Fox Sports Live has a recurring Players Only segment, where former athletes opine on sports they mostly didn’t play without the ignominy of having their takes shot down by NERDS who never put on a uniform. Last night’s panel consisted of Donovan McNabb, Gary Payton, Joel Klatt, and Brady Quinn, who were there to debate about Derrick Rose recently having the audacity to say out loud that he wants his legs to work after he retires.
“Derrick Rose may have had diarrhea of the mouth,” McNabb began. That’s how you knew this was going to be good. Payton had a problem with what Rose said, but not how he felt, which seems asinine. Quinn said, as a football player, that Rose’s comments came off as soft, before acknowledging that it’s fine for the Bulls guard to pace himself in the regular season and do everything he can to be healthy for the playoff push. The dumbest point was reserved for Joel Klatt.
“He needs to learn to be a leader,” said the former Colorado quarterback. “That’s what it really comes down to is leadership. He can’t just be thinking about himself and his own future. You see, leadership is like the ocean tide. It’s gonna raise all boats in the locker room, and he’s gonna be pulling other guys in his direction regardless of which direction that he goes. If he’s basically saying with those comments, ‘I’m not all in,’ why should anyone else be all in on the Chicago Bulls? This is not a championship mindset, and this is why I don’t think the Chicago Bulls are gonna win a championship. I don’t know anything about basketball. I do know something about leadership, and that’s not strong leadership.”
If Rose is being a poor leader, surely his teammates and coach would be resentful, right? “At the end of the day, look, Derrick’s fully committed,” said Mike Dunleavy, via ESPN Chicago. “I can speak on his behalf. He’s fully committed the way I see him working, the way I see him out there. Nobody should question that. You know it’s a little bit different viewpoint, but as far as his commitment to us, the city, the team, that should never be put in question.”
“I heard a couple things from people, not directly reading from the outlets, but obviously he’s concerned about his long-term health, which we all are in a way, but we’re in a business, we’re in a sport, where that’s what’s at stake and that’s a commitment that we make, and a price that we pay,” said Pau Gasol. “It’s something that any athlete is exposed to, but I think he’s a guy that works extremely hard. He works hard, and I think he’s 100 percent committed to winning and to this team. But in the make of his mind, he’s had a rough stretch, so you understand that part.”
We see a whole lot of dumb sports discourse, but there might not be a more annoying recurring storyline than the hot-take tornado that manifests itself eight times a year when Derrick Rose speaks honestly — athletes are, apparently, supposed to be mercenary soldiers without human emotions and feelings. For everyone on the outside that indicts Rose’s leadership, all appearances are that he’s beloved in the Bulls locker room. His teammates universally and emphatically have his back on the record every time something like this happens, and you don’t see them take the form of anonymous sources either.
We’ve reached a point where Rose soundbites shouldn’t have national reverberation. He doesn’t have the gene that guides him to filter his thoughts in a manner that will come across politically correctly in print or Vine form. It’s really lose-lose for big time athletes. It’s annoying when Derek Jeter or JJ Watt speak in endless platitudes, but when Rose veers away from those he gets hammered.
More than anything else, though, I just hope there’s some way he can stay healthy. He’s shown flashes this season that he can still be what he was — someone with quicker acceleration than we’ve perhaps ever seen on a basketball court — and it would be a shame for him and for us when that special talent isn’t on display.
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