Dennis Rodman’s global ‘worming’ with Kim Jong-un is bad news
BY RICK TELANDER Sports Columnist January 7, 2014 10:30PM
Updated: January 8, 2014 10:24AM
It’s possible I was with Dennis Rodman when he first went around the bend.
Well, OK, he already had put up some extreme eccentricities, such as beginning his tattoo collection, going to Las Vegas to purposely lose $35,000 (he did) and getting arrested and sent to a psychiatrist after being found sleeping in his truck at 5 a.m. in the Palace of Auburn Hills parking lot with a loaded rifle under the seat.
But here he was, launched from the Pistons and sent to the Spurs — the Detroit Free Press headline read, ‘‘DE-WORMED’’ — sitting in a San Antonio hairdresser’s chair, his skull on fire.
The place was Olga’s Salon, the hairdresser a meticulous fellow named Fred Baldarrama, who informed Rodman the gooey bleach eating into Worm’s hair and scalp needed to work a bit longer.
Rodman had slogans cut into his hair before, but this was his first pigment change. This was fall 1993, and Rodman had just watched ‘‘Demolition Man” at a San Antonio movie theater, and he wanted to look like screen hero Wesley Snipes.
“Man, my head’s on fire!” he told Baldarrama.
Three and a half hours later, Worm was done. He had a golden Mohawk. He looked like a demented skunk.
Why was he doing this?
He wanted to get ‘‘solid,’’ he told me. ‘‘Because I don’t give a damn.’’
If you had told me someday this inexplicable, daffy 6-8 rebounding machine would be an American ambassador of sorts to perhaps the most dangerous country in the world, I would’ve laughed uncontrollably.
Indeed, the main reason Rodman’s hair session was so unnerving was not that he looked like an inverted broom. It was that he was supposed to be at the Spurs’ introductory team session at the Alamodome in front of the team owners and 5,000 fans — right now.
We got there 40 minutes late. Worm didn’t care at all.
He shrugged off teammate David Robinson’s impatient intro: ‘‘Last, but not least . . .’’ He removed his ‘‘Dennis Rodman Construction’’ cap to reveal his Mohawk, mumbled something about getting ‘‘solid,’’ dropped the mike onto the wooden floor with a bang, and the crowd went nuts.
So when Rodman declared his love for ‘‘friend forever,’’ North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, and traveled to Pyongyang with a group of has-been NBA players, it didn’t surprise me that the free world went nuts.
Team Worm will play against some North Korean players on Kim’s 31st birthday Wednesday, and one wonders if those North Korean athletes will be shot or eaten by dogs if they lose. One could ask Kim’s uncle — were he not shot or dog-eaten a few weeks ago — what the odds of that happening are.
Sending a buffoon to hang out with a butcher is problematic.
Nobody wanted Rodman to do this. Not the NBA, with David Stern saying, ‘‘We did not sanction this. This is not part of us.’’ Not the U.S. government, especially after Rodman referred to Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama as ‘‘a--holes.’’
CNN interviewer Chris Cuomo certainly disagreed with the odd mission, letting Rodman know that calling Kim a pal and forgetting about imprisoned American Kenneth Bae was little short of treasonous.
‘‘I don’t give a rat’s ass what the hell you think,’’ Rodman said in a rant, flanked by clueless teammates and waving a cigar.
Stern said he thought Rodman was blinded by ‘‘a flash of North Korean money.’’ And it’s hard not to wonder what Worm’s haul will be.
But back in the day, he would tell me how he didn’t care about money, proving this by losing tons of it at Las Vegas tables, even as ex-wife Annie begged him to set up a trust fund for the daughter he claimed to love but never saw.
Worm is a piece of work. He has never been overtly malicious. He never punched anyone in a game, for instance, even though he was thrown out of many.
I saw Rodman give a hundred-dollar bill to a homeless man. I waited outside a San Antonio bar as he ran back in to buy me a souvenir T-shirt. I watched him help bring NBA titles to the Bulls.
He was always bizarre, nutty, wild.
To rebels, he was cool. To the uninvolved, fun. No more.
A wacko is no match for a cruel wacko with nuclear missiles.
Worm has lost. Worm is lost.