As fans of our hometown teams, it’s fair to claim we know our teams and local players reasonably well. We are exposed to the professional athletes representing our region more than anyone else across the country and we receive non-stop tight coverage thanks to the newspapers, sports talk radio, and television outlets like Comcast Sports Net. Each Chicagoan may have their own opinion and agenda with the way they feel about particular athletes, but the information is easily accessible to make knowledgeable and objective commentary on anyone.
Like many, I am always curious to hear what people outside of Chicago are saying about the superstars I am a fan of whether it’s on Sports Illustrated, ESPN, or sports news outlets across the country. As the reigning NBA Most Valuable Player, I assumed that the opinion nationwide of Derrick Rose was fairly high. In 27 games played out of the Bulls’ 37 this season, Rose is averaging 22.4 points, 7.6 assists, and 3.3 rebounds per game. In the All-Star game popularity contest, Rose led all Eastern Conference guards with 1,514,723 votes and was second on the team only to Orlando center Dwight Howard. Rose has been praised for his blue collar style of play each game he is available, his fearless effort to constantly attack the lane against all 5 opponents on the floor, and his humility to absorb the blame when his team falters. However when I heard that radio hosts in Miami were having fun at Rose’s expense, I was eager to hear why.
Now if there was a fan base with the best reason to be critical against Rose and the Chicago Bulls, Miami is more than deserving to do so. LeBron James and Dwayne Wade are certainly two of the best 5 players in the league, while Chris Bosh can arguably be considered a top 20 player. The Heat eliminated the Bulls in 5 games for the Eastern Conference Finals, and James was able to shut down Rose being 5 inches taller and 50 pounds heavier. In their last meeting, James and his Heat were able to hold off the Bulls at home in a well fought battle that came down to missed free-throws by Rose, which he took full responsibility for. But none of that had anything to do with the odd argument that came across 790 AM The Ticket’s airwaves in Miami. On the “Dan Le Batard Show”, Jon “Stugotz” Weiner went on a very random soap box over his displeasure with Rose and his refusal to smile during the NBA All-Star game’s introductions. While James and Howard basked in the spotlight and danced to the sounds made by singer Nicki Minaj, Rose just gave a simple wave to the night’s spectators and television audience.
“Can you do something to let us know you’re happy to be at the All-Star game?” asked Mr. Weiner (I understand his nickname is Stugotz, but hey, why not be proper when his last name is Weiner). “Don’t be the guy who respects the game. It’s a game. It’s fun and entertainment. You don’t have to be the guy who takes himself too seriously.”
That’s just the start of it. Le Batard played the voice of reason and supported Rose’s reaction to the dancing James. Le Batard understands, for one, that the Bulls and Heat have the NBA’s most competitive rivalry at this time. And he respects that Rose is just being himself and honest about the matter after the game saying, “There is a time and place to dance. That was not the time and place.” This argument was not satisfactory to Weiner’s liking as he responded with, “Dude, you’re playing a game for a living…You’re worth like $400 million. Put on a smile! He’s a dope for not smiling.” The weird emphasis on smiling continued from Weiner and another voice who I am assuming is the show’s producer. Near the end of the rant, you heard, “Who is Derrick Rose?” and the claim that he is "the most fraudulent MVP.”
Now in Chicago, fans and the sports talk radio professionals alike know who LeBron James is. We know that James is the most talented player in the NBA currently, that he is a freak of an athlete, and that he also deferred leadership by joining the likes of Wade and Bosh in the summer of 2010. In Chicago and across country, people know who Derrick Rose is. Even Dan Le Batard knows who Rose is while his radio partner shouts unwarranted absurdities into a microphone. Yes, Rose is worth a lot of money thanks to his new max contract from the Bulls and his new Adidas endorsement deal. With that in mind, shouldn’t we all expect him to take the game seriously, just as he has since he played on the courts in Englewood, like he did in the NCAA tournament for the University of Memphis, and ever since he put on the Chicago Bulls hat when he was drafted first overall in 2008?
Taking the game seriously is exactly what earned Rose the MVP in the 2010-2011 season. Rose led the Bulls to the best record in the league without a consistent second scoring option while James had two superstars alongside him. Taking the game seriously earned Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau Coach-of-the-Year honors last year, coaching every game like it was his last. And taking the game seriously earned a player like Kobe Bryant 5 championship rings. I agree the All-Star game is just an exhibition for the fans, but obviously Wade took it seriously enough to break Bryant’s nose on a hard foul while also giving him a concussion in the process. If “not smiling” is something that is really bothering radio hosts in Miami, they are going to have a lot to talk about the rest of this season. We in Chicago will worry about more relevant things.
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