinking about long term. I’m thinking about after I’m done with basketball, having graduations to go to, having meetings to go to.

I don’t want to be in my meetings all sore or be at my son’s graduation all sore just because of something I did in the past. Just learning and being smart.

Naturally, this caused sportsmediaworld to lose its collective mind. Here’s Deadspin’s account of Steve Rosenbloom, Chicago Trib columnist, arguing that Rose’s comments demonstrate what a stupid idiot he is and, for good measure, what a stupid idiot he is. A similarly characteristic  take came from the inimitable Stephen A Smith, who described himself as “devastated” by Rose’s comments. Smith said that because Rose is in the midst of a guaranteed five year contract, to bring up long-term health concerns like whether Rose was going to be able to be there for his kids without experiencing chronic debilitating pain was “inexcusable” and “egregious.” Smith spoke in the most solemn terms about what a betrayal this was of owner Jerry Reinsdorf, who is paying Rose $90 million plus over the life of the deal. As many others argued, because Rose is not playing football or boxing and, therefore, not risking any real long-term health problems, Stephen A. believes he has no obligation other than to give his maximum physical effort even if that increases his risk of further serious injury. Smith regarded with great “alarm” what Rose was “disseminating to the masses” – namely that, as a basketball player, Rose was making unacceptable claims about whether athletes in his sport could argue seriously that they might have to worry about their physical condition once they retire.

Mike Greenberg was similarly exercised by Rose’s statements.

One wonders whether, until a few years ago, the typical sports pundit would not have said similar things about a football player who suggested he might hold himself out of a game not because he was suffering from an immediate acute injury, but instead because he was looking ahead to the end of his playing days. Regardless, the argument is a stupid one. We can all be thankful that Derrick Rose isn’t playing a sport that may increase substantially the likelihood of his suffering long-term brain impairment. But as anyone with severe arthritis, back problems or other non head-related, but chronic pain can tell you, life under such circumstances can be miserable and sometimes unendurable. Ask Bill Walton what life was like for him for a few years.

I have no idea whether the long-term prognosis for Rose is chronic pain. But neither do any of the clowns weighing in to say what a travesty it is that he’s actually thinking seriously about his kids and his future after basketball. I am sorry that Greenie is offended that Derrick Rose is a little gun shy after two catastrophic knee injuries in two years. But the comments are ill-informed, presumptuous and obnoxious. No one who has played with Rose has ever regarded him as a slacker. Indeed, current and former teammates love Rose and his dedication and commitment.

And I fail entirely to understand why a single fan or sports pundit gives a single solitary shit about Jerry Reinsdorf’s money (or that of any other owner). He’s ridiculously wealthy. He’s making a fortune off his NBA team. If I have to choose between Derrick Rose and Jerry Reinsdorf who is more deserving of the money they’ve made off the game of basketball, that’s a no-brainer. If Bulls fans are frustrated because they want to see Rose on the court more, I understand that. But that’s not a professional, or moral, judgment.

The reaction to Rose’s comments (not unlike the overblown vitriol now being directed at Robert Griffin III) highlight a simple truth. For all their endless complaining about athletes giving boiler plate answers to questions and never saying anything interesting, sports pundits frequently act like a pack of ravenous dogs the second a player dares to go off script.

 

 

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