Dennis Rodman’s scouting report on North Korea might be useful
BY RICK TELANDER email@example.com March 3, 2013 5:12PM
Updated: March 4, 2013 1:47PM
‘Guess what?’’ Dennis Rodman said Sunday on ABC’s ‘‘This Week.’’ ‘‘He loves basketball.’’
He was speaking about North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, with whom he had just spent two days. The free world is terrified of the mysterious Kim, with his saber-rattling, nuclear-missile potential and closed, oppressive society. But not Rodman.
‘‘I said, ‘Obama loves basketball; let’s start there.’ ’’
This isn’t a joke, folks. You might have a hard time believing such. Why wouldn’t you?
The whole concept is nuts: The pierced, tattooed, shades-on, partying, out-there ‘‘Worm’’ goes somewhere and speaks with a head of state who has been shunned and reviled by all U.S. diplomats, a man who took over as the despot of his poverty-stricken nation after his father, the legendarily wacky and evil Kim Jong-Il, died in December 2011.
Interviewer George Stephanopoulos kept pressing Rodman, wondering if he understood how vile and repressive Kim is.
‘‘The kid’s only 28 years old,’’ Rodman, who helped the Bulls win three NBA titles, kept repeating. ‘‘He’s not his dad, not his grandpa.’’
And you know what? That’s the truth. If this dictator has the Internet, TV and such a passion for basketball, a sport that links the globe, what is to stop basketball and those who love it from halting the threat of global warfare?
‘‘Both these guys love basketball so much,’’ Rodman said, meaning the worst human-rights violator on the planet and the leader of the democratic world.
We can ignore Rodman’s reports that Kim is ‘‘humble,’’ a wonderful dude and a friend for life and that Rodman loves him. That’s just his policy strategy. That’s how he sees the world.
And it appears Kim really, really digs Rodman. Maybe the boy dictator has been waiting for someone not wearing a U.S. Army uniform or a coat and tie to visit him. That would be ‘‘Worm.’’ (For his interview with ABC, Rodman wore a sport coat with various U.S. currencies splattered over it.) I can’t envision a case where North Korea — at this point — would launch a nuclear missile toward mortal enemy South Korea if it even thought Rodman was playing H-O-R-S-E in that country.
Maybe we should give ‘‘Worm’’ a mansion, servants, a disco and dancing girls and station him in Seoul, South Korea, as a new-wave ambassador.
Diplomacy is a tricky thing, and it can come in many forms. Snarling, punishing and boycotting are some techniques for getting what you want as a nation. So is chumminess, talking hoops.
Do we really care how nuclear de-escalation occurs, how fragile global peace is pursued and ensured? You like the endless war in the Middle East? You’re aware North Korea has the bomb?
All Kim wants, Rodman claims, is a call from President Barack Obama. Why doesn’t North Korea’s supreme leader pick up his phone and dial the White House himself? He’s just a kid, Rodman insists. He’s, like, embarrassed.
I spent a lot of time with Rodman back in his hoops days. When he was with the San Antonio Spurs, we went to a movie theater and watched Wesley Snipes in ‘‘Demolition Man.’’ Then we went to a hairdresser’s shop, where Rodman got a mohawk and had it bleached blond. The lye burned Rodman’s scalp, and he yelped and complained. But when he was done, he looked just like Simon Phoenix, the villain Snipes played in the movie.
Later, we hung out at a Dick’s Last Resort near the Riverwalk in downtown San Antonio. When we came out, Rodman excused himself, went back in and bought me a souvenir T-shirt.
Rodman has a deeply sensitive side to him. He cries easily. If you recall, when he got into fights during his NBA days, he never punched anyone. He only pushed, elbowed, kicked a cameraman in the groin and was ‘‘annoying’’ as hell to foes, as former Bulls coach Phil Jackson put it.
‘‘Dennis is a guy who has childlike qualities in a man’s body,’’ Chuck Daly, his former — and beloved — coach with the Detroit Pistons, once said. ‘‘He wears all his emotions on his sleeve. And he’s very easy to hurt.’’
So what do we make of this?
Maybe that when Rodman tells us Kim said, ‘‘I don’t want to see war; I don’t want to do war,’’ we could take it as some valuable international information. Who cares if it came from a refined secretary of this or that or from a naïve hedonist? I wouldn’t be surprised if the next time Rodman visits North Korea — and he intends to do that — Kim has some arm tattoos or eyebrow rings.
The State Department says it has no plans to talk with Rodman. They obviously think he’s crazy, too.
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