Friday, April 26, 2013

NBA Finals 1996 Game Three: Bulls at Seattle (Pt. 4)

 
 
Short of catastrophic injuries, the Chicago Bulls are not losing a 24-point halftime lead, though Seattle promises to make it interesting. "Are they confident or are they destroyed? Do they have enough left to get back in this game?" Hannah Storm asks Sonics coach Karl. She deadpans the questions and is unintentionally hilarious.
 
"I think you're gonna see us fight," says Karl, who has the stunned look of someone who has just stepped on a nail. Even he doesn't sound convinced.
 
Maybe Coach just knows he and the Sonics are the sideshow, anyway. I mean it's Jordan and Rodman, and that is just the main dish on this traveling circus called a basketball team. MJ and the Worm are like a Batman/Superman team-up: it's not a good match on paper, the approaches are so different... but they're both too strong-willed and savvy to fail.
 
 
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Naturally, Dennis Rodman is the halftime attraction, in an interview with Jim Gray hours after Rodman's Game Two 20-rebound domination. Gray is famous for things like accosting Pete Rose during a Rose appearance at the '99 World Series. Jim Gray tries awfully hard to appear as a serious journalist, but it's hard to know what to think of him, because we can't figure his angle. Is he trying to sock it to those he sees as bad guys in the sports world? Does he see himself as "hard-hitting"?
 
Gray was "removed" from the Golf Channel in 2013, after a screaming match with a caddie. Can certain journalists make themselves too much of a story? Yahoo! Sports wrote. Gray has been around the block a long time, but when you're getting in multiple arguments with people in the games you're reporting, you really are becoming a nuisance, and nobody wants to deal with those types of people.
 
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To no one's surprise, Rodman is mysterious, obtuse, and nearly incoherent. When he was invited into North Korea seventeen years later, the mainstream media spent more than a week smirking... dissecting why Rodman is a know-nothing on foreign policy. (NO..!) They could have just said that in five minutes. But no show, no commercials, thus no money.
 
"Was the rest of this simply designed as a marketing aspect?" Gray says at one point.
 
Rodman says, "You don't market  stuff like this... the only reason people like this is because of who I am. I'm a basketball player."
 
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Gray, on Rodman's flamboyant image: Can you explain the phenomenon that you've become?... Kids emulating you, changing the color of their hair...
Rodman: They see it as entertainment... Wow, that's the guy with the red hair! The chameleon. That should be my new name. The Chameleon...
Gray: Not the Worm.
Rodman: Not the Worm. The Chameleon. Kids relate to that. It's fun. It's not dangerous to anybody. And kids... can feed off of it.
Is this mockery or sincere? You get one guess which.
Gray: But aren't you concerned it could send the wrong message?
Rodman: It's not sending the wrong message because that's what's family's all about. They can deliver the message: That guy's got funny-looking hair. But he's a good guy. He's a good guy.
 
Chameleon is a perfect name, because he is doing something dangerous indeed. He's posing as innocent, fun-loving, but introducing mixed messages to children who are his fans. The 1996 Rodman is ahead of his time in gender-bending and outrageous antics designed for maximum publicity. Not dangerous? Who's fooling who? Many entertainers have loosely followed his envelope-pushing template since, including Eminem. Rodman himself admittedly learned much at the feet of the Christ-rejecting Madonna.
 
"He's a good guy even though he (fill-in-the-blank)" can go too far. Rodman's I love the kids! act might be genuine, but it also serves as the young ones' indoctrination into accepting almost anything. Remember his words: They only like this because of who I am. Delivery system through a talented and popular person--any propaganda works with that method. And those 1996 kiddie fans are parents in 2013...
 
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Gray: Are you happy with yourself and what you've become?
Rodman, stuttering at first: I'm happy... in the sense where I know I can control everything around me now. I know I can provide entertainment for myself... I know the value of life, the value of people. And things that's gonna happen before and after...
 
"I'm not saying Rodman's... overconfident," says Peter Vescey after the interview, "but he's already getting his navel measured for a ring."
 
Read more about the game here.

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