I’ve always appreciated Dennis Rodman for reminding us that in the end, professional basketball is just a game. It’s been heartbreaking to watch him self destruct. And his attitudes baffled me. I like Pearl Jam, too, but it was hard to hear Rodman make remarks like, “Black culture is something I don’t relate to much at all” or “I go out with white women. This makes a lot of people unhappy, mostly black women. ” As his behavior grew more bizarre, I fought to keep his 1993 suicide attempt in mind.
Seeing him at his Hall of Fame induction, made me weep from sadness and anger. There was so much pain.
His determination and vulnerabilities were so exposed. “I never had a father. My father has 27 kids in the Phillipines. He wrote a book about me in Chicago, made a lot of money but never came to say ‘hello’ to me. But that didn’t stop me from persevering.” And the cycle continues. He searched the Naismith audience for approval and understanding when he declared “I wish I was a better father.”
His fatalism echoes his roots in the projects. “I’m surprised I’m still here.”
His need for approval speaks to the vulnerability of men in general and black men in particular. “They (Phil Jackson, et al.) shook my hand.” To see how much he has relied on the validation of white coaches and families to survive is a powerful indictment. Where was his family? The black church? The black community? Would he have received us if we had come?
At first, I hated to see him so wide open in front of people who might see his as embarrassing or as a joke. But then I realized that he might now be close to something like freedom.
Still I wish he had more understanding, much earlier, of why his mom was not a hugger, as warm as welcoming as Phil Jackson or the Rich family.
But I love his hair and his spirit. Being middle aged doesn’t have to mean conformity. Do your thing Mr. Rodman.